Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Mishpatim 5776

Appetizers for the Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" 

Shabbat Mevorchim

Excerpted and Translated from the the Teachings of Rabbi Gershon Steinberg ztz"l
L'ilui Neshamat HaGaon HaTzaddik R' Gershon Avigdor Ben Chaim ztz"l

"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 Tzaddik (highly righteous man) about it. The Tzaddik 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 his master shall bore his ear through with an awl."  (Shemot 21:5)

Why does he bore him through his ear with an awl?  The word for awl in Hebrew is "Martzeiya" and this has the Gematria (numerical value of the letters) of 400.  The Holy One Blessed Be He said, I took you out from a slavery of 400 years and I said that "For to Me are the children of Israel servants" (Vayikra 25:55), and this person went and acquired a master for himself; therefore he will be struck with an awl. The reason that the servant doesn't have his ear bored through when he begins his servitude, and only when he has served for six years, can be explained by way a parable which is brought in the beginning of Shaarei Teshuva by Rabeinu Yonah: There were two men who were in prison, and one of them made an underground tunnel and escaped while the second one remained behind.  They began to punish the one who didn't flee with a severe beating, and he said to them, "Because I behaved nicely and didn't flee, do I deserve to be punished?"  They answered him, "Here this is a prison and not a nursing home, and therefore your friend who felt the suffering and punishment searched for strategies in order to escape.  But since you don't feel any suffering in being here,  it's appropriate that we should now give you suffering and punishment."  Similarly, when the servant begins his servitude, there is no reason to bore his ear, but when he wants to remain after six years it's a sign that he doesn't feel the suffering of being a servant, and because of this he deserves to have his ear bored.

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

In Hebrew this is written as "V'rapo  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 "V'rapo 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 Tzaddik 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 Tzaddik 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'da'at", 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. 

"Ayin Tachat Ayin" (In English: "An eye in place of an eye...") (Shemot 21:24)

Rashi explains that this means money, that is: "if one blinded the eye of his fellow he pays him the value of his eye". The Gr"a says that this is hinted by the words  "Tachat Ayin" in this verse, which literally translated into English means "underneath an eye".  The word for eye in Hebrew is "Ayin", which is spelled with the Hebrew letters "Ayin", "Yud", and  "Nun".  If all the letters of the Hebrew alphabet are written vertically from the first to the last one, The letter in the Hebrew alphabet which comes under the Hebrew letter "Ayin" is "Pey", the letter which comes under the Hebrew letter "Yud" is "Kaf", and the letter which comes under the Hebrew letter "Nun" is "Samech".  Together these three letters "Kaf", "Samech", and "Pey" spell the Hebrew word "Kesef", which means "money" in English.  And there are those who explain that in this entire section of the Torah, first the deed is written and then afterwards the punishment, for example, "One who strikes a man so that he dies, shall surely be put to death." (Shemot 21:12), etc.  But in this verse "An eye in place of eye..." (Shemot 21:24), first the punishment is written and then afterwards the deed.  However, it is possible to say that also in this case the deed is first.  And thus would be its explanation: "An eye", if you take out the eye of your fellow, then "in place of an eye" -- you need to pay him something in place of the eye, and what would be the thing "in place of an eye"?  Money.  

"If you will persecute him -- for if he will cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry"  (Shemot 22:22)

The Gr"a asks why is it written "for if he will cry out", and it's not written " and he will cry out"?  And he explains that if one person caused suffering to his friend, such as in the case of  what Penina did to Chana -- and her intention was for the sake of Heaven because she wanted Chana to pray and cry out to Hashem -- also this is not a good thing.  And that is the meaning of "for if he will cry out to Me, I will surely hear his cry".  (That is, if you are persecuting him in order to get him to pray, even though your intention is good like Penina's was when she persecuted Chana, that's still not a good thing to do.)

"If you will lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you..." (Shemot 22:24)

One explanation is that even if the "poor person is with you", that is, even if you are also poor, in spite of that, help him. And there are those who explain the phrase "to the poor person who is with you", that you should not lend to the poor person publicly but only privately, and that is the meaning of "with you" -- privately, so that he won't be embarassed.  And there are those who explain that the  Hebrew word for "lend" (Talveh) is related linguistically to the Hebrew word "Levaya" (which means "accompany", and also refers to the funeral procession in which people accompany the deceased to his burial plot).  What are the things which accompany a person to the Next World?  The answer is -- money, that is to say, the Mitzvot such as Tzedakah (charity) that the person does with the money; that accompanies the person to the Next World.  And that is the explanation of the words "with you" -- that the money  which you lend "accompanies" you in the Future.

"....and flesh in the field that has been torn you shall not eat; you shall throw it to the dog." (Shemot 22:30)

Rashi says that the dog receives a reward because he fulfilled the verse "...a dog will not sharpen its tongue..." (Shemot 11:7) at the time of the Jewish people leaving Egypt.  The Da'at Zekainim says an additional explanation, that since the dog guards your flocks and your house, and is even willing to give up his life for your sake, if so, out of gratitude you should give him to eat the flesh which has been torn.  And there are those who explain why the dog is called "Kelev" in Hebrew.  The Hebrew word "Kelev" can be thought of as a compound word made up of two other Hebrew words, "Kol"  (which means "all") and "Lev" (which means "heart"). The dog is "all heart" and totally dedicates himself to the master of the house.

"People of holiness shall you be unto Me; and flesh in the field that has been torn you shall not eat..."  (Shemot 22:30

If you will behave in a holy way, then Hashem will guard you from forbidden foods.

"...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.

"If you see your enemy's donkey lying under his burden..." (Shemot 23:5)

The simple explanation is that the donkey is lying under the burden, and the teachers of Mussar (Ethics) explain that this is hinting at the burden of the donkey's owner.  That is to say, even if this man causes you suffering and is always burdensome to you, even so, ignore that and help him.

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

It is written that "A speaker of falsehoods will not be established before Hashem".  A Tzaddik  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.

"From a false matter you shall distance yourself; and one who is innocent and righteous, do not kill, for I shall not exonerate a wicked person."  (Shemot 23:7)

On the surface of things, the ending of the verse is incomprehensible, for behold, the verse is speaking of someone who is innocent and righteous.  And there are those who explain, behold, there is a Halacha (Jewish law) that says that if all of the judges find the accused person guilty then he is spared.  And therefore, if the last judge reasons that the accused person is guilty but he sees that all the other judges besides him found him guilty, and in that case, if he also finds him guilty they will spare him,  and therefore he wants to say that the accused person is innocent in order so that the judgment will come out that the person is guilty, on this the Torah says: "From a false mattter you shall distance yourself, and one who is innocent and righteous, do not kill".  That is to say, don't say that he is innocent if you think that he is guilty; don't say that he is innocent and righteous in order to kill him.  The Torah tells you, don't worry, "for I shall not exonerate a wicked person", I will already punish him in a different manner, for Hashem has many agents.  (from the grandson of Rashi HaKodesh)

"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.

The Torah Portion of "Mishpatim" has 118 verses, 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments.  The Haftorah is "Hadavar Asher Hayah" (Yirmiyahu 34)

This is Shabbat Mevorchim for the month of Adar Rishon.  Rosh Chodesh Adar Rishon is on Tuesday and Wednesday.  The Molad: Boker Yom Shaini, at the hour 8:47, with 14 Chalakim.

We say Borchi Nafshi.

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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