FEBRUARY 20-21, 2009 27 SHEBAT 5769
"If you lend money to a member of My nation." (Shemot 22:2)
There is a misvah in our perashah, a misvah to lend money to a Jew. The word "im" is usually translated as "if." According to this interpretation, our pasuk would read, "if you lend money," implying that lending money is in fact an optional activity. However our Sages (Mechilta) tell us that in this particular context, "im" should be understood as "when." Thus the pasuk would read "when you lend money," implying that one is obligated to and will in fact lend money to another Jew. According to this teaching of the Sages, we might ask, why indeed did the Torah present the misvah of lending money in an ambiguous way? Couldn't the Torah have used a terminology that would have clearly and openly expressed the obligation to lend money?
One answer given to this question is that there are situations where one is not obligated to lend money. An example of this is where the prospective borrower has a history of not paying back his loans. Although the Torah requires one to lend, the borrower is also not free of responsibility. The Torah takes his obligation to repay very seriously, as it is written in Tehillim (37:21), "A rasha (wicked person) borrows and does not pay back."
Rabbi Chaim Kreiswerth z"l demonstrates the great importance of repaying loans from the well-known story about Hillel. Hillel was very poor, but he divided his daily earnings between feeding his family and paying the fee to enter the Midrash to study. One Friday, he didn't earn enough money to get into the Bet Midrash but was unwilling to miss that day's lecture. He climbed to the roof where there was a window, and pressed his ear close to hear the great words of Shemaya and Abtalyon. It began to snow and Hillel got buried under the snow and almost froze to death, but they brought him down and desecrated the Shabbat to save him. Asked Rabbi Kreiswerth: Couldn't Hillel have found a friend to lend him a half a coin to get in? It seems the answer is that since Hillel was not absolutely certain that he would be able to pay back such a loan, he preferred to stay outside in the cold rather than take a loan that he could not guarantee to pay back.
Today, the concept of repaying loans is out of style. In fact, when someone is forced to repay a loan, he considers it an unexpected expenditure instead of realizing that he is merely returning the money to where it belongs. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Then hear I will hear his cry" (Shemot 22:22)
The Torah warns us not to afflict a widow or orphan, but the wording used is all double. "If afflict you will afflict him, then hear I will hear his cry, and answer I will answer him." Very strange! The Kotzker Rebbe says that any time someone who is an unfortunate is in distress, he right away imagines that his problem now is due to his being an unfortunate. For example, if a widow or orphan is afflicted, he or she feels that if the husband or father would be alive this would never happen. This brings out their pain on the loss of their loved one, and they begin to cry twice, once for the present affliction and once for the previous loss. And in turn Hashem says He will answer them twice, as if to say that He will consider that the present affliction also caused the previous one. So every affliction to those less fortunate is really a double one. How frightening! How careful must we be not only with widows and orphans but also with those who are downtrodden or have problems that weigh them down. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"And they saw the G-d of Yisrael; and under His feet there was a form of sapphire brick, like the very Heaven for clearness" (Shemot 24:10)
The above sentence is complex. Undoubtedly, the unimaginable notion of "seeing" Hashem refers to some aspect of Divine Glory, as the commentaries have already expressed. The allusion to the "brick of sapphire" begs for explanation. Why does the Torah mention this? The Targum Yonatan cites a Midrash which sheds light on this enigma. This brick is a reminder of the wretched slavery to which Bnei Yisrael were subjected. The Jewish men and women worked side by side, trampling and treading the mortar. One delicate young woman in the advanced stage of pregnancy miscarried as she was treading upon the mortar. The stillborn child became mixed into the brick mold. The terrible wailing of the mother ascended to the Heavenly throne, whereupon the angel Gabriel was dispatched to retrieve this "brick" and bring it up to Heaven. It was placed next to Hashem's throne as a memorial.
A profound lesson can be derived from this story. No incident is relegated to oblivion. Hashem records every horror, regardless of who is affected. No tragedy suffered by His children is considered insignificant. Amid all of the tension and shouting, one young woman pathetically cried out. The angel made a brick from the unborn child, and Hashem had it placed near His seat. The sapphire memorial was the most fitting tribute to this young neshamah, and, perhaps a consolation for the mother. With this concept in mind, we may begin to confront some of the horrifying tragedies we have experienced, both as individuals and as members of Am Yisrael.
An amazing Hazal expresses a similar idea. The Talmud in Abodah Zarah 3b question, What does Hashem do in the fourth part of the day? The response is: Hashem studies Torah with little children! Rashi explains that this refers to children who had died when they were young!
Rav S. Schwab applies this Hazal in a most poignant way. Imagine for one horrifying moment, the one and a half million Jewish children whose lives were so brutally snuffed out during the Holocaust. They were tragically sacrificed just as they were at the threshold of life. They are presently studying Torah with Hashem Himself. The have a personal habruta with the Almighty! This is perhaps the meaning of the "sapphire memorial." Hashem perennially remembers those who have experienced more than their share of anguish in life. (Peninim on the Torah)
Watch your diet. Get a good night's sleep. Exercise regularly. Avoid stress. These instructions are all part of a doctor's prescription for heart health.
Our Sages also teach us the importance of developing a good heart, but their intention is quite different. Yes, people must take care of their physical well-being; it is a Torah requirement. But they must also work constantly on developing a good heart.
Envy is a disease of the heart; people must learn not to be suspicious, jealous or hateful. Short temper can deal a more deadly blow than cholesterol buildup. Kindness and empathy work much better than pills in developing a healthy demeanor. Cheerfulness and pleasantness provide longevity; tranquilizers can't do that. Aside from these benefits, a good heart also attracts people to the one who is pleasant and outgoing. Individuals look for opportunities to share their thoughts and concerns with others who demonstrate the qualities that indicate a "good heart."
The Mishnah states (Abot 2:9): When the great Sage, Rabban Yochanan ben Zakkai asked his students to determine the best type of attitude or character trait that a person can have, Rabbi Elazar answered, "A good heart." This means: the proper attitude, and the absence of envy.
If you catch yourself doing something that is harmful to the development of your good heart, stop and check your emotional heart monitor. Change direction - from anger to serenity, from envy to generosity, from tension to calm. This only takes a minute, but the health benefits are immeasurable. (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
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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