January 27, 2011
This week’s parsha begins with the verse (Exodus/Shmos 21:1) (translation adapted from Rabbi Chaim Miller based on Rashi):
|וְאֵלֶּה הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר תָּשִׂים לִפְנֵיהֶם.||And these are the laws which you should set before them.|
Rashi (1040-1105) responds to the use here of the unusual word “set” rather than “teach” or “command” by saying it should not occur to you to teach the laws that follow in a manner suitable for just memorizing the raw content, without real understanding. Rather, you shall place the laws before them like a table that is set and prepared for eating is set before a person, so that the laws will be ready to be applied and used. Rabbi Samson Raphael Hirsch (1808-1888) points out that the goal of making the details of these laws perfectly clear and ready for use could be accomplished only in the oral law, and not in the written Torah. Rabbi Elie Munk (1900-1981) adds that this principle of full explication applies to the detailed and precise laws of social justice, but when it comes to sacred practices and metaphysical concepts, the Torah is generally brief and ambiguous. The meaning of Rosh HaShanah, the nature of the human soul, and the world of angels are hardly mentioned, covered with a veil.
Ramban (1194-1270) tells us that these laws follow in the Torah the tenth of the Ten Commandments, “You shall not covet,” so that one will not mistakenly think that some house, or field, or other property is rightfully his, and he will covet it, and take something that is not his. Midrash Shmos Rabbah 30:15 says that the entire Torah depends on monetary laws. Similarly, Rabbi Ovadioh ben Yakov Sforno (1475-1550): through these ordinances men will know what is meant by “anything that is your neighbor’s.” The ordinances are more complex than the preceding positive and negative commandments. When an occasion arises to judge, the legal decision is decided in the manner set forth here.
Baal haTurim (1269-1343) informs us that the word in our verse “tosim (set)” forms an acronym for the phrase “tishma shnayhem yachad m‘dabrim” (listen to them both together when they speak),” meaning that the court may not hear the claims of one litigant before the other is present. This rule is found in Sanhedrin 7b.
Rebbe Moshe Leib Erblich of Sassov (1745-1807) points out that many people are very careful to observe the laws of kashrus when they eat. They want to know about the shechita of the meat and the baking of the bread, and so forth, before they eat. The rebbe says that the compendium of Jewish law is known as the Shulchan Aruch, meaning “set table.” We should learn from this that every area of Jewish law, including one’s conduct in business, should be regarded with the same standard of integrity.
Rabbi Simcha Bunim Bonhart (1765-1827) of Przysucha/Peshischa reads into this verse the meaning that one must set the Divine ordinances before one’s own self. We must set aside our own desires for the sake of HaShem’s laws.
Rabbi Avrohom Mordechai Alter (1866-1948), the Imrei Emes of Ger, quotes the Midrash Shemos Rabboh 30:1, saying that these laws will cause disputes among the people, after which they will enter litigation and make peace. He explains that by giving these laws, HaShem enabled each person to prepare his own case. But people usually don’t recognize when they are wrong, so knowing the law leads at first to more disputes. A wonderful quality of the Torah is that the litigants will accept the rulings of the judges and make peace.
Rabbi Zalman Sorotzkin (1881-1966) reminds us that the previous Parshas Yisro dealt with making altars of earth and of stone, and the following Parshas Terumah will deal with the collection of brass, silver and gold for the construction of the Mishkan. Why then, he asks, is Parshas Mishpotim interposed between two portions relevant to the Mishkan? He answers that earth and stone are virtually worthless, but we needed to learn from HaShem about social and financial ethics before discussing valuable materials, because He hates offerings financed through theft. All the gifts of silver and gold for His house must be legitimately obtained.
January 24, 2011
January 24, 2011
WANTED DONATION OF A USED CAR
The synagogue is looking for someone to donate a car for use as a deterrent for security measures. It will be painted to look official and a beacon will be installed on the roof. The car does not have to run well, it just has to be able to be driven in and around the shul. The body needs to be in decent condition. Please contact Scott Danoff if you have such a vehicle, and would like to make a tax deductible donation to the shul.
January 24, 2011
Mazal Tov to the new abba and ima, our Rabbinic Intern Rabbi Michael and Yael Bleicher, on the birth of their daughter. Mazal Tov also to their parents Jeffrey and Rita Bleicher of Staten Island and Rabbi Rafi and Pessy Butler of Queens.
January 24, 2011
Kiddush is sponsored by Great Neck Synagogue
Seudah Shlishit is sponsored by Adina & Mark Abraham in memory of his father Shalom Yitzhak ben David Abraham.
Bima Flowers are sponsored by Jeanne Walfish and Charles Stein in memory of his grandmother Devora Kapelovich, z”l.
SUNDAY BREAKFAST is co-sponsored by Adina & Mark Abraham in memory of his father Shalom Yitzhak ben David Abraham, z”l and by the Rabinowitz Family in memory of Lea Rabinowitz, z”l.
YOUTH SNACKS are sponsored by David and Diane Rein on the occasion of the 6th yarhzeit of Helene M. Fink z”l, beloved grandmother of Alexander, Oliver and Sophia.
January 24, 2011
January 20, 2011
Great Neck Synagogue notes with sorrow the passing of Else Salomon, beloved mother of our member Jacqueline Fischer.
The graveside funeral took place, Tuesday, January 18, 2011 at 3:00pm at King Solomon Memorial Park, Clifton, NJ.
For those who would like to assist the Fischer Family with meals for the shiva house please contact Sharon Goldwyn at 917-287-7334.
Jacqueline Fischer will be sitting shiva according to the following schedule:
Wednesday at 464 Churchill Road, Teaneck, NJ.
Thursday through Monday morning at 65 Bayview Avenue, Great Neck, NY 11021.
Minyamin will be as follows:
Thursday 6:45 am and 4:40 pm
Friday 6:45 am
Sunday 8:30 am and 4:45 pm
Monday 6:45 am
January 20, 2011
The words: ‘On thy bringing the people out of Egypt, you shall serve God upon this mountain’, make it clear that Am Israel practiced a different religion in Egypt. Clearly the so called religion they followed, was that of the oppressed. A religion, that caused them to be slaves and followers. A religion, wherein they did not have to think much. Interesting, because the Torah toggles between calling the Israelites ‘Am Israel’ and ‘Bnei Israel’. The latter, being the hopefully new generation. Why?
Much has been said why it would be necessary to dwell another 40 years in the desert before entering The Promised Land. Many Sages have pointed out that it was necessary because HaShem wanted to end one generation, so that Bnei Israel, the children, could enter the Promised Land as a ‘new’ generation.
HaShem goes out of his way to prove Himself as the Shaddai. He performs miracle after miracle in order to convey His powers. And yet, the stubborn among the people of Israel stays doubtful. Hard to believe nowadays, since we are not used to blatant and visible miracles.
In this Parashat, HaShem switches from a religion of bondage to believing in Him. Through enabling the exodus with a series of Divine interventions, Am Israel has to become Bnei Israel. They have to start over. Going from Adults backwards into children.
They are being given the rest of the mitzvot that were left out during the giving of the seven Noahide laws. These are the laws that will differentiate this group of people into the Chosen People. Adhering to these laws, makes the bond with HaShem complete.
Yet, Rambam and other Sages including Rashi do not agree that the first law, ‘Anochi…’ - ‘I am your God..’ is actually a command. Rambam thinks it is the only positive command. Rashi and others are of the opinion that this is not a command but rather a preamble, a constitution of the ultimate truth, followed by commands. But whoever is right, the moment is clear. With this first sentence HaShem breaks clearly from the past. And by mentioning Egypt in that first same sentence, He makes clear that Egypt is the past and He is the future.
It should be considered a great lesson why this Parashat is actually named after Yitro. It could be easily be named ‘Ten Commandments’, or ‘Mount Sinai’. Why call it Yitro? Easy! Here’s a man not born Israelite, with his own daughter being married to the greatest Jewish leader ever. Yitro was close to Moshe and Moshe listened to his advice. It was Yitro who gave Moshe the tip to be the link between HaShem and the people. It was Yitro who advised Moshe to organize leadership in groups of hundreds and thousands with ‘God fearing men’ to lead them. And it was Moshe who took Yitro’s advice.
Yitro is a symbolic character who plays the roll of the outsider. The outsider who clearly and keenly understands the truth about HaShem. The outsider who chooses the Chosen, and sees God as the only God. Yitro himself is the example of the true believer. The ‘dahti’ who excepts God without hesitation.
It is as if Yitro walked around the camps as proof that if he could be a believer, surely Bnei Israel should follow his example. What great honor for Yitro to fulfill the task of the messenger whose presence alone was the message.
January 18, 2011
NEW MEMBER DESSERT RECEPTION
We welcome new and prospective members of Great Neck Synagogue to a Dessert Reception on Saturday evening, February 12th at 8:30pm at the home of Debbie and Hal Chadow, 50 Dickenson Place. Rabbi Dale Polakoff will offer welcoming remarks. Please join us!
January 18, 2011