Hear and Your Soul Shall Live
Insights on life from the weekly Parsha.

By: Rav Moshe Weber, Shlita, Editor: Rabbi I. Ido Weber Erlich, Shlita
Eng. Translation: Emanuel Behar, Gramatical Editor: Ari Chester

Portions of the following are included in the collection of tapes: "Shemu ViTachi Nafshechem". To obtain them, call: 02-828284, or e-mail: weber@shemayisrael.co.il

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Parshas Mishpatim
Volume 16

One should always ponder his status in life - that he is a servant of Hashem.,

"Be deliberate in judgment."

Insights on life: One should always ponder his status in life - that he is a servant of Hashem, as we read in the Torah, "All of Israel are My servants; My servants, they are, for I brought them out of Egypt" (Leviticus 25:55). Rashi comments on this: "they should serve me before [all other obligations, as a mortal master]." King David, peace to him, said, "As the eyes of slaves follow their master's hand, as the eyes of a slave girl follow the hand of her mistress, so are our eyes towards the Lord, our G-d, awaiting his favor" (Psalms 123:2). Constantly pondering our servitude to Hashem, we shall thus avoid wickedness and sin, like it says, "So that His fear shall be before you, so that you shall not sin" (Exodus 20:17).

Source in the Parsha: "When you will buy a Hebrew servant, he shall work for six years, and in the seventh, he shall go to freedom, without charge" (Exodus 21:2).

The Alshich comments on this: The intention of this verse, "When you will buy a Hebrew servant..." is to suggest that: "All of Israel are My servants..." The Alshich explains how the word "Hebrew" in this verse refers to: Abraham the Hebrew. Our sages elucidate on this word, "Hebrew": "All the world was on one side, and [Abraham] was on the other side." In explanation, 'side', in the language of the Torah, is equivalent to 'Hebrew'. So, to say: Abraham the 'other', is to say: Abraham the Hebrew. This is Abraham the other, the Hebrew, is described as a 'servant' of Hashem.

Insight on life: "Be deliberate in judgment" (Avot 1:1). Source in the Parsha: "And these are the judgments you shall place before them" (21:1)

On what did the Sages, of blessed memory, base the injunction: "Be deliberate in judgment?" They learned this from the verses: "You shall not ascend with steps" (Exodus 20:23), which is immediately followed by: "And these are the judgments." Rashi explains the significance of "deliberate in judgment" as follows - we must be accustomed to wait, in order to deeply and thoroughly probe any judgment establishing a verdict. Similarly, Rashi explains that "you shall not ascend with steps" suggests: in strength or in haste.

Themes in the Parsha:

"And these are the judgments which you shall place before them" - "Be deliberate in judgment".

It is possible to explain this by the words of our Sages, of blessed memory, in Avot: Do not condemn your friend, until you have stood in his place" (2:4) - "that is, don't judge your friend hastily, but be gentle, and judge everyone favorably (1:6)"

For when one judges his friend, he judges himself, like we learn from Likutey Moharan: "'And retribution is exacted from a person with his knowledge, and without his knowledge' (Avot 3:16) - I [Reb Nachmun] heard in the name of the Baal Shem Tov: Before any decree is passed against the world, G-d forbid, the whole world is gathered [and asked] if they concur with that judgment; or, the person himself, against whom the judgment has been decreed, G-d forbid - even he is asked whether he concurs. And thus, the judgment is concluded. The point is as follows: Surely, if he were specifically asked about himself, he would certainly protest and say that the judgment is not so. However, he is misled. He is asked about a case similar to his own, and he passes judgment. In this way, judgment is concluded....

This is similar to what we find in connection to King David, peace to him, when the prophet Natan came to him, and told him the story of the guest. King David answered, and said, "As G-d lives... and as for the lamb..." (II Samual 12:5-6). Then, judgment was passed against David, [precisely] as he had dictated....

This concept, of how each person is asked, is amazing! But the point is: in all the conversations and stories that a person hears, there can be found exalted and lofty matters. One has to take great care in this: not to pass judgment until one has considered it a second and third time, for it is life threatening, and these matters are timeless..." (Likutey Moharan 113).

The ways of the world ("halichot") are His. Do not read "halichot" but"halachot," Torah laws

"And these are the judgments you shall place before them."

Rabbi Yehuda said: He who wishes to be a Chassid - a saint, he must be very careful regarding the matters of damage and injury (Tractate Bava Kama). In the matters of damages, it is not enough to avoid causing damage, either physically or financially, for such is common sense; indeed, he who injures his friend - both heaven and mankind alike consider him 'bad.' Therefore, Rabbi Yehuda, in his assertion (above), intends to suggest that one mustn't commit an action which, conceivably, would even indirectly result in damage to his friend, whether physically, financially, or even psychologically - as fright, as sorrow. Nor must one commit an action which would cause harm in any way, even if he would be exempt from all punishments for his actions.

Likewise, we find in the Shulchan Aruch: one mustn't rob or maltreat even minutely, whether [he harms or robs] a Jew or gentile. Yet if the 'robing' concerns something of insignificant value, which most people deem insignificant, then it is (according to some) permissible to 'rob' someone of something - to take from them without permission. To take a toothpick, for example, from a friend, without permission - this is allowable, given the insignificance of the toothpick. Even this, however, is forbidden, according to the Talmud Yerushalmi, for this does not reflect the values of a Chassid.

Secrets of the Torah.,

"When a man shall sell his daughter as a handmaiden, she shall not go free, like the release of the slaves. If she is displeasing in the eyes of her master, that he did not designate her for herself, he shall have her redeemed..." (Exodus 21:7-8).

"Man" - this refers to the Holy One, blessed be He. "His daughter" - this refers to the holy soul. "As a handmaiden" - the soul should be a "handmaiden" to work within you, the Jewish people, in this world. This verse teaches: When it comes to for you to leave this world, do "not go free, like the release of slaves" - do not go filthy with sins, but leave this world free and clean. However, "if she is displeasing in the eyes of her master" - if the soul leaves this world dirty and filthy with transgression, not appearing pleasant in the eyes of Hashem, then woe to him, whose soul left the body in such a state! Lest this occur, one must repent; of he who repents, the verse says, "he [Hashem] shall have her redeemed." Through repentance, returning to Hashem, one redeems his soul from falling into the abyss, so to speak....

"Said R. Judah: Let us discourse, while walking. R. Judah then cited the verse: 'and if a man shall open a pit, or if a man shall dig a pit... [then it says:] the owner of the pit shall make it good' [Exodus]. Said R. Judah: If that man has to make good, how much more so, he who brings disfavor into the world by his sins [must he make good]! And I do, indeed, find it strange, that a man, after having brought disfavor into the world, can make restitution by pentinance... However, the truth is that through man's pentinance, the Almighty Himself, so to speak, rectifies on high the wrong committed, and thus man rectifies himself and all the worlds" (Zohar III, 122)

. "Ascend to Me, to the mountain!" (24:12).

Rabbi Dovid ben Shmuel HaLevi, the Taz - yartzheit, 26th of Shevat.

Certainly, by the time of his journey, the Taz had already attained fame amidst the Jews, and his books flourished amongst the wise man and authorities of the generation. Indeed, he pastured his congregation, the Jews of Austria, with a strong hand! And yet, unsatisfied with himself, feeling still the need to perfect his service of Hashem, blessed be He, the Taz, Rabbi Dovid ben Shmuel HaLevi (author of the Turi Zahav) resolved to wander, journeying throughout the land. The following is an account of his travels:

One day, upon awaking, I made a resolution... I shed my garments, my glorious, splendid garments of the official Rabbinute, and wrapped myself in in decrepit, shaggy vestments. Taking with me an old sac, a blanket, and my most essential books of Torah, I embarked on a journey, to wander in the world... In the merit of wandering during this dreadful Exile, perhaps, oh, perhaps, I might reach unprecedented heights in my personal service of Hashem, blessed be He, and genuinely feel the pain of the Galut, of the exile of the Shechina...

Thus I traveled, from place to place, town to town, staying but one night though, wherever I would stop and rest. Only old, moldy bread did I eat, throughout the week, and my water was of dreadful quality, too. But on the holy Shabbat, did I feast! I would eat well, indeed, with whomever would be so kind as to offer me hospitality. I journeyed in this manner for one year, from town to town, place to place, living meagerly, but constantly engaging in Torah study. Lofty heights did I strive to attain... I thirsted to perceive Hashem... and to feel the agonizing pain of the Exile...

Such was my life, before arriving at the city of Levov, where, being weak from my wanderings, I sought refuge, until my health returned; for certainly, were I not to rest, and rejuvenate from my travels, I might have become quite sick, G-d forbid.... I did not accept Tzedekah (charity) from the cities were I sojourned, so thus began my search for a means to supply for my needs - my food, and so forth. Upon being offered a job, as a Menaker, my occupation commenced, removing the fat out from animals, and koshering them... How pleasant this was! It was a filthy task, surely, as my hands were always doused with blood, from the insides of the animals... doubtless, my life as a wanderer during the exile, my austere, ascetic existance, continued...

After some time, I became burdened with slight fame, in the eyes of our customers. Luckily, I had a phenomenal understanding of the anatomy of an animal, and knew intuitively whether or not an animal was kosher... in some ways, my ability surpassed those of my fellow workers, who became jealous... Our work was marvelous, and many customers would watch us, all day long, delighting in our work...

I must add: while engaging in this vocation, I would reflect upon all the different topics in the Talmud, especially in Chulin, which deal with the Halachot of Kashrut, of animals and birds. Surely, through my vocation, I better understood better many difficulties and questions on issues of kashrut which, heretofore, I only understood from reading the texts of our holy Sages...

Unfortunately, my success in this work bred jealousy among the other butchers and shochets in the city... and unfortunately, far too often, arguments would result - for I would contest the verdicts of my fellow workers, not always agreeing on the status of any given animal - that is, on the question of it's Kashrut. They would become very nervous, very agitated, my poor brothers, my fellow workers, when they would declare an animal kosher, yet I would contest this verdict; and the contrary...

One particular day, they brought a cow to me; it had already been slaughtered, and we were unsure of it's kashrut. So, I thoroughly inspected the cow, and, in my opinion, it was kosher, fully acceptable. When my fellow workers heard my conclusion on this particular animal, they, too, examined it; yet, contrary to my conclusion, they declared it treif. As usual, they would argue with me.... I was disturbed, but very sure of my conclusion. I firmly maintained, the cow was kosher, fully acceptable according to Halacha. This is what brought us to the Rav of Levov...

The Rav himself examined the cow, and after a cursory inspection, he declared the cow trief, contrary to my opinion. I was, of course, very disturbed... I argued with the Rav, bringing arguments from many different sources.... notwithstanding, the Rav, too, became disturbed, more so than myself... He felt threatened, one might say; and, concerned that my rebellious assertions, though well validated, would crush the foundations of kashrut in Levov, the Rav had me thrown into prison...

This is how I found myself in a prison, with criminals and hoodlums, locked in a cell. Thanks to Heaven, I was not disheartened, not in the least.... One day, a child passed by the window of the cell, carrying a chicken, already slaughtered... "Why do you hold this chicken?" I called to him, from the cell window, to which the child retorted, "I return with this from the Rav of Levov." The child continued, "My mother sent me so that we could clarify whether this chicken was kosher or treif." "So, child, tell me - what was the opinion of the Rav?" The child replied, sadly, "It is trief, the Rav declared."

"Bring the chicken closer to the window, child," whereupon I examined it, as best I could. After a complete inspection, and contemplation, I urged the child to return to the Rav, to tell him this: "Look in Shulchan Aruch, Yoreah Deah, sim. 49, in sif katan 4; in the Taz, specifically, to see how he explains it. The Rav should realize that he is mistaken, and that, fortunately, your chicken is kosher! Go, my son, go - go to the Rav, and tell him this!"

The child ran to the Rav, with the chicken, and conveyed to him this information, from me, the mysterious prisoner. The Rav realized that he was certainly mistaken, after examining my commentary on the Shulchan Aruch (--the 'Taz'). This particular case, the Rav realized, is specifically and explicitly dealt with in my commentary - yes, the chicken is kosher! Luckily, the Rav realized that, perchance, he might have been mistaken in the past, too, declaring certain animals treif which, very possibly, were actually kosher...

Realizing his mistakes, and distraught, having ordered my imprisonment, the Rav immediately ordered my release - me, the mysterious, imprisoned Menaker... in fact, in his humility and saintliness, the Rav himself came to the prison, to beseech my forgiveness, and order my liberation. Of course, I was not distressed whatsoever, not the least, so forgiveness was not even necessary...but I did tell the Rav that "In the way that a man wants to go, he is taken." To explain, it was my own will, my desire, that I wander in exile, experiencing the bitterness of the Galut... so - thank You, Hashem, Master of the Universe, for assisting my endeavors, graciously causing my imprisonment!

... thenceforth I became great friends with the Rav, working with him, side by side, to determine the verdict in all branches of Halachah.... after a short time, the Rav gathered the foremost sages among Levov, and said to them - "This man, who came to us as a wandering ascetic, Rabbi Dovid ben Shmuel HaLevi, he is a very holy man, in whom the godly spirit broils and roars. He clarifies the Torah for us all, and his teachings are clear, well validated, and certain. I wish to appoint him the head of the Beit Din of our city, and well in the future, he should inherit my position..." And this is exactly what transpired, which is how I came to be where I am today..

. The 'Insight on Life' from this story is: We must diligently, ardently strive to attain lofty spiritual heights, like the Taz! We must, moreover, mourn the exile of the Shechina, like the holy tzaddik, the Taz. For the tzaddikim accept upon themselves the exile, in order to feel the bitter pain of the Galut, the exile of the Shechina; and, although we are not tzaddikim, we should heed the words of the Tikuney Zohar: "It is sufficient for a servant to be like his master."

"The lips of the wise disseminate knowledge..." (Proverbs 15:7)

Dear reader, this is the sixteenth edition of Shemu VaTachi Nafshechem! It has been printed in Hebrew, for over three years; now, both the Hebrew and English editions are sent to nations all over the globe, thanks to Hashem! Please, if our success is to continue, we ask for your contributions. (In Israel, you may automatically contribute any sum of money from your account, each month, as described in previous editions.) To obtain further information, receive this publication, or send contributions and/or comments, call: 02-828284. Also, you write to us at: Shemu VaTachi Nafshechem; 182 Batie Hungarin; Jerusalem, Israel.

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Dedicated to Sarah Caplan, Sidney Rubenstein, and family.


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