Saturday, February 2, 2013

Mishpatim & Shekalim 5773

The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim"   

"And these are the judgments (or ordinances) which you shall set before them." (Shemot 21:1)  

In Hebrew this verse reads: "V'aileh hamishpatim asher tasim lifnaihem", and the Hebrew letters of each word in this verse form the initial letters of a Hebrew phrase which teaches us something about the judicial process.  From  the letters of "V'aileh", we get: "A person is required to investigate the legal decision".  From "hamishpatim", we get: ""The judge is commanded to make a compromise before holding a trial";  from "asher": "if both sides want".  From "tasim": "Listen to both of them speaking, together (that is, don't hear one side of the case without the other side being present)". From "lifnaihem": "Don't favor the person who is a wealthy philanthropist; act as a stranger to him".  (from Baal Haturim)

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1) 

Rashi says, just as the preceding (laws were given) at Sinai, so these (were given) at Sinai. The Chidushai Harim explains that these legal ordinances make logical sense, and we could have arrived at them from our own understanding (even if they hadn't been given at Sinai).  Therefore, the Torah tells us that all the laws were given at Sinai, because we need to focus on the fact that we are following these laws because they are the will of Hashem, even though we could have arrived at them from our own understanding.

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1) 

It is written in the Zohar that this refers to the arrangement of reincarnations (Gilgulim).  The explanation is that when one person owes a debt to another person and doesn't return it, when he dies he is reincarnated as a horse or donkey, and the other person purchases him. In that way the person returns the debt to the other person.  There was a story in Jerusalem that there was a man who had a donkey that worked for him much more than was usual.  He went and asked a Tzadik (highly righteous man) about it. The Tzadik told him that someone remained financially indebted to him and the donkey was his reincarnation, and if he would say to him "You are pardoned", the donkey would stop doing that.  And so it was; he told the donkey "You are pardoned",  and the donkey died immediately.  There is also a hint about this in the verse "For the horse of Pharaoh came..." Shemot (15:19), that he becomes reincarnated as a horse in order to pay off a debt.  The word Pharoah in Hebrew is similar to the word for repayment.

"...which you shall set before them." (Shemot 21:1) 

Rashi says, like a table which is set and prepared for eating before a person -- the meaning of this is that one should explain matters clearly to a student.. HaRav HaGaon R' Chaim Yehuda Yakovzon ztz"l explained this by way of analogy to a pharmacy.  In truth, the shelves of a pharmacy are full of medications, but the medicines are not given out without a reason.  They are only given to patients who need the medications.  Similarly, Hashem told Moshe, until now we learned all kinds of essential Mitzvot, such as circumcision, Shabbat, and other similar Mitzvot.  But this section of the Torah you only need to set before them, so that they will be prepared if occasionally it is necessary to administer a punishment.  But it would be better if they didn't need to use these remedies at all.

"...and  he shall cause him to be completely healed." (Shemot 21:19)  

In Hebrew this is written as "Vrapo  yirapeh"; the root of the word for "heal" is repeated (twice).  This is a hint that when one goes to a doctor, it is sometimes necessary to go repeatedly until one becomes healthy.  But the Holy One Blessed Be He says, "I am Hashem Your Healer (or Doctor)" (Shemot 15:26), and here the root for the word "heal" is only written once.  Hashem can heal us all at once.

"...and he shall cause him to be completely healed."  (Shemot 21:19) 

There is a dot in the Hebrew letter "Pay" within the Hebrew words "Vrapo yirapeh", which is a hint that sometimes when we go to a doctor for healing, there is still some remnant of the illness which continues to leave its mark upon us.  But regarding the Holy One Blessed Be He, it is written "Rofecha" (without a dot, so the Hebrew letter is "Fay" instead of "Pay").  When He heals us, no remnant of the illness remains.

"...and he shall cause him to be completely healed." (Shemot 21:19)  

From this verse, permission is given to the doctor to heal.  Someone once came to a Tzadik and told him that he had a sick person in his household and that the doctors had despaired of the possibility of healing him.  The Tzadik answered him that the Sages say that the doctor has permission to heal but not to despair (or cause others to despair).  The Admor of Kotzk ztz"l added, that there is a hint to this in the phrase "despair without knowledge" (in Hebrew "Ye'ush shelo m'daat", referring to a discussion in Baba Metzia about whether one is required to return a lost object if the person doesn't yet know he lost it, but would have despaired of finding it if he knew he lost it). If someone has despaired, it's a sign that he doesn't have knowledge. 

"...and you shall not respond over a dispute..." (Shemot 23:2) 

Rashi says that you should not disagree with the head of the Sanhedrin.  And in the explanation of Rabenu Yonah it is written that you shouldn't answer during a disagreement when others are quarreling with you, but you should just keep quiet.

"From a false matter you shall distance yourself..." (Shemot 23:7)  

We find the language of "distance yourself" only in regards to falsehood, because we need to be especially careful about falsehood.

"From false matter you shall distance yourself..." (Shemot 23:7)  

It is written that "A speaker of falsehoods will not be established before Hashem".  A Tzadik  explained, that from one statement of falsehood one becomes distanced from the Holy One Blessed Be He, and that is the explanation of  "distance yourself" -- that is, you will distance yourself from the Holy One Blessed Be He.

"And these are the judgments..." (Shemot 21:1).  

The first word of this verse in Hebrew is V'aileh, and the Hebrew letters of this word form the initial letters of the words "La'yehudim Hayta Ora V'Simcha" (in English -- "And the Jews had light and joy") from Megillat Esther 8:16.  This is a hint to the beginning of the month of Adar.

Parshat Shekalim - The Torah Portion about Shekalim (Shekels)

It is written in the Mishna that on the first of Adar they announce about the Shekalim.  In the time of the Temple it was a Torah Mitzvah that everyone would donate a half shekel to the office of donations in the Temple, in order to purchase with that money all of the public sacrificial offerings.

The Sages established during the time when the Temple existed, that on the Shabbat right before the month of Adar (or on the Shabbat which fell on Rosh Chodesh Adar) they would read Parshat Shekalim, because on Shabbat all the people would gather in the synagogues and study halls.  When they would hear about the obligation to donate the half shekel, they would be reminded and encouraged to fulfill that Mitzvah.  In our times when the Temple doesn't exist, and we don't have the sacrificial altar and sacrifices for our atonement, the Mitzvah of collecting the half shekel cannot be fulfilled.  Nonetheless, we read this portion from the Torah on the Shabbat right before Adar, since "we compensate for the bulls with our lips" (Hoshea 14:3).  May the reading be considered as if we fulfilled the Mitzvah in actuality.

The Sages say that it was revealed and known before the Holy One Blessed Be He that in the future Haman would weigh out Shekalim to the King Ahashvairosh against Israel, and therefore Hashem commanded us to donate Shekalim so that our Shekalim would precede the Shekalim of Haman.

The four Parshiot, special Torah portions which are read  at this time of year before Passover, are: Shekalim (about the shekels), Zachor (about remembering Amalek), Parah (about the red cow) , and Hachodesh (about the month of Nisan).  The names of the four portions give us hints about improving ourselves from an ethical  (Mussar) point of view.  1.  Shekalim - one needs to weigh his deeds  (since the word for weighing has the same Hebrew root letters as Shekalim). 2. Zachor - one needs to remember Hashem (since the Hebrew word Zachor refers to remembering).  3. Para - one needs to purify himself (since the Parah Adumah, the red cow, was used for purification).  4. Hachodesh - one needs to renew himself (since the word for renewal has the same Hebrew root letters as Hachodesh, the month). 

M'shenichnas Adar Marbim B'Simcha (When Adar enters, we increase in happiness)

The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" has 118 verses, 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments.  The Maftir is "Parshat Shekalim" from the beginning of Parshat "Ki Tisa" until the words "Al nafshotaichem".The Haftorah is "Ben Sheva Shanim" (Malachim Beit Chapter 12)

May you all have a  light-filled and happy Shabbat.  Shabbat Shalom.

L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben R' Chaim ztz"l, Nilkach L'Bait Olamo Yud Gimmel Tishrei 5772

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