Parshat Mishpatim

A Student Publication of the Isaac and Mara Benmergui Torah Academy of Bergen County
Parshat Mishpatim         27 Shevat 5762           February 9, 2002          Vol.11 No.18

In This Issue:

Rabbi Joel Grossman
Yehuda Goldin
Josh Dubin
Shuky Gross
Halacha of the Week
Readers Response
Lechem Mishneh
-Rabbi Howard Jachter

This week's issue has been sponsored by the Kol Torah staff in honor of
the administration of TABC and the faculty advisor of Kol Torah,
Rabbi Howard Jachter.


Who's We?
by Rabbi Joel Grossman

In this week's Parsha, after Hashem gives all the business laws and all the Mitzvot Ben Adam Lechavero, the commandments between people, the Jewish people announce Kol Asher Diber Hashem Naaseh Vinishma, "Everything that Hashem said we will do and we will listen" (24:7).

Many commentaries ask why the plural words Naaseh Venishma, "We will do and we will listen" are used instead of the singular I will do and I will listen, which would be more appropriate. An answer is recorded in the name of Reb Simcha Bunim in the form of a parable. A group of people was stranded in a desert. They were all hungry and thirsty and suffering from the hot sun. Suddenly, a caravan arrived. The driver came out of the wagon carrying large flasks of cool water. Approaching one of the thirsty individuals, he asked, "Would you like some water?" The man answered, "Yes! We would be so grateful for some water." He spoke in the plural, for he knew with certainty that every member of the group was as desperately as thirsty he was.

When the Jews were next to Har Sinai and Hashem asked them if they wanted to accept the Torah, each member of the nation felt with certainty that the other Jews had as great a desire to hear what Hashem said as he himself did. They were as one, with one heart and each could say confidently that he and all of his fellow Jews were united in this longing. (This is quoted in Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser's Something to Say.)

Rav Moshe Feinstein in his Darash Moshe writes that the acceptance of the Torah was not a one-time occurrence. Rather, it is an ongoing process. For this reason the Torah gives a specific date for every Jewish holiday except for Shavuot, where the Torah just says you must count fifty days after Pesach and that is when Shavuot begins. To give a specific date would limit it to one day. The Chachamim teach us that we are to view each day as if it was the day that we first received the Torah. When we said Naaseh Venishma it showed a constant acceptance of the Torah.

The Gemara in Masechet Shabbat (88a) says that when the Jews said Naaseh Venishma a voice came out from heaven and said, "Who revealed my secret to people which until now was only known by the Malachei Hasharet?" With an explanation of Naaseh Venishma being in plural versus being in singular we can understand what Hashem meant by His secret. His secret was being concerned with others and not just worrying about ourselves. This is what the Gemara on 89a of Shabbat says, "When the Jews said Naaseh before Nishmah Hashem said now I can call them Beni Bechori Yisroel, My son the first born, Israel."

If we can learn this message of Naaseh Venishma and live our lives showing consideration and caring for others and not just for ourselves, we will illustrate a true acceptance of the Torah and have the Torah affect our lives as it is meant to do.

Just Do It

by Yehuda Goldin

In Parshat Mishpatim we see the famous response by Bnai Yisrael when they accepted the Torah. Perek 24, Pasuk 7, reads Kol Asher Dibar Hashem Naaseh Vnishma, "Everything that Hashem has said we will do and we will hear." However, a question emerges as to this seemingly superfluous Pasuk, since a few Pesukim prior to this, Bnai Yisrael already agreed to follow the Torah, as it says in Pasuk 3,Vaya'an Kol HaAm Kol Echad Vayomru Kol Hadivarim Asher Dibar Hashem Naaseh, "And the entire people responded with one voice and they said 'all the words that Hashem has spoken we will do.'" Rav Moshe Feinstein in his Sefer, Darash Moshe, explains the reason for this repetition. He says that when Bnai Yisrael said the first declaration, they agreed only to accept only those utterances that they knew to be said by Hashem. Hashem, however, knew this declaration to be insufficient since in later generations, certain things might be forgotten or that their underlying reasons will become distorted. Therefore, Hashem desired that Bnai Yisrael accept also what would be said by the Chachamim of each generation. This would include both the traditions received by the Chachamim as well as their interpretation of the Torah's meaning. Now we can also see the reason why it says all the words of the Torah Bnai Yisrael will uphold. Not only the things specifically heard from Hashem but also things that were heard from Moshe Rabbeinu and his successors.

Also implied from this explanation is that the things that were said by Hashem do not require any extra scrutiny and analysis. We can see this from the fact that the first declaration by Bnai Yisrael does not include the word Nishma, we will hear. The second declaration, on the other hand, does include this word, which implies that those things the Chachamim tell us do require "hearing." In other words, a process of examination and analysis is required from each and every person in order to ascertain whether they are in fact the words of Hashem.

Piercing Questions

by Josh Dubin

In this week's Parsha, the Torah tells us the laws of the Eved Ivri, the Jewish slave. If a Jew steals something and is unable to repay the owner, he is sold into slavery, and his wages are used to pay for the stolen item. In addition, a Jew who finds himself in financial difficulty has the option of selling himself into slavery. The period of slavery lasts for six years. However, if at the end of his term "the slave says, 'I love my master...I will not go free,' his master shall bring him to the judges, and the master shall bring him to the door or the doorpost, and his master shall bore through his ear with an awl, and he shall serve his master forever" (21:2-6). Rashi explains that, "This ear that heard on Mount Sinai, 'Thou shall not steal,' yet went and stole, let it be pierced. And if he sells himself into slavery, the ear that heard on Mount Sinai, 'For unto me the children of Israel are servants, they are my servants and shall not be servants to servants,' and yet he sold himself and acquired a master for himself, let it be pierced."

If ear piercing is an appropriate punishment for theft, though, why is it only instituted in a case of a slave who chooses to remain a slave? Why is it not applied as a direct punishment for all theft? And, according to Rashi's second explanation, why wait until the renewal of his slavery and not pierce his ear immediately upon his entrance into the realm of the Jewish slave?

Perhaps we can offer an explanation that Hashem is all merciful and slow to anger. He takes into consideration not only the crime, but also the circumstances surrounding that crime. Imagine what desperate straits a person had to be in to willingly reduce himself to the position of being a slave for another; how desperate must his financial situation have been. Surely he is neither proud nor happy to subjugate himself in such a manner. Accordingly, Hashem understands this as being done not to disregard His commandment of not accepting a foreign master. However if at some time, as we see, he should proclaim, "I love my master...I will not go out free," this would indicate that he feels that being a slave is an optimal situation, rather than "I wish I did not have to be a slave, as Hashem does not wish me to be a slave." As such, the Torah prescribes the piercing of the ear that disregarded "To Me are the Jewish People servants."

Similarly, ear piercing is not the appropriate punishment for theft. It is not true that all theft comes from failing to internalize a message from Hashem. Most theft simply comes about in a moment of weakness, either out of financial desperation or one's succumbing to temptation. The Torah recognizes that such moments of weakness do in fact occur and must be addressed as such. Therefore, the punishment for theft is double compensation: only if the thief lacks the funds must he be sold into slavery. Not every thief ignored the commandment not to steal; rather, most thieves simply found themselves in situations they were unable to cope with.

Slavery is a horrible situation to endure, but there are times when there is no alternative. The situation discussed here, however, is different. Slavery is the lowest and most degrading level a person can sink to, yet this slave is declaring, after six years, that this is the situation in which he chooses to live. This is a much more fundamental failing than simply succumbing to temptation. Here we see a basic flaw in this slave's character, a disregard for the will of Hashem. It is this failing that is addressed by ear piercing. In modern application, we might say that if one finds himself in a non-optimal situation but recognizes this as being non-optimal and consciously focuses on changing the situation, Hashem is patient. One must not, however, proclaim, "I love my present situation...I do not want to change and grow." This person echoes disregard for the will of Hashem and has no desire for personal spiritual growth.

Give Ear!

by Shuky Gross

In this week's Parsha we are told about the laws of an Eved Ivri. The Pasuk says that if the Eved Ivri wants to continue to be a slave after six years, his master must drill a hole in his ear (21:6). What is so puzzling about this Pasuk is why we pierce the slave's ear as opposed to any other part of his body?

The Gemara in Kiddushin (22b) says that the reason his ear is pierced is because it was his ear which heard Hashem say on Har Sinai, Avadai Heim, "They are my servants." Therefore if he wants to remain a servant his ear is pierced.

The Sefat Emet also asks why the ear is pierced and not any other body part such as the heart or the brain. He explains that the ear is pierced because Hashem's message reached the ear, where it was not sent to the brain. As a result the Eved Ivri is punished for not listening properly, by making himself a slave to a master instead of to Hashem.

We see from the Eved Ivri how important it is to listen to Hashem and to fulfill his commandments properly.

Halacha of the Week
Women are obligated to eat Seuda Shelishit (Shulchan Aruch Orach Chaim 291:6).


Reader's Response
Last week's question of, "Why does the Chumash retell the reasons for Moshe's son's names? Weren't the reasons given to us in Parshat Shemot?" Got the following response from one of our readers.

In the beginning of an essay by Rabbi Zvi Dov Kanotopsky in his book, "The Depths of Simplicity," he discusses how God is like a parent to Bnai Yisrael, because after redeeming us (parallel to giving us life) he provides us with water and manna (parallel to a parent providing sustenance to the child he brought into the world). Then we have Moshe's own children entering the scene. R' Kanotopsky writes:

"No religious experience begins in a vacuum; it develops over generations and is transmitted from father to son. Hence the mention of Moshe's children by name here. Yitro was virtually saying to Moshe, 'You named your son Gershom because you were a stranger in Midian, isolated from your people. Your sons, too, must live with their people and share its history. You named your son Eliezer, but you did not say 'MY God was my help'; rather, you invoked 'for the God OF MY FATHER.' And you were right. One experiences God through his father. So how can you deprive your children of these two pivotal experiences, being part of their people and receiving their father's tradition?'"

"Bearing all this in mind, Yitro brought Tzipora and her children to Moshe, reminding him of his paternal responsibilities both physically and spiritually. Most important, Moshe was reminded to strive for Imitatio Dei."
-Abby Leichman

Staff at time of publication:
Editors-in-Chief: Josh Dubin, David Gertler
Managing Editors: Yair Manas, Uriel Schechter
Publishing Manager: Zev Feigenbaum
Publication Editor: Ilan Tokayer
Business Manager: Yehuda Goldin
Staff: Noam Block, Ami Friedman, Shuky Gross, Simcha Haber, Oren Levy, Ari Michael, Effie Richmond, Dani Shaffren, Sam Wiseman
Webmaster: Yisroel Ellman
Faculty Advisor: Rabbi Howard Jachter

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