FEBRUARY 16-17. 2006 29 SHEBAT 5767
"And these are the judgments that you shall place before them" (Shemot 21:1)
The first event after the giving of the Ten Commandments is the nation dealing with the practical aspects of judgment. In Parashat Yitro, last week, we learned about the importance of having judges and now after the Ten Commandments we speak again about judgment. Rabbi Avigdor Miller z"l writes that idealism is fine, but idealism without practical application will never be sustained. Idealism without legalism will never endure.
Our community has a fine reputation. We are well known for our charitable generosity. However, there are certain practices by some in our community that can tarnish our fine reputation. As a Rabbi in our community I have become painfully aware of certain practices that, if not remedied, can spread and become acceptable ways of doing things. For example, many gardeners of the Jersey Shore will not take jobs to maintain the lawns of summer rentals. They say that many people leave without paying the final bill. Butcher shop owners complain that some people run up large bills and then go to another butcher shop and run up another large bill and this continues without paying down the balances. At times it occurs that a builder is hired to renovate part of a home. The price is agreed upon; the first few payments are made. However, when the job is complete the homeowner says he cannot pay and leaves the builder "holding the bag."
It is told (The Sefer Tubcha Yabee'u) that in Israel sometimes a local grocer is unable to continue his business due to the lack of payments by his customers. Many times he is forced to borrow money with interest, which can reach astronomical proportions, in order to buy merchandise. The great Rabbi of Sanz z"l was very strict with his followers when it came to paying the bills. They have a custom to bring the children to the Rabbi for a blessing that they should be successful in their studies. The Rabbi said that he will not give a blessing to the children as long as the parents didn't pay the bills to the grocer and fruits and vegetables store. He was upset about the non-payment and said that they are forcing the storeowner to pay for the food out of his own pocket. This is considered stealing. One cannot expect children to succeed in their studies if they are fed stolen food.
In the book Kav Hayashar he writes that one cannot expect blessing in a house that is built with materials that are not paid for. This is considered stealing.
As Jewish people we must be extremely careful not to cause a Hillul Hashem, a desecration of Hashem's name. We are a well known Jewish community. It is incumbent upon us to sanctify Hashem's name. There is nothing wrong with driving a hard bargain. But once the agreement is reached, pay in full and on time. If the money is not available one must not spend. We are a religious community. One of the first rules of our Torah is not to hurt your fellow man. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"And these are the laws that you shall place before them" (Shemot 21:1)
From the word ???????????, before them, Rashi tells us that we must bring disputes before our court system; that is, one must go to Bet Din rather than go to secular courts. This is indeed the halachah that we may not go to a secular court to adjudicate a case between two Jews. It may seem to us that this would only apply when the power of Bet Din was absolute, like in the old days, whereas nowadays, when Bet Din is limited in enforcing its laws, we should not have to go to Bet Din. This is incorrect. We must always go to Bet Din first and only when Bet Din allows us to go to civil courts do we have the right to do so. It is considered a Hilul Hashem and a denigration of the Torah if we go to civil courts rather than Bet Din. Today, most civil courts recognize any agreement which was worked out in Bet Din, and will uphold it without having to reopen the case, which makes going to Bet Din more advantageous. We should hopefully never have to go to court for any reason, but if it ever becomes necessary, we would be doing a great misvah by following the halachah and going to Jewish courts. We will be upholding the Torah and making a Kiddush Hashem, sanctifying the Name of Hashem, which is certain to impact favorably on the outcome of the case. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"When you lend money to My people, the poor among you" (Shemot 22:24)
Why is the Torah adamant about charging interest?
A rich man does not necessarily deserve his wealth, nor a poor person his poverty. Affluence and poverty derive from acts of Hashem designed to test the person. The rich man should think that he is merely the caretaker of money which rightfully belongs to the poor man. It is placed in his custody to test him, to see if he will be blinded by riches.
This is implied in the words "et he'ani imach - the poor man's money is with you." When you extend him a loan, in reality you are granting him access to his money. Consequently, charging him interest in his money is adding insult to the suffering of poverty and a grave iniquity. (Vedibarta Bam)
"You shall not cook a kid in its mother's milk" (Shemot 23:19)
This pasuk expresses the admonishment against cooking milk and meat together. It seems strange that the Torah would use such an oblique phrase for stating a simple prohibition. The Torah should have simply stated, "Do not cook milk and meat together." Rabbi David Feinstein infers from here that the Torah intends to imply an important lesson regarding parenthood. Clearly, it is against a mother's nature to harm her child, certainly not by cooking him. Yet, a mother who refrains from rebuking her child, from carrying out disciplinary measures, is surely "cooking" her child's entire personality and character. This is consistent with the pasuk in Mishlei (13:24), "One who withholds his staff hates his son."
Rabbi Feinstein suggests that this is a metaphorical interpretation of the pasuk in Eichah (4:10), "The hands of merciful mothers cooked their children." When parents are too lenient and merciful, when they lose sight of priorities, they do their children a gross injustice. They are, in fact, "cooking" them.
The responsibility of raising children is an awesome one. Indeed, those children who grow up wandering aimlessly and following their own inclinations faithlessly, cannot be blamed. Their mistakes should be attributed to their parents' lack of foresight. Had their parents not refrained from instilling constructive discipline in them, they may have grown up differently. Parents often think that they are acting with love because they are lenient, but actually they are doing the greatest harm. As the Midrash states, "A son develops a greater love and respect for a father who disciplines him."
(Peninim on the Torah)
"They saw a vision of the G-d of Israel, and under His feet was something like a sapphire brick, like the essence of a clear sky" (Shemot 24:10)
Rashi comments that the brick was in the presence of Hashem during the time the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt to remind Him of their suffering, since they were forced to build with bricks in their slavery. "The essence of a clear sky" is because once they were liberated, there was light and joy before Hashem.
Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz commented that whenever the Torah tells us about the attributes of Hashem, the purpose is to teach us how we should strive to emulate Him. When someone else suffers, it is not sufficient for us just to try to feel his suffering in the abstract; rather, we should do some concrete action that will clearly remind us of the person's suffering.
Also we see from here, said Rav Yeruchem, that even at the time of redemption and joy, it is important to recall the previous suffering that one experienced. This adds an entire dimension to the joy. Many people would just like to forget all their suffering when it is over. But the proper attitude is to remember it, and this will give a person an even greater appreciation for the good that he experiences.
Yet another lesson we see from here is how we should make an effort to feel the joy of another person, just as Hashem felt the joy of the redemption of the Jewish people. There are many people who outwardly act as if they feel joy for the successes of others. But inwardly they are telling themselves, "I really wish that this person would fail." (Growth though Torah)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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