פ’ משפטים – תשע”ה
Volume 7, 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.
Parshat Mishpatim presents us with a Code of Law 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, and kindness, while condemning immorality and deceit.
Regarding the opening statement of the Parsha: And these are the ordinances which you shall set before them, Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Pshischa would say: The Torah instructs us that there must be ordinances – the mitzvot between man and his fellow man – before the mitzvot between man and Hashem, because דרך ארץ קדמה לתורה – respect precedes Torah. These social laws were given before the rest of the Torah. The reason for this was that before the Torah could be given, all of Bnei Yisrael had to be unified. They had to have one heart, with peace, friendship and brotherhood. (Torah Gems)
כי תקנה עבד עברי
“If you will buy a Jewish slave…” (21:2)
QUESTION: The person becomes a slave only after he is purchased. It should have said “Ki tikneh Ivri le’eved” – “If you buy a Jew to be a slave.”
ANSWER: All Jews have Hashem as their Master: They must serve Him. The Torah is telling the individual who buys another Jew to realize that his relationship with such a Jew cannot be one of Master and slave, because every Jew is already a slave belonging to another master – Hashem.
In addition, the master should bear in mind that the servant has obligations towards his true Master and that it is imperative to grant him free time to fulfill them. (Likutei Ritzbah)
כל אלמנה ויתום לא תענון אם ענה תענה אתו כי אם צעק יצעק אלי שמע אשמע צעקתו
“Any widow or orphan you shall not afflict. If you afflict them in any way, for if they cry out to Me I will surely hear their cry.” (22:21-22)
We may note the double usage of the verbs in this verse, a highly irregular style in Tanach. The Kotzker Rebbe notes that the affliction one causes a widow or an orphan is different from the affliction of other individuals. If one inflicts physical or emotional discomfort upon another person, in as much as the distress may even be severe, it is only a single incident with which the individual must deal. When one harms a widow or orphan, however, the pain is complicated by the stirring of old memories of the pain of widowhood or the loss of a parent. The widow and orphan must contend with much more. Their pain is compounded for they feel, “If my husband/parent would have been alive, this would not have happened, or, I would have someone to whom to turn.” When they cry, it is a two-fold cry. When Hashem listens to them, it is with “increased” empathy! (Kotzker Rebbe)
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)
לא תהיה אחרי רבים לרעת
“Do not go after the majority to do evil.” (23:2)
Rabbeinu Bachya explains that the plain meaning of our verse is that if you see many people doing something that is wrong, you should not follow their example.
It is very natural for a person to imitate the behavior of others. When many people do something that is wrong, it is easy for any individual to tell himself, “So many other people are doing this, it can’t be so wrong if I do it also.” But in this verse the Torah is telling us the principle that each person is responsible for his own behavior. Even when many others do something that is improper, you have an obligation to be careful with your own behavior.
It takes much courage and strength of character to be different from others for one’s ideals. But anyone who appreciates that the most important thing in the world is to do the will of the Almighty will not be impressed by the fact that many people are doing something. He will weigh his own behavior against the Torah’s standards and not the standards of others regardless of how numerous they are. (Growth Through Torah)
ושחד לא תקח
“And you shall not take a bribe…” (23:8)
The Hebrew word for bribe is שחד and in the order of the Aleph Bais, we find the letters that follow the letters ש ח ד form the word תטה, meaning: you will be inclined, bend or contort. By accepting a bribe, a judge will surely be inclined to rule in favor of the person who gave the bribe, and bend the law, straying off the path of true justice. (Chomas Anoch)
ועבדתם את ה’ אלקיכם וברך את לחמך ואת מימיך
“And you shall serve G-d, your G-d, and He shall bless your bread and your water.” (23:25)
QUESTION: Why does the verse begin “va’avadetem” – “you (plural) shall serve” – and conclude “lachmecha ve’et meimecha” – “your (singular) bread and water”?
ANSWER: Our Sages speak very highly of tefilah betzibur – davening with a minyan. The word “tzibur” (צבור) is an acronym for “צדיקים בינונים ורשעים” – “righteous, intermediate, and wicked.” Individually, one may not be worthy that Hashem grant him desires. However, the zechut of the multitude can help pull through even those who in their own right are lacking merits. The Torah is advising that if you want Hashem to bless “lachemcha” – “your bread” – with abundance, this can be accomplished through “va’avadetem” – praying betzibur – and the zechut of the many will stand you in good stead. (Vedebarta Bam)
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