A Student Publication of the Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Mishpatim 29 Shevat 5764 February 21, 2004 Vol.13 No.22
In This Issue:
Food For Thought
Rabbi Chaim Jachter
week’s Kol Torah has been sponsored by Mr.
and Mrs. Mark Bluman
Doing and Learning
by Mrs. Rochi Lerner
In Parshat Mishpatim, the Torah says, “And he took the book of the covenant and read it in the ears of the people. And they said, ‘Everything that God has spoken we will do and we will hear’” (24:7). The Beit HaLevi gives a beautiful explanation of this Pasuk. The Talmud states that “At the time when Israel preceded the ‘we will do’ to the ‘we will hear,’ 600,000 angels descended and affixed 2 crowns to each Jew, one for ‘we will do’ and one for ‘we will hear.’” The two crowns were earned not by the two phrases employed by the Jews, but by the fact that the “we will do” preceded the “we will hear”. Had it not been for this particular sequence, they would have been given only the one crown. Why did they respond in this particular way, and why was this order important?
According to the Zohar, the “we will do” refers to the performance of Mitzvot, while the “we will hear” refers to the words of the Torah. With the first phrase, the Jews agreed to the observance of the 613 commandments, and with the second phrase, they agreed to study the Torah. The study of the Torah involves two distinct components. Study of Torah is a necessary prerequisite to the observance of Mitzvot. One cannot keep the Mitzvot without knowing what they are, and that knowledge requires Torah study. But the study of Torah is more than just a sine qua non for the observance of Mitzvot. Torah study is a Mitzvah in its own right. Therefore, the study of Mitzvot with no practical application is also a Mitzvah.
Had Bnei Yisrael said, “we will hear and we will do”, this would have implied an acceptance of only the commandments. Torah study, the “we will hear”, would have been taken as the preparatory step to the “we will do” of the Mitzvot. But having said, “we will do”, they accepted upon themselves the doing of the Mitzvot as well as the necessary “learning” about the Mitzvot that permits the doing. When they then added, “we will hear”, they accepted the need to study the Torah as an independent act, unrelated to the fulfillment of other Mitzvot. And they therefore were crowned with two separate crowns.
This idea, says the Beit HaLevi, explains the Gemara in Nedarim 81a, which teaches that Eretz Yisrael was destroyed as a punishment for the fact that the people did not say the blessing that is to be recited before studying the Torah. This is a strange notion. The people were apparently not taken to task for not studying the Torah, but for omitting the Bracha preceding its learning. Why was this sin considered so serious that it warranted destroying the Land of Israel?
The Talmud in Menachos 42b states the rules governing the recital of a Bracha. Whenever the action being performed directly is itself the fulfillment of a Mitzvah, a Bracha is recited. However, if the action is merely a preparatory step necessary for the performance of a Mitzvah, but is not a Mitzvah in itself, no blessing is required. Therefore, there is no Mitzvah for the building of a Sukkah, which is only a preparation for a Mitzvah, not a Mitzvah in itself.
By omitting the Bracha before studying the Torah, the people clearly articulated their belief that they regarded their Torah study as a preparatory step for the doing of Mitzvot. If they had acknowledged Torah study as a Mitzvah in and of itself, they would have certainly recited the Bracha before engaging in learning. It was this attitude that caused the destruction of the Land of Israel, not the omission itself. Only the valuing of Torah, coupled with the performance of Mitzvot, ensures the survival of the Land of Israel and the People of Israel.
by Etan Bluman
L’zecher Nishmat Berel Aharon Ben Eliezer
This week’s Parsha starts off with the words “Vieleh Hamishpatim.” This Pasuk shows the importance of all the Mitzvot that Hashem gave to us. How can we prove from this Pasuk that these laws are actually on the same level of importance as the Mitzvot that were given to us at Har Sinai? Rashi says that the fact that the word “Vieleh” starts off with a Vav proves the importance of the Mitzvot. Whenever a word starts off with the letter Vav, it is a continuation of the previous ideas that had to do with that topic. The first word of Parshat Mishpatim is a continuation of last week’s Parsha, Parshat Yitro, where the Ten Commandments were delivered to Am Yisrael. Due to the fact that the first word of this week’s Parsha has a Vav, we know that all the laws in this week’s Parsha are just as important as the laws from last weeks.
One of the topics in this week’s Parsha is about judges and how the court system of Am Yisrael should be should be run. In the world there are many different countries with many different types of courts aside from the Jewish courts. What is the difference between all of these courts? We can demonstrate the difference through a parable. There was a house call made by a doctor to a home that had a sick person living in it. After the doctor examined the patient the doctor told the sick person’s family to feed him whatever he wants. The doctor then proceeded to a second house call. Much different from the first case, after examining the second patient he told the family to be careful what they feed him. The doctor was then asked, “Why did you tell the first patient’s family that it was fine for him to eat anything, but for the second patient he told the family that he could not eat much?” The doctor replied by saying that the first patient was very sick and probably would not live for much longer so they should give him whatever he wants to make him feel better but the second patient has a very good chance of living as long as he watches what he eats.
This can be related to the differences between the Jewish courts and the secular courts. Yechezkel 20:25 says, “Wherefore I gave them also statues that were not good; and judgments whereby they should not live. “ However, in relation to the Jewish courts it says in Vayikra (18:5), “You shall therefore keep my statues and judgments which if a man does he shall live in them.” The Pasuk in Yechezkel can relate to the case of the first patient where he may be given everything but does not have the greatest chance to live, whereas the Pasuk in Vayikra can be related to the second patient. We may have a different way of doing things such as courts but this is what Hashem gives us to help us live our life to the fullest.
by Ben Katz
In Parshat Mishpatim, we learn about the punishment of a thief. If somebody steals a sheep or a ox and sells it, he must pay back the value of the animal four times if a ox and five times if a sheep.
Rashi asks a famous question. Why would the ox cost extra to pay back? What is the difference between that and a ox? He answers that when somebody steals a ox, he leads it away, but if he steals a sheep, he must carry it away, a very embarrassing position for him. Because of this embarrassment factor, the sheep thief must pay less. This just shows how important a person’s emotions are to Hashem that He would be willing to change actual payment on account of it.
However, there is one last question that lingers. What is so special about a sheep and a cow? Why are they the only two animals that require such a heavy fine? R’ Shimon Ben Gamliel answers that not only are feelings important to Hashem but so is hard, honest work. When somebody steals an ox or a sheep, he steals someone’s livelihood. For this reason, Hashem punishes someone so harshly for such a theft.
Such a simple Mitzvah can teach an important lesson. Two traits that Hashem values very much are hard honest work and basic respect.
by Avi Wollman
At the very beginning of this week’s Parsha, the Torah says, “And these are the laws you shall place before them…” (21:1). The word “And” in this Pasuk comes to teach us, as Rashi says, that these laws were also given at Sinai. However, a question can be asked; why are these laws in different Parsha? What is the reason for this separation? In addition, why does the Torah begin discussing the Halachot of slaves right after the incident at Har Sinai? In fact, Bnei Yisrael will not have slaves for another fourteen years, when they settle in Eretz Yisrael. Why does the Torah not begin the section of laws with something more applicable at the time?
There are two parts, Rav Zweig answers, to our connection with Hashem. The first part is accepting the Mitzvot, and the second part is our responsibility for our fellow Jews. Currently, we are dealing with the latter half. It is our responsibility to care for our fellow Jews and to help them for that reason and not just because it is a law. Thereby, we fulfill our communal justice system in such a way. The slave, on the other hand, has failed to do this. He has stolen money from his fellow Jew and put himself up for slavery. He has betrayed both of his connections with Hashem. Yet, the Torah tells us, we must include him into society despite this, and therefore, these commandments are put first. We learn from this that no matter how bad someone may be, it is our responsibility to treat him with dignity and welcome him into society as our fellow Jew.
by Jerry M. Karp
1) Why does the Torah have to make such a horrible threat (“Your wives will be widows and your children will be orphans” – 22:23) in order to convince Bnei Yisrael not to oppress widows and orphans?
2) The Torah includes the same Pasuk twice in Sefer Shemot – 23:19 and 34:26. Each includes the commandment of not eating milk and meat together. What does this commandment have in common with its context, and, assuming it is correct in context, why must it be repeated?
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