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A favourite Devar Torah supplied by a Project SEED associate.

This week's Sedrah is MISHPOTIM and we have asked Yossi Babad to share with us one of his favourite Divrei Torah.

Straight dealing

"And these are the laws that you shall place before them." Rashi, on the first sentence of the Sedrah, quotes a famous Medrash which asks why is the word "And" used?
The Medrash (and Rashi) continues. "The word "And" adds to the preceding statements - just as the preceding laws were from Sinai, so these [were given] at Sinai. "

This Medrash poses a much greater problem by its very answer! There are many sources which say that the whole Torah was given on Sinai. For example, Rashi (Vayikra 25,1 ) cites a Medrash to the effect that just as the laws of Shemitta were given on Sinai, so too all the other laws. Given that this is the case, what is the Medrash telling us by stating that the laws in Mishpotim were from Sinai? We know that the whole Torah was given on Sinai!

Reb Moshe Feinstein z"l supplies an answer to this problem. He brings the opinion of the Ramban (Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman, Nachmanides) in Shemos 24,1 that the laws in the Sedrah of Mishpotim were given to Moshe and to all Israel immediately after the Ten Commandments. (What happened was that Moshe received the Torah and the laws of Mishpotim, went down to tell the people and then went back up the mountain to complete the first set of 40 days.) According to this, we have to ask why were the laws of Mishpotim given immediately after the Ten Commandments? Even if we say that the laws in the Sedrah were given at a later date, the question remains, why were the laws written straight after the Ten Commandments?

Reb Moshe says that if a person does not keep the Halachic civil, and especially financial, laws then that person comes close to "Kefirah", denial of Hashem. Why? Because such a person believes that they have the money and success purely due to their own effort. In the words of the Torah they believe it is "my strength and personal power that brought me all this prosperity" (Devorim 8,17). A true believer, on the other hand, will accept that their income is predetermined and that no amount of financial misconduct will help, since Hashem has not decreed that they should make more money. Such a person, therefore, will not even be tempted to bend, or break, the law and, on the contrary, they would be willing to spend their money on charity, kashrus, and other mitzvos. They would feel that spending money on the correct things in life would bring them benefit in much the same way that an investor puts money into a venture which they believe will succeed.

This, Reb Moshe says, explains why civil laws were the first to be given after the Ten Commandments. An integral part of our belief in Hashem and the Torah is our integrity in business and financial matters.

Our contributor this week is a tutor at the Fallowfield SEED Programme.

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