פ’ משפטים תשע”ז
Volume 17, Issue 6
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Dov Wasserman, The Vilna Gaon, and Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin.
ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם
“These are the statutes that I place before you…” (21:1)
In Parshat Mishpatim, we are presented with a Code of Law by which Bnei Yisrael must live in order to flourish as a nation. The Aseret HaDibrot provided the general principles that would ensure the survival of Bnei Yisrael. However, society cannot exist without a system of justice and Hashem provided His people with the most perfect system possible. The Mishpatim are those civil laws that protect the moral fiber of society. They help regulate relationships between men, encouraging truthfulness, sincerity, kindness, while condemning immorality and deceit. (Torah Gems)
Rabbeinu Yaakov Ben Asher, the Ba’al HaTurim interpreted the word המשפטים to mean: הדיין מצווה שיעשה פשרה טרם יעשה משפט – The Judge is commanded to make a compromise before he judges. The Gemara in Sanhedrin states that it is a mitzvah to have the litigants come to a compromise, for where there is a judgment, there is no peace and where there is peace, there is no judgment. (Ba’al HaTurim)
עין תחת עין
“An eye for an eye…” (21:24)
The Gemara in Bava Kamma 84a teaches that this passage is not to be applied in its literal sense. Instead, the true meaning of “an eye for an eye” is the right to monetary compensation for the loss of an eye, tooth, or limb. A truly amazing allusion, concealed in the words עין תחת עין, an eye for an eye, confirms this legal practice. If we are to arrange the letters of the aleph bet in a vertical row we find that underneath the letters of the word עין, the letters פכס appear. The letters פכס, rearranged, form the word כסף – money. The phrase עין תחת עין can thus be rendered as follows: עין, for an injury to an eye, one must pay תחת עין, that which is תחת, underneath, the letters עין, namely כסף, money. (Vilna Gaon)
אם אענה תענה
“If you dare cause him pain…” (22:22)
This is a warning both to the tormentor and to the court not to oppress the widow and orphan in judgment. “If he shall cry out [צעק יצעק] to Me,” meaning if he cries out to the earthly court and no one pays attention, then he shall cry out to Me, and “I shall surely hear [שמע אשמע] his outcry.” God will take action against both his tormentor and the judge who oppressed him in judgment. All the verbs are in the double intensive form, a reflection of the fact that both the tormentor and the judge who oppresses will be punished. This holds true for the entire section.
אם חבל תחבל שלמת רעך עד בא השמש תשיבנו לו…הוא שמלתו לערו במה ישכב
“If you take as collateral your friend’s garment, you must return it to him before sunset…it is his garment for his skin; in what shall he sleep?” (22:25-26)
QUESTION: Why is the word for “garment” spelled differently in each verse,שמלה and שלמה?
ANSWER: The word “שמלה” is composed of two words “שם לה” – “shem lah” – an item of importance with its own name – and the word “שלמה” is also composed of two words “של מה” – “shel mah” – of what value is it?
When a person gives a loan and takes an item as collateral, he may think that it is a “shel mah” – not of great value – and that it will not make a difference if he returns it before sunset or not. The Torah warns, however, that this seemingly meager garment may be the poor man’s only one, and to him it may be “shem lah” – a valuable possession. (Sha’ar Bat Rabim)
ושחד לא תקח
“Do not accept a bribe.” (23:8)
The Torah tells us that bribery blinds the eyes of those who can see and distorts the words of righteous people. Such is the power of favors that create bias. The Avnei Nezer comments that there is a major difference between a person who is actually blind and one who is prejudiced because of a bribe or bias. A blind person knows he can’t see and will ask for help when he needs it but a biased person can be prejudiced to such an extent that he doesn’t even realize that his sense of reality has become distorted. He feels that his twisted view is the true one, and he will not listen to anyone else’s logic.
I have a very close friend who is a respected ear, nose and throat specialist. Before he examines anyone, he refuses to look at the patient’s previous payment record. This doctor once told me he is afraid that if it were known to him that someone has poor insurance coverage or a delinquent payment history, it might affect his level of care and sensitivity toward the patient. This intelligent individual understands how easily prejudice can affect us, often without our awareness.
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