Toirah with details:
As we get deeper into Sefer Shmois, we’re seemingly done with reading all about our beautiful heritage, about Noiach and his mishpocho, Loit and his daughters, the heylige Ovois and their foibles, the more or less than admirable and heylige shvotim and their mischief and the rest of our inspirational stories from which the yiddin as a nation were forged. Don’t you miss them? It’s time for nation building, law and order, and avada many stories to come about the breakdown of societal behavior on many an occasion. Let’s learn Parshas Mishpotlin…err.. I meant Mishpotim…but first….
One week ago, the Yiddin were witness to fire and brimstone: the earth shook, a mountain was over their heads and the RBSO came down and personally delivered the Aseres Hadibrois (Ten Commandments). Also featured prominently last week was Yisroy who told Moishe to appoint judges to help the Yiddin adjudicate issues and disputes they were having. He told Moishe that he (Moishe) would tire from standing in judgment all day. Moishe listened and according to many, it was for that reason- the sage advice Yisroy gave- that a Parsha was named after him.
And I was taka wondering: what were the Yiddin fighting about? Was there a shul in the midbar? A Rabbi or a President issuing strange decrees? Did they implement new Midbar policies without a vote, efsher new rule that men had to wear jackets and ties to chap an Aliya or daven for the Omud? Didn’t the Yiddin pack suits and ties as they were leaving Mitzrayim? They didn’t and still received the Toirah? Oh my! Was there a new decree to recite the heylige haftoira from a Klaf (scroll)? Ober this week, we seemingly get the answers as Parshas Mishpotim is hard core, (with mitzvois you chazir). According to the Sefer HaChinuch (Book of Mitzvah Education), there are a total of 53 mitzvois listed in this parsha, the great majority of them falling under the heading of what we would call, “civil and criminal law.” Shoin! Moreover, of the 53 a full 30 are of loi sah-says (Thou shall not do) variety- the type that most of you (the Oisvorfer as well) have the most trouble not violating- oy vey. Nu, let’s not forget that in the end, you too are still an oisvorf!
Last week we appointed judges, and this week, Moishe calls for litigants, defendants, lawyers and witnesses. This parsha has it all: fines, penalties, capital punishment and its details, property damages, torts, regulations for debtors and creditors; di gantze law school syllabus in one Parsha; is the heylige Toirah great or what? And how thoughtful of the RBSO to create so many jobs for so many in this one parsha. The RBSO understood that if He gave us laws we’d break them and that if He told us the dos and don’ts, people wouldn’t get it right and would eventually end up in machloikes (disputes). And, as always, He was correct. In fact, Parshas Mishpotim is the inspiration for as many as six Mesechtos (Tractates – you idiots) of the heylige Gemora. Speaking of which, The Oisvorfer has always wondered why the Yeshivas spend so much time teaching the Bubas: Buba Metzia, Buba Basra and Buba Kamma, all deeply rooted in this week’s Parsha and which, for the most part, almost always put the young energetic hormone engorged bochurim to sleep. Who cares what happens when two people find a shmatta and grab onto it at the same time? Have you ever witnessed two guys fighting over a t-shirt or peris mifuzrrin (fruits strewn about)? Avada nisht. Have you ever found yourself in a hole or pit, if you chap, that you didn’t want to be in? And who cares about an ox goring the neighbor’s ox? High School Bochurim care about one thing: girls! And mistama were the Yeshiva world to teach Seder Noshim (all about Women), instead of esoteric subject matters that are long gone and forgotten, these same bochurim would be alert and excited to learn the heylige Gemora and would mistama never miss class or mishmar for that matter. And ver veyst, efsher we wouldn’t need that year in Israel as the boys would be shtark (hard), if you chap, learners. Moreover they’d be prepared for the real world.
Lommer unfangin (let’s begin) 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 Seenai. Says the Medrish: the event so powerful and spiritual that all who were there and, 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 Yiddin were still awed by the powerful presentation of Matan Toirah earlier in the morning. Hours earlier, 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 to keep order. These, the Mishpotim (laws) are meant to help the Yiddin love one another and get along. Apparently, that plan hasn’t worked out too well over the years, hence the need for the myriad laws taught this week. Oh well. Nothing is perfect.
Avada a few (nebech very few), will recall that with this heylige Parsha we mark the end of Shoivevim parshas. What’s that you ask? Nu, it’s nothing more than an acronym for the first six Parshas in Sefer Shmois which relate the story of Yitzias Mitrayim (Exodus) and Matan Toirah. Grada (so happens) that Mishpotim stands out because, unlike the last five, it is all or mostly about legal matters and has little of the storyline we’ve become accustomed to.
Mishpotim is divided into two parts. The first consists of a long series of laws that were given to the Yiddin following revelation on the mountain. The second part of the parsha is a description of events that occurred on last week on Har Seenai. As you can imagine, many questions have been asked as to why the events on Har Seenai were split up and told between last week’s Parsha of Yisory and this week’s of Mishpotim and avada there is a machloikes, what else is new, over whether the events described in Mishpotim are presented in sequence or not. Efsher, time and space permitting we’ll get to that, mistama not.
Nu, where was I? Are you ready to delve into some Mosaic legislation? Let’s learn some Mishpotim but first, what are they? When did we get them? And why did we get them? Seemingly it all started with two words. Naaseh V’nishma (we will do and we will listen): two words uttered by the Yiddin, perhaps impetuously.
Ershtens: since you remember almost nothing from Yeshiva other than that this parsha contains some strange law about Jewish slaves, an eye for an eye, the prohibition against bestiality and many other interesting and, at times, unrelated laws, lommer unfanger with poshit teitch (basic translation). Mishpotim are laws, ordinances given in the Toirah to the Jewish nation on how to conduct themselves in their interrelationships with their fellow human beings. They are the basic code of law as they apply equally (unless you have a good lawyer and lots of money, if you chap) to all Yiddin at all times and in all areas of life. These laws are the details implied in the Aseres Hadibros which we read in awe just last week, Shoin! Did you chap all that? And they come in two varieties, actually three, but for today we’ll stick to two: Mishpotim (ordinances) and chukim (decrees). And what’s the difference? Nu, the difference between them, according to the heylige Gemora (Yuma 67b), being that Mishpotim are logical and understandable to humans. Lemoshol (by way of example) prohibitions against avoido zoro (idol worship), sexual immorality, bloodshed, robbery and blasphemy, all seem epes somewhat logical. Ok, seemingly not all agree that sexual immorality is so giferlich, ober let’s keep in mind that just last week, the RBSO specifically told you Loi Sachmoid- thou shall not covet. Anyway, at times we will also encounter mishpotim that are shver (difficult) to chap and they seem unfair.
On the other hand, the Chukim are heavenly decrees that are beyond human logic and understanding. Lemoshol (by way of example): all the laws governing Taharas Hamishpocho (family purity- don’t get me started) come under this category: they may not make much sense, but we are instructed to do the RBSO’s will. Avada He knows what He’s doing and if He said that you can’t touch your eishes chayil during certain times of the month, mistama He chapped why. And avada and avada , you chazerim shouldn’t be touching your chaver’s wife, anytime of the month. Other chukim include such popular prohibitions such as eating chazir (pork) and wearing garments made of shatniz (a mixture of wool and linen), Mishmar (arbitrarily and capriciously imposed by many Yeshiva High Schools) the laws of chalitza (too long to explain), the purification of a metzoira (lepper) and the sending of a goat to Azozel as part of the Yoim Kippur avoida. The bottom line: who said we have to understand everything? Do you understand your eishes chayil? Does she you? It’s none of our business to ask why, only to listen to the RBSO lest He smite you with many terrible things.
Anyway, Moishe sets down laws about manslaughter and murder, kidnapping and stealing, injuring or cursing a parent, personal injury or damages, and killing or injuring slaves. We are taught laws concerning animals, damage by grazing or by fire, the laws of custodians, and money lending. Lemoshol (by way of example), we are taught that Yiddin cannot charge interest on loans give and avada you know how well that worked out throughout Jewish history. And even today, when was the last time you took an interest free loan from a chaver? When? Never! Avada the heylige Toirah does specifically state the word ‘loan’ – zicher meaning- that it’s due to be repaid. A necthiger tug! Unfortunately many Yiddin have forgotten that word and when they take loans, they’re nebech almost always sadly not paid back. Other laws include those dealing with a man who seduces a woman, chas v’sholom- say it’s not so, occult practices, and idolatry. We are commanded not to oppress widows and orphans and are obligated to lend money to the poor. We must accept the authority of the judges, bring the first of our produce and animals to the RBSO and not pervert the system of justice. We are instructed to return lost objects and help unload an animal that is unable to carry its burden.
We are also given the laws of Sh’mita, when we let the land lie fallow every seventh year. We are instructed not to oppress converts (though we’re not overly excited when they want o marry our daughters), and are told the laws of the heylige Shabbis and the three agricultural festivals. Understanding his people, the RBSO warns them of the dangers and temptations they will face once they enter the land. Avada He knew of these temptations after watching their behavior in the midbar over a 40 year span. Nu, let’s not jump ahead.
Says the heylge Toirah: “And these are the ordinances (mishpotim) that you [Moishe] should place before them [the Yiddin]…”Efsher you’re wondering why we still learn Mishpotim. Does this parsha still apply in real life and in our times? Do you have an ox? Do you gore people? Ok, skip that one. Do we have slaves unless you’re willing to pay top dollar for an hour of role play, if you chap. Nu, never mind you disgusting minuvil chazir, let’s move on.
Ober speaking of slavery, mistama you’re surprised to hear that some Yiddin would ever consider becoming slaves again: weren’t they just recently freed after 210 years? Which idiot would want to become a slave again? Takah an excellent kasha (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)? In any event if you’ll take a few minutes out of your talking routine during laining and read the parsha, you’ll quickly understand that slavery wasn’t that 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 olainu, usually pay a small fortune just for one of those items, if you chap.
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 beis din (assemblage of Jewish judges) and have his ear bored with an awl to indicate that he is now part of the master’s clan. All this avada sounds logical, no?
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 (our sages tell us that a father 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 (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. Moreover, which man wanted a second wife when he could easily enjoy the benefits of a Pilegesh (concubine), seemingly still legal and kosher at that time?
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!
Efsher you’re klerring (pondering): when were these laws given? Concurrent with the heylige Toirah just last week, or efsher this week, or efsher before? Before? There were mishpotim before the Yiddin received the heylige Toirah? Nu, let’s see. Says Rashi azoy: the heylige Toirah does indeed want to highlight the continuity between this parsha and last. What’s pshat? Says Rashi, that the first letter of the Parsha, the vov, in “Ve’eileh ha’mishpotim”, explains the connection between the two Parshiyos. Just as the Ten Commandments were said at Har Seenai, so too were the Mishpotim said at Har Seenai (i.e. for the first time, and not in another location or at a different time and location.) In other words: they were given mamish that same day from the RBSO either directly or through Moishe. Rashi is informing us here that general laws were previously given but the details were added at Har Seenai. Lemy nafka minna (what’s the difference) as to where we got them and when? Ver veyst but people like to argue, and why not?
Says Rashi: only the mitzvois of Mishpotim were given at Har Seenai in detail. The other mitzvois of the Toirah, it would appear, were said at Har Seenai, but without the details. And so says Rebbe Yishmoel in the Mechilta. Asks the Oir Ha’chayim: why does Rashi contradict himself in the opening possuk of Parshas Behar, where he writes that just as the mitzvah of Shmittah was given to us in all its detail, so too were all the mitzvois. Ver veyst: the bottom line is that none of us were there, or were we? Nu, in either event, these are the laws the Yiddin accepted by declaring the two big words. “We will do and we will hear”!
Last week, in Parshas Yisroy, the Yddin hastily, and before knowing many details, proclaimed with one voice – na’aseh v’nishma- we will do and we will listen. That was perhaps the last time the Yiddin proclaimed anything in one voice. And ever since, lots of doing, especially the wrong things and precious little listening. Another pshat (from the heylige Oisvorfer): lots of doing and then listening to find out that what was done, was taka all wrong as we will sadly learn in the Parshios ahead. Ober we are the Yiddin and seemingly the RBSO had epes a shtikel love/hate relationship with us. Ober with that declaration, they received, at long last, the Aseres Hadibrois, now what? And is that really what happened? And when did the Yiddin actually declare “Na’aseh V’nishma”?
Nu, taka most of us would probably answer: the Yiddin declared these two words, before they received the Aseres Hadibrois and so says Rashi and who knew more about everything than Rashi? Ober (however), many other commentators including the Ramban disagree. The emes is that the heylige Toirah records three separate biblical verses of the Yiddin’s acceptance of the Toirah’s obligations but the emes (truth) is that only the last of these contains the now-famous phrase “na’aseh v’nishma.” Let’s take a look. When Moishe Rabaynu first climbed up Har Seenai, the RBSO commands him to tell the people that if they accept the covenant, He will make them a “kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Shmois 19:6). Upon hearing these words, the people responded, “All that the RBSO has said, we will do” (19:8).
Later in the text, after Moishe relates specific divine rules to the people, they again say, “All of the things that the RBSO has said, we will do” (24:3). Finally, a few pisukim later, after Moishe writes and reads aloud the words of the heylige Toirah, the people utter the phrase “na’aseh v’nishma,” “We will do and we will hear” (24:7). What’s pshat? When did they actually say these words? Nu, through rabbinic tradition, we are taught that the words na’aseh v’nishma finally uttered in this week’s Parsha, are merely a correction of the earlier promises simply to “do” what the RBSO has commanded. Gishmak mamish.
By suggesting that “na’aseh v’nishma” was said prior to Matan Toirah, the rabbis solve a problem created by their own biblical interpretation. Just last week we learned that at the moment of revelation, “[the people] stood underneath the mountain.” According to the traditional interpretation of this strange biblical locution, the RBSO uprooted the mountain and held it over the people, saying, “If you accept the Toirah, fine; if not, here shall be your grave” (Avoidah Zoroh 2b). The implication seems to be that the Yiddin accepted the Toirah only through coercion. What’s pshat? How does this coercion reconcile with Na’aseh V’nishma? Nu, the heylige Gemora has answers for everything and this potential conflict is eliminated by insisting that the Yiddin declared “na’aseh v’nishma” even before the revelation. And further emphasizing the voluntary nature of their submission to the RBSO and His Toirah, we are taught that the Yiddin reconfirmed their acceptance of the Toirah again at the time of Purim.
Says the medrish (Mechilta d’Rebbe Shimon bar Yochai 24:7): And the Yiddin said, “all that the RBSO has said we will do and we will hear,” – in other words- they prioritized doing. Said Moishe to the Yiddin: Is doing possible without understanding? Understanding brings one to doing. To which they answered: ‘We will do and we will understand,’ [meaning] ‘We will do what we understand.’ This teaches that the people said ‘na’aseh v’nishma’ before receiving the Toirah”.
Said Rabbi Elozor: When the Yiddin gave precedence to “na’aseh” – we will do over “nishmah” –we will listen/understand, a Bas Koil (heavenly voice) went forth and exclaimed to them, ‘Who revealed to My children this secret which is employed by the Ministering Angels?’ Rashi (Breishis 37:27). -The Gemora is implying that Yiddin, at some level, assume some of the virtuosity of the angels, who are capable of such brilliant power of action. Nu, mistma the last time the Yiddin as a whole behaved like malochim.
Says the heylige Gemora: that a certain Sadducee referred to the Jewish people as a hasty people, because they committed to acting before hearing what they would have to do. However, the rabbis themselves said that when the Jewish nation did this, they were given two crowns, one for saying they will perform the mitzvois, and one for saying they will listen. Says the Beis HaLevi, citing the heylige Zoihar: that the commitment to ‘do’ referred to the performance of the mitzvois, and the commitment to ‘listen’ referred to the study of the heylige Toirah.
What happened next? Moishe, Aharoin (and his sons Nodov and Avihu), and seventy of the elders ascended Har Seenai to eat a “covenant affirmation meal” between klal Yisrael and the RBSO. Again, Moishe was setting up a precedent for the future: No matter what’s going on, the Yiddin 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 Yiddin waited for him at the camp down below. You know what happened next nebech but we won’t read about it for another three shabossim.
A gitten shabbis-