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Parashat Mishpatiim

Dedicated L'ilui Nishmat Yosef Ben Hanina by the Aizer Family

Parashat Mishpatiim At the end of last week’s Perashah, Am Yisrael receives the Holy Torah on Har Sinai. Immediately following this momentous occurrence in our history, Hashem tells Moses: ve’eleh hamishpatim asher tasim liphehem. “And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them.” These words begin this week’s Perashah. Rashi comments that when the Torah begins a passage with eleh, or “these”, the previous passage is separated from the new one. However, when the Torah uses the word ve’eleh, “and these”, the two passages are linked, and what the Torah is telling us here, is that just as the Ten Commandments were from Sinai, so too these ordinances were also from Sinai. Perashat Mishpatim goes on to discuss fifty-three laws. The majority if the laws concern human interaction, as opposed to interactions between us and G-d. Rabbi Yisrael Salanter, founder of the Musar movement, who's yahrtzeit is this week, teaches that this is because to be a truly pious person, it is not enough to follow the commandments of Man to G-d. You must also follow the injunctions that instruct you to treat your fellowmen with justice and kindness. If your friend needs help and you have the ability to help him, then you must find a way to do so! In addition, the Commandments on the right side of the tablet relate generally to the ways we worship G-d, while on the left side, we are told how to behave with one another. This teaches us that both are of equal importance. Even if you practice all the strictest Humrot (stringencies of the law), it will not be sufficient if you do not treat others with the proper respect and care. In practicality, for us to be truly religious Jews, we must concentrate on both types of injunctions, so that we may continue to learn and grow! Our job in this world is to set an example for all the other nations of the world! These laws that we'll learn in just one chapter in this weeks parasha are expounded on in great detail over three of the largest volumes of the Talmud namely Baba Kama, Baba Metzia and Baba Batra. The Ramban comments that the laws of Mishpatim are an extension of the tenth commandment which states, "You shall not covet your friend’s house or his wife nor his manservant or his maidservant, nor his ox, his donkey, nor anything that belongs to your friend." According to the Ramban, if you are envious of your friend’s possessions, that envy could lead to every other sort of transgression against others. The treatment of widows and orphans is especially emphasized in this Perashah. “If you oppress [the widow or orphan], for if he cries out to Me, I will surely hear his cry. My wrath will be kindled, and I will slay you with the sword, and your wives will be widows and your children orphans.” The first thing we notice is that the Torah uses a double Lashon for “oppress”, “cries” and “hear”: anneh teanneh; tzaok yit-zak; shamoa eshma. This is because when the widow or orphan cry out to Hashem, their pain is double, since they don't have a husband or a father to protect them. The second thing that stands out is the harshness of the injunction. Why does Hashem specify such harsh consequences for mistreating widows and orphans? One answer that has been given is that if you torment the widow and orphan verbally because you think that words are harmless and cannot kill them, you are mistaken. Hashem is demonstrating the harmful power of words and a warning to beware because Hashem will then use the sword on you in retaliation for harming the widow and the orphan. There is a famous story during the time of the Hafetz Hayim, in which a widow and her children were forced out on the street because she didn't have the money to pay her rent. Many years later this man who did this cruel thing was killed in a very horrible death. When the Hafetz Hayim heard what had happened, he responded that he had been waiting twenty years to see how Hashem would repay that man for the cruelty he had imposed on the widow and her children so many years earlier. The Perashah also includes an injunction against charging interest when you lend money (22:24). This is one of only three places in the Torah where the word im means “when” as opposed to '”if”. We learn from this that to assist a poor man with a loan is not optional, it is obligatory, providing that you have the extra money to lend him. The Ohr HaHayyim explains: “When you realize that Hashem has blessed you with a good Parnasah and more wealth than you need to live, you must understand that a percentage of that money actually belongs to the poor man, and Hashem gave it to you to hold for him; so when you lend it to him, you'll get a Mitzvah! So that's why the money of the poor man is “with” you. In addition, this becomes a great opportunity, for when you give Tzedakah to a fellow Jew because its as if the lender will benefit even more than the borrower, by means of a this important Mitzvah! The Keli Yakar goes even further, saying that when the poor man comes to you, it should be perceived as if he's doing more for you, than you're doing for him! There is a well-known story about the Abarbanel (Don Isaac Abravanel) who was the finance manager of King Ferdinand and Queen Isabella in Spain in the 1400's. The people accused him of stealing, but King Ferdinand, who was very close to him and trusted him, asked him the value of his estate. The Abarbanel responded, with a very low amount so the King confronted him and said, "You're lying to me!" The Abarbanel responded back to the King, "All that we think we own, such as our home, our money in the bank, and all our other possessions are just temporary and can be taken away from us at any moment, but all the charity that we give away is what is really ours and that is what we will ultimately take with us to Olam Haba!" The Abarbanel went on to organize an effort to redeem 250 Jews who had been taken prisoner, donating most of the money himself and supporting them for two years, giving them time to learn the language and find work. In Baba Batra (11a), there is a quote by King Munbaz, who opened the storage houses of his and his families estates during the famine years to feed the poor. When his family protested, he said, "My father hoarded money in an insecure place here on Earth, but I want to protect my wealth much more securely – in Olam Haba –by giving it away to the poor and the needy" As it is stated in Tehilim (85:12) "When truth will sprout from the Earth, Charity will gaze down from the Heaven!"

May we all act only in a way that is befitting a Jew and may we always be conscious of the laws between Man and Man, just as much as we are careful with the laws between Man and G-d. May we also be considerate of the poor man, with a special sensitivity to the widows and orphans among us. We must understand that they are helping us even more than we are helping them because whatever we give to Tzedakah in this world is going into our own account in Olam Haba! Amen!

Shabbat Shalom!

Jack E. Rahmey with the Guidance and Teachings of Rabbi Amram Sananes Leiluiy Nishmat.... Eliyahu Ben Rachel Avraham Ben Garaz Sarah Bat Chanah Malka Bat Garaz Shulamit Bat Helaina Yaakov Ben Rachel Batsheva Bat Sarah Esther Rabbi Shimon Chay Ben Yaasher Rav Haim Ben Rivka Meir Ben Latifa Yitzchak Ben Adele Esther Bat Sarah Chanah Bat Esther Rabbi Meyer Ben Chana Moshe Ben Garaz Rafael ben Miriam Moshe Ben Mazal

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