The Jewish Eye
Parshas Mishpatim and Real Justice
During almost every era in history the Torah comes under criticism from the outside world. One society may be excessively cruel and complain that the Torah does not dispense justice since it gives certain preferences to collection of loans from widows, it is very protective of foreigners, and it values the life and pain of a slave. Today's liberal thinking society will criticize the Torah for being unusually cruel. It allows for slavery and capital punishment among other things frowned upon by most legal systems prevalent today.
The world has gone through many "ism"s, each one fatally flawed and eventually finding itself on the scrap heap of history. The Torah's justice system works in any and every generation because it is perfect. Its law's are not a response to the failings of the previous generation or to the whims of today's society. It is built from scratch from the ground up by the original creator of the world who understands what system is needed to create a successful society.
This may be why the Torah found it necessary to write Parshas Mishpatim immediately following Ma'amad Har Sinai. It reminds us that our laws come from Hashem and are special. It is a system that always did and always will work in every generation no matter which way the winds blow.
Vilna Gaon – An Eye For An Eye, Literally?
When telling us the laws of damages, the Torah says, "Ayin Tachas Ayin" - "An Eye For An Eye". Chazal explain, this should not be taken literally. Rather, if one blinded his fellow man's eye, he gives him the value of his eye. This is assessed in terms of how much value was decreased by his blinding, with respect to selling him as a slave in the marketplace.
Vilna Gaon finds a hint to this is the wording of the pasuk. The correct way of phrasing, "An Eye For An Eye", would have been, "Ayin BiAd Ayin". Why does the Torah use this unusual term "Tachas" - which means "Under"?
He answers, "Tachas Ayin" tells us, to take the letters that are "under" - "after"- the letters "Ayin Yud Nun" in the word "Ayin".
After Ayin = Pay
After Yud = Kuf
After Nun = Samach
Kuf Samach and Pay spells "Kesef" - "Money", alluding to the payment one must give for blinding another Jew.
Rav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch - The Slaves Set the Tone
Parshas Mishpatim discusses laws Bein Adam L'Chaveiro, between man and man. These govern many important and significant day-to-day occurrences in commerce and in relationships with those around us. Why is the seemingly less common and less significant mitzvah of the Hebrew slave chosen as the first of the laws between man and man?
Rav Shimshon Refoel Hirsch explains, the Jewish slave actually sets the tone for all of the laws between man and man. The underlying theme of these laws is, all people are created in Hashem's image and must be treated accordingly. The Jewish slave is a thief who could not afford to pay back what he stole. The Torah teaches, even the thief must be treated with respect and dignity From that the tone is certainly set regarding how we must treat the upstanding members of society.
Honest Businessmen Are Hashem's Friends
The Baalai Mussar say, one can not become close to Hashem, if one acts dishonest in his business dealings. We find a Remez to this in the pasuk in this week's Parsha. "ViNikrav Baal HaBayis El HaElokim Im Lo Sholach Yado BiMileches Rayayhu"
"ViNikrav Baal HaBayis El HaElokim" - how can on become close to Hashem... only if "Lo Sholach Yado BiMileches Rayayhu" he did not steal from his friend's possessions.
How Do Accountants Depreciate a Maidservant?
"If a man sells his daughter to be a maidservant... If she is displeasing to her master, who had not designated her as his wife, "ViHefdah" - he must allow her to be redeemed". What does "allowing her to be redeemed mean? Rashi explains, he must give her the opportunity to be redeemed and to go free, for he, too, must aid in her redemption. And what is this opportunity that he gives to her? He deducts from her redemption price according to the number of years that she has served him, as if she had been hired by him. How is this [calculated]? If [for example] he bought her for a maneh, and she has worked for him for two years, they say to him: "You were aware that she was destined to go free at the end of six years. Consequently you have bought each year's work for one-sixth of a maneh. Now she has served you for two years. Thereby [giving you] one-third of a maneh's [worth of service]. Take therefore two-thirds of a maneh and let her go free from your possession." He is therefore aiding in her redemption by not charging her the complete Maneh to go free. Rather, she deducts the amount she worked, and only pays the remainder.
The Sefer HaMakneh, on Meseches Kiddushin, offers another explanation how the master aids in her redemption. We know that a maidservant can only be sold when she is a Kitanah - a minor. For example, if she is sold at the age of 5 she will work for 6 years until she reaches the age of 11. Let's say, she wants to redeem herself at the end of the 2nd year. If she was sold for 6 dollars, one might think that she still has to give almost 6 dollars to go free. The reason being, a 5 year old only has a limited capacity to what kind of work she can do. Therefore, she really wasn't worth too much in her first few years. The bulk of her value will come when she is 10 and 11. That is why the pasuk says , "ViHefdah" - he must allow her to be redeemed". He aids in her redemption by dividing the years in to 6 equal parts. If she works 2 years, she will only have to give 4 dollars to go free.
Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz: Malachim Eat Milk & Meat Together?
Right after the Pasuk tells us "Lo Sivashel Gedi BaChalev Imo" which is the issur of Basar B'Chalav, Hashem tells us that he will send a Malach to watch us on the journey to Eretz Yisroel. Rav Yehonoson Eibushitz explains the connection between the two. He asks how is it that a Malach can be our protector? There is a rule that "Ein Kateigor Naaseh Saneigor"; our nemesis cannot be our patron. The Malachim were not pleased when Hashem made man nor were they very pleased when Hashem gave the Torah to us. Shouldn't this disqualify a Malach from protecting us and leading us to Eretz Yisroel?
At the time of Matan Torah the malachim said to Hashem that humans do not know how to keep the Torah and all its laws and therefore the Torah should stay in Shamayim with them. Hashem answered that when three Malachim were sent to earth to visit Avrohom Avinu they ate Basar B'Chalav. It is this argument that made the Malachim abandon their claim to the Torah and enabled Bnei Yisroel to receive it with the blessing of the Malachim. Therefore says Rav Yehonoson the Torah tells us not to eat Basar B'Chalav right before Hashem sent a Malach to protect us to show that with this Mitzva we made peace with the Malachim and a Malach will be a wonderful guide to take us home to Eretz Yisroel.
Chasam Sofer - But Doesn't The Majority of the World Not Worship Hashem?
The pasuk in Mishpatim tells us "Acharei Rabim L'Hatos" to follow the majority. The famous question asked is that since most of the world does not follow Hashem and abide by the laws of the Torah why aren't we obligated to follow the majority?
The Chasam Sofer's explanation of this pasuk answers this question. "Lo Sihiyeh Acharei Rabim L'Ra'os"; there are things that are absolutely, positively bad. Do not follow the majority in their wickedness and folly. When do you follow the majority? "L'Hatos" when there is doubt in which way to turn. Then go with the Rabim. If you understand this, then "Lo Saaneh Al Riv" says the pasuk. You will not be caught up in debate about avodah zara and other bad ways of the world because the guidelines are clear to you.
Where is The Mishkan?
Rav Menachem Mendel Mi'Kotzk answered that the Mishkan is wherever you want it to be. All you need to do is to make place for it. You need to create a Makom Kadosh. Once you do that Hashem will rest His Shechina anywhere, even in each individual person. That is what the pasuk says "V'Asu Li Mikdash"; make me a Holy place. "V'Shachanti Bisochum"; I will rest in them. "Them" is plural because Hashem's Shechina is not limited to a single place. It will dwell anywhere it is invited.
I heard in the name of Rav Ezriel Tauber that after the Holocaust, Moshiach was given permission to come down. The "satan" will not stop him anymore. The problem is that he has no place to come to. The satan works hard to make sure there is no "4 Amos" anywhere in the world completely clean of "tumah" to which Moshiach can come down to. Our job today is to create a sterile environment, clean enough to host Moshiach.
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