Ershtens (first of all), the Ruv apologizes profusely for being tardy with the toirah this week and understands how you have now become accustomed to reading these gevaldige, heylige and gehoybene thoughts each week late on Thursday nights. Ober – but- the Ruv was away in Vail going up and down the mountain, much as Moishe Rabeynu did in last week’s parsha and again this week. Judging by how ois-gemattid (wiped out) I am, I can only imagine how beat he was; at least I went up on the gondola and on various chair lifts and skied down.
And while I had plans to get home timely and to deliver an enlightening shiur, the RBSO had other plans. As my father OBM, who’s yurtzeit will be marked in three days would say, a mentch tract un gut lact- a man plans and g-d laughs at his plans. Anyway- vi bin ich (where am I)? – Nu, the RBSO decided to yet send another storm to NY and (du ben ich), here I am- stuck in Vail airport waiting for a fligger (plane) to arrive from Newark to get me home so I can write this week’s toirah. Is it possible that Al Gore meant global snowing and not warming? Without my heylige seforim- I’m afraid that I will have to rely only on my memory of medroshim I heard when I was still a yeshiva bochur. So this week’s toirah is being sponsored by Continental Airlines and my son’s laptop; real toirah sheh-bal-peh. Let’s see how we do.
Last week, in Parshas Yisroy, the yiddin acted impetuously: before knowing many details, they all proclaimed with one voice – naseeh v’nishma- we will do and we will listen. That was perhaps the last time the yiddin proclaimed anything in one voice. Oy raboyseey, punkt farkert- the opposite is true! Unfortunately inzer yiddin (our people), have too many voices and agree on almost nothing.
I’m zicher that every one of you has their own maiseeehs – stories- ober , I was thinking about one voice too many just this week. The RBSO should be mamish thrilled with his kinderlach, his bny (Benei Yisreol), his heylige and tyerer yiddin. Even on vacation, they yearn to daven with a minyan. They arrange a sefer toirah and one of the choshova guests here in Vail offers his apartment for daily minyan. Another offers it for mincha -marriv, And takeh they come from all over because the yiddin love shul but they also love to make trouble- and there’s always that one (at least) that has a terrible need to make himself heard and waits like a gonif in the dark – (also described in this weeks parsha), lurking, eager and anxious to pounce and attack. Shoin, here we are on Monday in Vail Co- takeh a place where one can see the RBSO’s wonders- big beautiful mountains, adorned in not inches, but feet of compacted snow- mistama, much taller and grander than the smallest mountain the RBSO intentionally selected for his children to receive the toirah on. Though it’s quite early, dozens and dozens gather for minyan daily, in fact 3 x daily. Another guest volunteers to layn the heylige parsha of mishpotim where the RBSO through his trusted servant Moishe Rabaynuu teaches us all about civility- laws that are commonly known as those beyn- odom- lachaveyroi- laws between man and his fellow man. In fact no other parsha in the entire heylige toirah contains this many laws. Nu, one can surmise that mistama civility is important. Ober (but) – raboysee- as the baal koirah was laining – one guest, by all accounts a learned fellow, a fellow that leaned in several well known Yeshivois, one who mistamo knows a lot- thought he heard the baal koirah make an error and decided to yell out and correct him. Of course before he made that move, he shook his head back and forth with disgust and gesticulated wildly. Grada (by chance), I and others were standing close enough to know that the baal koirah did not err and even if he did, is this proper behavior, especially in a parsha dedicated to civility? What good is all the toirah without derech eretz? Nu- I’m just venting- let’s see what the parsha has for us.
What were the yiddin thinking when they proclaimed naseh v’nishma- we shall do and then we shall listen? Who says yes-ok- without hearing the details? Are you to be held responsible just because your elter elter zeydees and bubis had a moment of weakness and said yes- I’ll take it? Is this a Seinfeld episode? Can’t we opt out? In this week’s parsha, after the shotgun chasunah (marriage) we had on har seenai, the RBSO fills in the details- but it’s too late- we’re married- yikes?! Sound familiar? Zicher you thought to yourselves over the years- if only I had known that detail about my eishses chayil- would I have married her? And for the neshey chayil- I needn’t even ask- every day you say to yourselves- oy vey- what did I get myself into- I can’t stand this guy- ober- it’s too late – we’re in and can’t get out.
A well known midrash says that the RBSO initially offered the Toirah to each of the 70 nations, but none accepted it without first asking what it was about. Shoin – enough! Turns out, they weren’t so stupid after all. After hearing the various commandments, each nation had some excuse or another for not accepting. Lemoshol (by way of example), the RBSO offered it to the Ishmaelites, but they declined the offer because of its prohibition of genayvo- theft, since their trading practices required it. Some say he offered it to the kollel people, but they too declined because the toirah states that ‘for six days you shall work…… ok- an oldie but still worthy. Left alone with no one to marry- the RBSO finally turned to the yiddin who said kol asher diber Hashemn na’aseh (“all that the RBSO says we will do”). Nu- it is what it is and we need to make the most of it. But not to worry because what you non believers fail to see is that in this week’s pasha, besides laying down the law with various (at times outlandish) Halochois, the RBSO had a master plan, a plan to create industries mamish and jobs for his chosen people. Soon you too will become enlightened and understand why he’s the RBSO and you’re but a a border line apikoires.
Let’s then start with an overview of the gantza (entire) parsha. Last week’s Parsha told of the dramatic revelation of the RBSO to the Yiddin at har Senai. It was a spiritual trip so powerful that all who were there and according to the medrish, even those who weren’t, literally had an out-of-body experience. Avada it’s easier for those who weren’t born yet, to have such an experience. ver veyst, maybe we were all takah there?
The Bnei Yisroel were still awed by the powerful presentation of the Aseres Hadibrois earlier in the morning. Hours ago, they learned the importance of Mitzvois that show love for the RBSO – Bain Adam L’Makom (between man and the RBSO). As evening sets in, the RBSO teaches Moishe some important new laws. These, the Mishpatim (laws) are meant to help Bnei Yisroel love one another and get along. Apparently, that plan has not worked out so well over the years. Oh well. Nothing is perfect.
Parshas Mishpotim deals primarily with civil law. The Parash opens with: “Now these are the rules that you shall set before them”., Mishpatim, is one of the longest parshios, containing an exhaustive list of over 50 separate mitzvois. These include laws regarding murder, kidnapping, cursing authority, personal injury and property damage, occult practices, helping the poor and vulnerable, returning lost objects, and alleviating the suffering of animals. Mistama you are oiver a great majority of these 50 on a consistent basis because let’s not forget, that you are an oisvorf.. But these laws “Bain Adam L’Chavero” – are the cornerstone of Jewish civil law. How else would you know what to do if your bull gores another bull? Aren’t you yourself goring with regularity?
The epiphany at har Senai is over and it’s time for structure, we are presented with this brief, highly concentrated code of what would today be called civil law, with a smattering of criminal and family law thrown in for good measure. Moishe rabaynuu informs the bny (the yiddin) of numerous ethical and ritual laws and seals the covenant between them and the RBSO. Nu- Zicher this is the basis for the entire law profession. Look how the RBSO created so many jobs for so many in this one parsha. The RBSO understood that if He gave us laws that we’d break them, that if he told us the do’s and don’ts, that people wouldn’t get it right and would eventually end up in machloikes (dispute). In these few perokim (chapters) (Shemois 21-23), the Toirah as a book of law begins in earnest. Three thick volumes of the heylige gemorrah —the three “gates”: Baba Kamma, Baba Metzia and Baba Basra, which, together with Yevamois and Kesubvois and one or two other tractates, stand at the heart of the traditional yeshiva curriculum—draw their source material from these three chapters. The midroshim, as should you, hang on every sentence and at times on mamish every word for deeper meanings and basis for halocho.
Included amongst the civil laws discussed are the laws relating to the eved ivri- the Jewish servant and his freedom; penalties for causing bodily injury to another person and for damaging his property; laws regarding watchmen and borrowers; the mitzvah to show sensitivity to the poor and to offer them free loans. Free loans? When was the last time you encountered a Jew who offered you a free loan? When was the first? Never, that’s when because every yid charges interest. Nowadays, it’s masked by a heter iska (loophole) or some other type of sham agreement that allows interest to be charged.
There are also laws relating to the honest dispensation of justice. After mentioning the mitzvois of Shabbis and Shemittah (the seventh year when the land in Israel must be left to rest), the heylige toirah continues with a brief discussion of the shloish regoilim – three pilgrimage festivals – Pesach, Sukkois, and Shavuois – and the RBSO’s renewed promise to bring the bny to the land. To the neshey chayil, the words sholoish regolim mean more cooking, the potential for three day yom tovim, unwanted sleepover guests, and shopping for clothing, matzois, flowers and lots of potatoes.
Speaking of slavery, mistama you’re surprised to hear that some yiddin would ever again consider becoming slaves- didn’t they just finally get out after 210 years? Which idiot would want to become a slave again? Takah an excellent question. Ober Raboyseyee- if the RBSO mentioned it- mistama he had reason, mistama He understood that certain yiddin enjoy slavery (isn’t this the reason Jewish men get married) and mistama you don’t remember the reason that certain yiddin became slaves again. Not just that, but if you read the parsha, you’ll quickly understand that slavery was not so giferlich (terrible). The master had to treat his slaves with dignity, share his food, and at times could also provide him with an extra wife or two. What’s so terrible about shelter, food and sex? Some of you, loi Olanuu, pay a fortune just for one of those items, if you chap what I’m saying..
Seemingly, slavery was socially tolerated – but it was to be practiced in a humane and orderly manner. If a Jewish male was sold into slavery as restitution for genayvo (theft), he was to be freed after no more than six years of servitude. If he got married during his servitude, his master was required to support his wife and children. On the other hand, if the master gave the slave a wife during his servitude, she and the children would remain with the master after he was freed (unless the man decided to remain with them, in which case he would make a solemn declaration before a bet din (law court) and have his ear bored with an awl to indicate that he is now part of the master’s clan [eved nirtzah]).
If a Jewish girl was sold into slavery by her father, she was not automatically freed after six years of servitude but must be redeemed from her master (the sages state that a man could sell his daughter until she reached 12 years of age, but only if it was for her benefit, i.e., with the intent that she was to be married to her master (or the master’s son). If she displeased her master, she could not be resold to a foreigner, but must be redeemed (i.e., purchased back) by her own relatives. If she was married to the master (or his son), then she was to be treated as a freeborn Jewish woman, with all of the same rights attending to that role in Jewish society. Are you dizzy yet? Seemingly, these laws were too complicated and the Yiddin did away with slavery altogether.
If a master struck and killed his non-Jewish slave, he was to be punished by the beis din. However, if the slave died several days after the beating, he was not found liable, because it was assumed that he did not intend to actually kill the slave. On the other hand, if the slave was permanently injured by the beating, he was to be set free. Let’s review that: if the baal habus beat the crap out of the slave but the slave did not die and did not have permanent injuries- he got off scot free. Nu, that’s what I call civility!
And now for a little math: Parashas Mishpatim is sometimes called Sefer HaBris (“the Book of the Covenant”), since it contains over 11.5% of all of the mitzvois (commandments) found in the entire Toirah (53 of 613). As discussed, they include a wide range of civil laws, criminal laws, ritual laws, financial laws, and family laws. Some laws carried the death penalty. These included premeditated murder, cursing one’s parents, kidnapping, practicing witchcraft, engaging in bestiality (listen up you chazerrim- this is for you) and offering sacrifices to idols. Of course not everyone agrees that the heylige toirah really means the death penalty mamish; rather, according to various chaza’l (sages), the famous statement ayin tachas ayin, shein tachas shein (“eye for eye, tooth for tooth”) actually refers to the administration of equitable justice in redress of damages, and not corporal punishment (Baba kama 83b).
Other laws and ordinances concern cases of personal injury, the treatment of strangers (gerim), widows and orphans; the dedication of the firstborn (bechorim) to the RBSO, the prohibition of bearing false witness in courts; the restriction against eating treif (the meat of an animal torn by beasts in the field); the law of the Shemittah (7th) year (during which the land was to lie fallow); the complete abstention from work on Shabbis; and the prohibition of boiling a kid in its mother’s milk (from which all sorts of restrictions were derived in the later rabbinical formulations of kashrus, and so on. Oh- and did I mention that virtually all of the kosher laws and the entire kosher industry are derived from this one possik. Don’t you see the genius of the RBSO? Don’t you understand that the RBSO was worried about his Yiddin- what would they do for a living? Could they all become Sheppard’s or learners? With the 53 laws in this weeks parsha, the RBSO mamish set up industries, job descriptions and entrepreneurship and we should all be thankful. Unfortunately, some people believe that we’re just supposed to learn these halochois over and over and them some more.
What happened next? Moishe, Aharoin (and his sons Nadav and Avihu), and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended har Sinai to eat a “covenant affirmation meal” between klal Yisrael and the RBSO. Again, Moishe was setting up a precedent for the future: Jews have to eat and often! After returning from the mountain with the elders, the RBSO commanded Moishe to go back up once again to receive luchois the tablets of stone). Moishe re-ascended the mountain, He remained on the mountain for a total of 40 days and 40 nights while the Israelites waited for him at the camp down below. You know what happened next but we won’t read about it for another three shabossim.
A gittin shabbis and Choidesh.