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by Daneal Weiner

Gemorah Bava Kamma teaches that one who wishes to become a religious and devout person should be careful regarding the laws of damages. Civil law. That is what

Parshas Mishpatim

is about and that is what Gemorah Bava Kamma is about. Bava Kamma opens with an introduction to the four primary categories of damage doers…damagers….not nice things. “Four primary damagers: the ox, the pit, man and fire.” The Mishnah then goes on to explain that the ox is not like the man and the man is not like the ox and the ox and the man are not like the fire because they are alive and fire is not… and so on. After such delineation of how not one is like any other it concludes that what they all have in common is that they inflict damage and the owner is responsible to make restitution.

A very few brief pages later, after some discussion the Gemorah says, you know what, the four primary damagers really have a lot in common and if the Mishnah listed just the pit and any one other category the other two categories could have been learned out from them! In other words, the Gemorah is saying that the Mishnah isn’t true! How could such a thing be?

Tosofos answers this question saying we assumed the author of the Mishnah was illustrating how incomparably different these categories were by delineation the differences. But that isn’t so. He was merely illustration some of the differences between the categories for the sake of l’hagdil Torah v’ya’adir- that the Torah should be made great and glorious.

Every morning I say a line or two of Pirkei Avos after morning prayers and just this very morning I started the 5th chapter which asks why Hashem created the world with 10 utterances when He could have done it with one? It answers so that there is more for what to punish the wicked and more for what to reward the righteous. It seems Tosofos is saying something along these lines. Our righteous Rabbis, who know the world was created for the glory of Torah study, they say why make a Mishnah 4 lines long when we can make it 8!

Remarkable! There are over 5400 pages of Babylonian Talmud. About these pages libraries of commentaries have been written. There is no shortage of the glory of Torah if we’re going to measure it by volume and in one Mishnah at the start of Bava Kamma a Talmudic Sage said, “Let’s talk it up! Let’s stretch this one out, shall we. Let’s see how much verbiage we can squeeze into this one because the Torah should be made great and glorious!” We don’t find such a thing anywhere else in all 6 orders of Mishnah. Why do we find it at all and why do we find it here?

The Chasam Sofer in his opening comments on Bava Kamma asks whereas normal syntax would be to say “There are [4 primary damagers]” why does this Mishnah not say, “There are…”? He brings an answer from the Ramah m’Pano. “There are” not only expresses an existence of, it also give existence to!

We just said Hashem used utterances to create the world. Utterances! Putting something into words puts it into existence. And that which exists, our words give it sustenance. Jews don’t say the name of the disease which is distressing us beyond statistical proportions. We call it ‘yenem machalah’- that disease. The C-word for those who aren’t familiar with the Yiddish expression. Saying it’s name gives it subsistence. So our Rabbis didn’t want to say “There are” when it came to the discussion of things which cause damage.

Needless to say, but we say it anyway, what ever our Rabbis say on the surface, there is always so much more underneath.

Isaiah 11:6-9 is where we find the famous prophecy of days soon to come. “The wolf will dwell with the sheep, and the leopard will lie down with the kid and calf... An infant will play by a viper’s hole… They will neither injure nor destroy in all of My sacred mountain for the earth will be as filled with the knowledge of Hashem as water covering the sea bed.”

The four primary damagers represent the four primary forces of Tuma- spiritual impurity, correlating to the four kingdoms to which we have been exiled. In Messianic times all forces of impurity will be removed, all the enemies of Israel will be defeated and all that once had caused damage or death will no longer be. As it says in the Zohar, “In the days to come the Evil Inclination will be nullified and only the good in it shall remain.”

For anything to exist it must have to it an element of Hashem’s will that it exist. That element is all good. That which is manifest to us as evil, in the days to come the evil aspect will be gone and all that will remain is the good for, as Isaiah said, “the earth will be as filled with the knowledge of Hashem.” The whole world will be only good.

Hashem looked into the Torah and created the world. Everything that exists in the world comes from Torah, the good as well as the bad. We saw last week by the 10 Commandments, that just as the tablets were stored in a place, in the Holy of Holies, which was outside of the laws of measuring space, so too are the verses of the 10 Commandments in the Torah outside the laws of counting verses. An objects reality in the world is only due to its reality as described by Torah.

The same thing must apply for the 4 forces of impurity, the 4 damagers. They only seem to exist but in reality they will be nullified and only the good which is in them shall endure. They get their definition in Torah by the first Mishnah in Bava Kamma. By looking at the Mishnah it appears that they are real forces to be reckoned with. But as the Ramah m’Pano pointed out, the Mishnah doesn’t say “There are”. Not only that, along comes the Gemorah itself and says, that Mishnah about the damagers, don’t buy it! It’s not really real. Its just for the sake of l’hagdil Torah v’ya’adir- the Torah should be made great and glorious. The illusion of the forces it describes will soon be gone and all that is really real in them is to make great and glorious the Name of Hashem. Exactly what this Mishnah does so well!

And now for something completely similar. This Shabbos is also

Parshas Shekalim.

An extra Torah scroll is removed from the ark and we read from it the portion of the Torah when Moshe counted Israel by their donating a half-shekel coin to the Mishkan-Sanctuary. This portion is the beginning of Parshas Ki Sisa (Shemos, chapter 30:11-16) and it begins with, “Hashem spoke to Moshe saying, ‘When you will count the heads of the Children of Israel…’”

The Midrash Tanchumah records Moshe having said to Hashem, “When I die I will leave no remembrance.” Hashem responded, “By your life, just as you zokef es roshan- count the heads of Israel now, so too every year when the portion is read will it be as if you are standing there counting them again.” That is why the parsha opens not “Count the heads,” but “When you will count the heads.” Interesting, the language the Midrash uses to say ‘count’ is zokef which really means to raise up. Just as Moshe raised up their heads that year, so too will he every year. What is this promise that Hashem is making to Moshe?

In the Gemorah Megilla, Resh Lakish said, “It was well known to He, at Whose word the world came into being, that Haman would one day pay shekels for Israel’s destruction. Hashem therefore pre-empted Haman’s shekels with Israel’s shekels. As it’s taught in a Mishnah (in Gemorah Shekalim), ‘On the first of Adar a proclamation went out regarding the shekel.’” Every year on the first of Adar the Jewish Court sent out the word to the people that the time for donating the half-shekel is near. What was it about the shekel donation that it merited us protection from Haman’s shekels? Also, if Resh Lakish wanted proof for the annual counting, why not bring the proof from this Torah portion of Ki Sisa? Why resort to a Mishnah?

What the Mishnah has over the Torah is the language, “On the first of Adar mashmi’in al hashekalim- a proclamation went out regarding the shekel.” The word mashmi’in is from the root shema which normally means hear. So ‘On the first of Adar we heard about the shekalim’ seems like the more accurate translation.

When the 10 sons of Yaakov stood before the viceroy, Yoseph, for the very first time it says, “And they did not know that Yoseph shomayah- heard, for an interpreter stood between them.” The verse makes no sense this way. Here, the word Shomayah has to mean understood for the verse to make sense. Going back to the Mishnah Shekalim the translation now reads, ‘On the first of Adar an understanding went out regarding the shekel.’ What was understood regarding the shekel? That Moshe would be with us every year when we donated the half-shekel coin.

It says at the end of Devarim, regarding Moshe’s last moments, that Hashem showed him all the land of Israel. From Dan’s to Naphtali’s to Ephraim’s to Menashe’s. All the land of Judah until the yam acharone- last sea. Our Rabbis say read yam acharone as yom acharone- last day. Hashem showed Moshe all the trials and tribulations of Israel until the very last day of world history. Moshe saw Israel drifting in a sea of exiles, trying to fortify ourselves against every passing wave which tried to drag us under. Hashem promised Moshe saying, “Don’t worry. Even after you die you will be there every year for the head count. You will be there to zokef es roshan- raise their heads up above the waters of the thrashing sea of anti-Semitism and assimilation.

This Shabbos a third Torah scroll will be taken out because it is also

Shabbos Rosh Chodesh,

the New Moon, the first day of the new month of Adar. Adar is the last month in the order of months, symbolizing the last days of the exile of Israel. It’s the month of Esther, which can be read astir- I [Hashem] will hide [My face]. Adar is the time of the year and the time in history when a man like Haman can rise in power till attaining the ability to threaten the very existence of all Israel. It’s the time of the year and the time in history when the Jewish people would be at such a spiritual low, so detached from Hashem and Torah that on the Scales of Justice destruction may very well be what we deserve, G-d forbid!

The half-shekel coins of silver Israel donated went to make the sockets (feet) of the planks of the Mishkan walls. If closeness to Hashem would be represented by being part of or close to the Holy of Holies, where the Shchinah of Hashem rested, there were plenty Jews whose silver half-shekel coins merited that position. But the last of these coins went to make silver hooks which held up the curtains of the outer courtyard of the Sanctuary. These hooks of the outer courtyard and Adar reflect the last generations of Israel, very far removed from Hashem.

In Shir Hashirim King Solomon wrote (2:15), “The foxes have seized us. The little foxes which ruin the vineyard and our vineyards were in blossom.” The Chasam Sofer explains this verse refers to these last generations just before Messianic times. ‘Our vineyards were in blossom’ refers to the righteous Torah scholars who have not yet fully matured. They have not yet girded Israel with the protective merits of their potential when already our small (weak) enemies come along and destroys our vineyards.

Our enemies, fueled by the forces of Tuma have incredible power over us these days. Uneducated Jews are being spiritually destroyed by the millions. Educated Jews are relinquishing Torah ideals to foreign ideals and are now moving away by the thousands. Children of observant Jews are caving in to pressures and are being lost by the hundreds. Definitely an Adar generation.

Haman was glad when his lots determined Adar to be the month to destroy Israel. He rationalized to himself it was a good sign since Adar was the month in which Moshe died it’s a month when Israel is vulnerable.

What Haman did not realize was that Adar was also the month in which Moshe was born. What Haman did not realize was that although the half-shekels made the distant hooks of the outer courtyard, they were mounted within the limits of the courtyard, meaning no Jew is ever totally detached from Hashem. What Haman did not realize was that Adar was the month when an understanding went out to all Israel that Moshe was here to collect the shekalim, to raise our heads up above the rolling waves and rolling lots which tried to destroy us. Although on the Scales of Justice our fate may look grim, measure for measure against the random and unreasoning lots of Haman’s Hashem ‘randomly’ choose to save us even if Justice would reason otherwise.

That verse in Shir Hashirim describing these last days when, ‘our vineyards were in blossom,’ blossom, in Hebrew, is smadar. Smadar is spelled samech-mem-daled-reish. Samech-mem is a two letter abbreviation for the name of the force of Tuma, which we do not want to give subsistence to by saying its name, and daled-reish, dar, is at the root of hesdardarus which means deterioration. Smadar means the samech-mem is deteriorating! How can a verse which describes us as being so spiritually weak and prey to our enemies simultaneously be describing the strength of our enemies as deteriorating?

When a man is sitting on death row and it’s just 6 hours till midnight, they ask him what he would like for his last meal. They give him whatever he wants. The culmination of these 'last days' is near. Messianic times are about to commence. The forces of Tuma are just moments before nullification and Hashem is giving them their last delights before He throws the switch.

Baruch Hashem! I just remember one of the first Gemorah’s I learned. It was the third chapter of Bava Kamma!!! [Actually, it was one of the first Gemorah's I reviewed heavily- which is why I remember it and think it was first]. It opens with a Mishnah saying if a person puts a vessel down in a public domain and a pedestrian accidentally kicks it and breaks it, the pedestrian is not responsible for the damages. And if the pedestrian is hurt or his garments are damaged by the shattering of the vessel, the owner of the vessel is responsible! The Gemorah asks, shouldn’t the pedestrian watch where he’s going? The answer is that it is not the nature of people to look where they’re going. Therefore the owner of the vessel has to be more careful.

Needless to say, but we say it anyway, what ever our Rabbis say on the surface, there is always so much more underneath.

The public domain is the domain of Eisav, our exile. The nations of the world are constantly putting out obstacles for us to trip over. But we are not responsible. Because thanks to Moshe, Israel is a nation who walks with their heads raised up. And in the end, any damage done to us they will be accountable for!

This Shabbos is Parshas Mishpatim, regarding the laws of damagers. Damagers who aren’t really real. Its Parshas Shekalim, when Moshe will again collect our shekels and raise up our heads. And this Shabbos is the first of Adar. Adar is spelled Aleph-daled-reish. That’s aleph-dar! Deterioration?

Not this time! Adar is a time of reversals of fortune. Turn aleph-dar around and you get reid-aleph. Reid- went down. Aleph=1= Hashem. Hashem will come down to our level, so to speak. He’ll redeem us just as we are, just because, as if without reason.

I see from Adar that it doesn’t mean hesdardarus because that has two dar’s in it. Adar says aleph-dar, 1 dar. That's hesdarah which means perseverence.

We've got that.

Have a Shabbat Shabbat Shabbat Shalom.

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