With much attention being given to the year of study in Israel, there is an unfortunate phenomenon that has developed regarding this worthwhile year of study. An attitude has emerged suggesting that motivating ourselves while still in high school is unnecessary since we can merely turn things around once we get to Israel. Therefore, high school is viewed as a time to enjoy ourselves and indulge as we please – after all, we can just fix it once we get to Israel, right?
There are two insights that Parshat Mishpatim conveys regarding this attitude. Rashi quotes a Midrash explaining that Parshat Mishpatim is juxtaposed to Parshat Yitro because the laws in Parshat Mishpatim were commanded at Har Sinai, just like the Asseret Hadibrot, which were stated in Parshat Yitro.
The Beit Halevi takes this a step further and asks: Why does Parshat Mishpatim precede Parshat Terumah? He answers that Parshat Terumah discusses the donations given to the building of the Mishkan. It was therefore necessary to precede Terumah by first discussing many of the laws of business contained in Mishpatim, since the donations given to the Mishkan had to be obtained by the donors in a way that was proper and in accordance with Jewish law. A person’s giving money to the Mishkan did not allow him to acquire this money in an improper way. The ends do not justify the means. Instead, the path to the end must also be proper.
Coming out of Israel dedicated to a life of Torah and Mitzvot is a wonderful goal, but it does not allow us to ignore the means. Neglecting our responsibilities to the Torah and Halachah while in high school is distorting the means. Just as the end is appropriate, so too should the years of high school, which are the path to this important year in Israel, be appropriate.
An alternative answer to the question of the Beit Halevi is the well-known saying from Pirkei Avot, “Derech Eretz Kadmah LeTorah.” Proper conduct to our fellow man must precede Torah, and by extension, Mitzvot Bein Adam LaChaveiro should precede Mitzvot Bein Adam LaMakom. Sometimes a lax attitude towards Mitzvot in high school turns into a lax attitude regarding Mitzvot Bein Adam LaChaveiro because we know in the back of our minds that we will be given a whole new opportunity in Israel, and all will be forgiven. While Judaism certainly encourages new opportunities, the way we treat our fellow man can sometimes cause irreparable damage. Waiting until Israel to begin to understand the importance of how to treat our peers is certainly not consistent with the primacy of Mitzvot Bein Adam LaChaveiro.
While a year of study in Israel is certainly important (two isn’t bad either), it should be an opportunity for us to build on all we have achieved in high school, not a chance to undo that which we have done already.
by Jerry M. Karp
The end of Parshat Mishpatim lists several laws relating to the Chagim, one of which is “Lo Yalin Chelev Chagi Ad Boker,” “You shall not leave the fat of my ‘Chag’ until morning” (23:18). According to the Gemara in Pesachim 59b, the Pasuk is instructing that when the Korban Chagigah for Pesach is brought, one cannot wait until morning to place the Korban’s Chelev (fats) on the altar. However, the rationale for this commandment is unclear. The Netziv suggests that the commandment is intended to counteract the natural reasoning of the person offering the Korban. We know that the daytime is considered a more important time for acceptance of prayer, as the Pasuk in Tehillim (88:2) says, “Yom Tzaakati Balayla Negdecha Tavo Lifanecha Tefilati,” suggesting that if a person has prayed all night, his prayer is then accepted the next day. Since the Korban is brought as a form of Tefillah, the person offering the Korban would reason that the burning of the Chelev on the altar, the part of the Korban most connected to Tefillah, should occur during the day. Thus, the Pasuk instructs that one cannot wait until the daytime to place the Chelev on the altar; he must place the Chelev on the altar to burn during the night.
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch suggests a different rationale for the Mitzvah. He writes that the Chelev represents material aspirations and desires. This symbolism stems from the fact that an animal stores Chelev for its future physical needs. Moreover, Rav Hirsch points out that the Kelayot (kidneys) are also placed on the altar with the Chelev. These, too, signify physical desires, since the word “Kelayot” is related to “Kalah,” “to long for,” and because the kidneys are often associated in the Torah with the heart, which is obviously related to desire. The Torah therefore commands that the Chelev of a Korban must always be brought on the same day as the blood of the Korban, which symbolizes spiritual needs (as is written in the Pasuk in Vayikra 17:11). Thus, the part of the animal that symbolizes physical needs will be brought on the same day as the part that symbolizes the spiritual. By bringing the Chelev on the same day as the blood, we show that we do not believe that our material desires are unrelated to worshipping God; on the contrary, we believe that we can harness them to serve the same purpose as our spiritual desires. Furthermore, the commandment of “Lo Yalin Chelev Chagi Ad Boker” is specifically mentioned regarding the Korban Chagigah, a Korban which unifies all of Bnei Yisrael as one nation. Thus, we must put the Chelev on the altar on the same day as the blood of the Chagigah to show that we must use our material desires to serve God even at the national level. A nation may not seek its material desires for an immoral purpose, even though some might justify it because it benefits the entire community. Rather, even at the communal level, material and spiritual desires must both help Bnei Yisrael to come close to God.
Breaking the Rules
by Chanan Strassman
If Moshe Rabbeinu were to hand in Parshat Mishpatim to his high school English teacher, it would certainly not receive an ‘A.’ Now Moshe was a brilliant scholar (not to mention that his words came directly from God), and Parshat Mishpatim is a thought-provoking work filled with depth and substance. What could Moshe have done to merit a poor grade on his work? The problem lies in the first letter of Parshat Mishpatim. When Moshe wrote “Ve’eileh Hamishpatim,” “And these are the ordinances,” he violated a cardinal rule of writing: NEVER begin a sentence with “and.” It is true that there are certain situations where the use of “and” in the beginning of a sentence is permissible; the beginning of an entire Parsha, however, is certainly not one of these rare exceptions. What could the significance of this violation be? Why did Moshe begin Parshat Mishpatim with “and?”
Moshe did not write each Parsha as a single essay, but rather as a part of a larger continuous unit. Rashi writes that Moshe began Parshat Mishpatim with “and” in order to connect it to the previous Parsha, Parshat Yitro. According to Rashi, the “and” connects the ordinances of Mishpatim to the laws regarding the Mizbeach in the conclusion of Yitro. Thus, Moshe is justified in breaking the rules of good writing.
Rashi explains Moshe’s seemingly inexcusable writing error wonderfully. However, one cannot help but wonder what the link between Parshat Mishpatim and the Mizbeach could possibly mean. What is the reason for their connection?
Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch answers this perplexing question. When the Torah discusses the construction of the Mizbeach, it prohibits the use of metal utensils, showing that the Mizbeach and Hashem are not affiliated with tools of violence, such as (metal) swords. Rav Hirsch explains that when Moshe connected the “Mishpatim” to the laws regarding the Mizbeach, he was teaching us that just as the Mizbeach is not affiliated with violence, the Mishpatim should be followed in a civil and reasonable manner, not a harsh or cruel one.
Although Rav Hirsch answers the question on Rashi’s explanation, there is still a problem. Later in Parshat Mishpatim, we are told to “award a life for a life; an eye for an eye; a tooth for a tooth; a hand for a hand; a foot for a foot; a burn for a burn; a wound for a wound; a bruise for a bruise” (21:23-25). The Torah appears to be commanding us to do exactly the opposite of what Rav Hirsch said. According to Rav Hirsch, the word “and” was teaching us not to follow the Mishpatim harshly, but all of this “eye for an eye” business sounds extremely harsh and violent! It seems more like revenge than reasonable justice!
The Ibn Ezra resolves our contradiction through logical thinking. He reasons that the Torah could not have intended for us to follow the literal meaning of “an eye for an eye,” because there is no way to know the exact amount of the “eye” that was lost. If Reuven damages Shimon’s eye, Shimon has no precise method by which to measure the damage he must inflict upon Reuven’s eye in order to repay exactly “an eye for an eye.” Instead of following this literal explanation of “an eye for an eye,” Rashi cites Bava Kamma 84a. There, the Gemara teaches that “One who blinds another’s eye pays the damaged person money in proportion to the damage done.” In other words, an “eye for an eye” is monetary compensation in proportion to the amount of damage that was inflicted.
To prove beyond all doubt that “an eye for an eye” refers to monetary compensation, the Vilna Gaon makes an interesting observation. The Pasuk of “an eye for an eye” is written in Hebrew as “Ayin Tachat Ayin.” The Hebrew word for “eye” used in the Pasuk is “Ayin,” consisting of the letters “Ayin,” “Yud,” and “Nun.” The next word in the Pasuk, “Tachat,” can mean “under,” which alludes to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet that directly follow the letters used in the word “Ayin.” The letter “Pey” comes after, or is “under,” the letter “Ayin,” just as the letter “Kaf” is “under” the letter “Yud” and “Samach” is “under” the letter “Ayin.” These 3 under-letters to which “tachat” alludes spell the word “Kesef” (Chaf-Samach-Pey), meaning “money.” Thus, the letters of “Ayin Tachat Ayin” allude to monetary compensation.
No author can produce a perfect piece of work in only one try. However, we know as Jews that Moshe is an exception. There are no mistakes in our Torah because Hashem told Moshe exactly what to write in it. Each and every line is true, and as we have just seen, all of the words and even the letters have their own purpose for appearing in our weekly Parshiot. So if Moshe wants to begin a Parsha with “and,” don’t hand him over to your English teacher.
--Based on a Dvar Torah by Avi Wagner (tfdixie.com).
by David Gross
Parshat Mishpatim starts off by saying (21:1), “And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them.” Midrash Rabbah commenting on this Pasuk quotes Sefer Mishlei, which states (29:4): “A king, through Mishpat, will uphold the land, but a man who demands bribes will destroy it.” The Midrash explains that the Pasuk is referring to the way God created the world, through the attribute of Din, justice. We know this because the name of God used during Creation was Elokim, which connotes Midat Hadin. After Creation, Hashem realized that the world cannot only exist with Midat Hadin, so He introduced the Midah of Rachamim, mercy, into the world. We see this in the second Perek of Bereshit, throughout which God is referred to as Hashem Elokim. There is thus a synthesis between the name Hashem, denoting Rachamim, together with Elokim, representing Din.
What lesson can we learn from this? According to Rav Shimshon Raphael Hirsch, this teaches us how to deal with the world. We need to use both Rachamim and Din when dealing with people, a message which Parshat Mishpatim expresses many times. One example of this combination is Chesed. Chesed is, by its very nature, the opposite of Din. After all, if God were to punish someone by making him poor, what right would one have to give the poor man charity? The Midah of Rachamim allows for Chesed, both between people and between God and man. We learn from the Pasuk of Vehalachta Bidrachav (Devarim 28:9) that we are supposed to try to copy God’s ways. If we imitate Hashem’s attribute of Chesed and learn to act with kindness to one another, we will merit the rebuilding of the Beit HaMikdash.
Halacha of the Week The Rama (Orach Chaim 242:1) cites a beautiful Minhag to bake Challot for Shabbat and Yom Tov with sufficient flour to be required to separate Challah (this appears to be the reason why we refer to the special Shabbat and Yom Tov bread as “Challah”). Indeed, the Chafetz Chaim (Biur Halacha 242:1 s.v. V’hoo) is not pleased with the practice of many people to use store bought Challot for Shabbat and Yom Tov. Although it might be too difficult to implement this Minhag every week (especially during the “short” Fridays of winter), nonetheless experience teaches that when possible, following this Minhag greatly enriches the experience of both Erev Shabbat and Shabbat. One should consult his Rav regarding how much flour is required to separate Challah with or without a Bracha.
Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Willie Roth, Ely Winkler
Executive Editor: Jerry M. Karp
Publication Editor: Ariel Caplan, Jesse Dunietz
Publication Managers: Etan Bluman, Moshe Zharnest
Publishing Manager: Andy Feuerstein-Rudin, Chanan Strassman
Business Manager: Josh Markovic
Webmaster: Avi Wollman
Staff: David Barth, David Gross, Mitch Levine, Jesse Nowlin, Dov Rossman
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Chaim Jachter