Mishpotim 2024: Loving Converts

by devadmin | February 8, 2024 6:07 pm

Raboyseyee and Ladies,

The heylige Ois and eishes chayil are still away. Please enjoy this PARTIAL repeat from a long time ago.

Loving Converts:

This week, we will explore the mitzvah of the Geyr. What the hec is a Geyr? Nu, depending on which English version of a Chumish you are looking at, the Geyr is either a foreigner, a stranger, or a proselyte (a convert to Judaism).  In some cases, the Geyr might be all three.  In parshas Mishpotim, the RBSO will give us direct orders on the treatment of the Geyr.  More than once.  In fact, we will be reading His instructions on the treatment of the Geyr multiple times as we move forward. But first….

As we get deeper into Sefer Shmois, we’re done reading about our beautiful heritage: About Noiach and his mishpocho, Loit and his daughters, our heylige forefathers and their foibles, the more -or less than admirable- heylige shvotim and their mischief, and many other 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 levels and occasions. Let’s review Parshas Mishpotim…but first….

One week ago, the Yiddin were eye witnesses 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.

What were the Yiddin fighting about in midbar?  Was there a shul near Mt Siani? Was the mechitza too high or low? The rabbis’s sermon too long? Did the rabbi or president issue strange decrees? Did they implement new midbar policies without a vote, efsher a rule that men had to wear jackets and ties to get an aliya or daven for the omud?  Didn’t the Yiddin pack suits and ties as they were leaving Mitzrayim? They didn’t and yet still received the Toirah? Oh my!

Ober this week, we seemingly get the answers as Parshas Mishpotim is hard core, (with mitzvis you chazir). According to the Sefer HaChinuch (Book of Mitzvah Education), there are a total of 53 mitzvis listed in this parsha, the great majority of them falling under the heading of what we would call, “civil and criminal law.” Shoin! Of the fifty three, a full 30 are of loi sah-says (Thou shall not do) variety, the type that most of you (the heylige Ois included) have the most trouble not violating; oy vey. Shoin, as the Ois is fond of stating over and again: Yom Kippur is not too far away, and we get to start all over again. Let’s thank the RBSO for this day of cleansing and resetting.

Last week Moishe appointed judges, and by definition, this week he creates 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 it’s free! Who needs law school? We should avada shout out the RBSO for creating so many professions out of one parsha. The RBSO understood that if He gave us laws, we’d break them and that if He told us to do the do’s and not to, the don’t do’s, people wouldn’t get it right and would eventually end up in machloikes (disputes). As always, He was correctIn fact, Parshas Mishpotim is the inspiration for as many as six Tractates of the heylige Gemora.

Speaking of which, the heylige Ois 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? Two women at a blowout sale maybe! How about peris-mifuzrin (fruits strewn about)? Not! Have you ever found yourself in a hole or pit, that you didn’t want to be in? Shoin, let’s not answer that question right now and veyter. And who cares about an ox goring the neighbor’s ox? High School Bochurim care about one thing: girls. Were the yeshiva world to teach Seder Noshim (the tractate 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 Sinai.  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 taka there? The Yiddin were still awed by the powerful presentation of Matan Toirah earlier in the morning. Hours earlier, they learned the importance of mitzvis that show love for the RBSO –Bain Adam L’Mokom (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 very well over the years, hence the need for the myriad laws taught this week. Oh well. Nothing is perfect.

A few will recall that with this week’s parsha we mark the end of the Shoivivim 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 Mitzrayim (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 last week on Har Senai. As you can imagine, many questions have been asked as to why the events on Har Senai 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. 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.

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 unfangin -let us begin- 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 Hadibris 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) 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 you shouldn’t. And avada and avada, you 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 Azozale as part of the Yom Kippur avoida. The bottom line: who said we have to understand everything? Do you understand your wife? 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 given, 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! The prevailing minhag is not to, oy vey. Unfortunately, many Yiddin have forgotten that word and when they take loans, they’re almost always and 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 Shmita, 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 to 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 heylige 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 oyu plow? Let’s skip that one too. Do we have slaves? Unless you’re willing to pay top dollar for an hour of role play, mistama not. Never mind you disgusting 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? Taka 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 typically 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? Maybe even in our times? That for another day.

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, mamish free. Nu, that’s what I call civility!

Shoin, let’s look in on specific instruction the RBSO gave Moishe regarding the Geyr. Let’s begin by reviewing his first appearance in the parsha (Shemois 22:20). Says the heylige Toirah, azoy: “And you must not taunt a Geyr (a stranger, or efsher a proselyte), or persecute him, for you (yourselves) were strangers (or foreigners) in the land of Mitzrayim.” Shoin, message understood: the Yiddin were once considered foreigners and treated as such; we should not ever forget that lonely feeling. And we should avada not mistreat others, especially those who are proselytes, the Geyrim. We should not ever remind them of their past indiscretions while Goyim before they became Geyrim.

Nineteen short pisukim later (Shemois 23:9) we read azoy: “And you must not oppress a proselyte, and you know the feelings of proselytes, for you, (yourselves) were foreigners in the land of Mitzrayim.” Ring familiar? And guess what? Says Rashi quoting the heylige Gemora (Buba Metzia 59b) azoy: “In many places the heylige Toirah cautions us about the ill-treatment of a proselyte because of his tendency to do evil.” And says the heylige Gemora azoy: in thirty-six places, and according to others, in forty-six places, does the heylige Toirah caution and warn the Yiddin about the treatment of these Geyrim. 36 or 46 reminders about the same mitzvah?  What happened to extra words and letters?

Just who is considered a Geyr? Is a Geyr a person who has converted to Judaism? Or, does the word Geyr apply to and include any stranger, any foreigner whom you happen to cross paths with? Must he be Jewish?  Nu, avada there is a machloikes (spirited disagreement) as to what this term means and most agree there are two kinds or classes of geyrim. One who comes to live among the Yiddin but does not convert, is also considered a geyr.  One who, decides to convert and live among his new people, is avada also a geyr but with a different title.

Well, whomever he is or was, the RBSO seemingly has a special place in His heart for them. By extension, that could be the reason He chose and still loves the Yiddin though we have given and continue to give Him many reasons -over the generations- not to. Shoin, need we elaborate? Wait there’s even more. Says Toisfis on the heylige Gemora (Kidushin 70B) that of the numerous places we are warned about the treatment of Geyrim, 24 of them are specific: we may not mistreat Geyrim. Rashi adds how hard life can be for a Geyr when people oppress him. And says a different Rashi (Horayos 13A) azoy: we may not mistreat Geyrim because the Geyr is more strongly influenced by his innate urges that draw him to do evil. Shoin, now we can efsher chap what’s behind all the mischief the Yiddin were always cooking up: it was avada not their fault; they too were geyrim. Outside influences, especially mischievous ones, tend to reawaken their natural inclination which is to do bad stuff.

The bottom-line: there are either 24, 36, or 46 mentions of the very same concept: not to treat geyrim badly. In fact, other pisukim we will encounter later in the heylige Toirah (Devorim 10:19) will instruct us to love the geyrim. As expected, some are more machmir (strict) about the wording of the heylige Toirah and hold that we must taka make love to geyrim. Why must we love Geyrim? What’s so special about the Geyr?  The RBSO wants us to avada look and move forward in life, ober, there are times when we are charged with looking back. We must, He insists, recall our days as geyrim, as strangers and slaves over in Mitzrayim. We need to recall how difficult and challenging life was before the RBSO redeemed us. And He wants us to make sure we don’t look with disdain upon those who become geyrim. He loves them and wants us to love them as well. Nu, loving someone is not that difficult unless of course the geyr wants to marry one of our daughters. Shoin: the Yiddin have yet to perfect their love for geyrim; it remains a work in progress.

Nu, some say the RBSO loves the Geyr because he voluntarily switched teams and accepted upon himself the yoke of the heylige Toirah and its commandments. Let’s avada recall that just last week the Yiddin were married to the RBSO in a great ceremony under Har Senai and let’s not forget the heylige Gemora which records that it was a shotgun wedding. The RBSO lifted Har Senai over their heads and said if you accept the heylige Toirah, all is good. If not, this mountain will crush you like little ants. Ober the Geyr has come along on his own accord, and accepted the Toirah. And for his love, fervor and determination, the RBSO added a special commandment for us to love him. And taka so says the Rambam: loving the Geyr is positive commandment (#207).

And says the Chinuch: not just must we love geyrim, those who convert to Judaism, we must also love all strangers such as newcomers to a community, new students in school and others. Can anyone help the Ois chap how these numerous mentions are not to be considered repeats?  Anyone?

Speaking of Geyrim, let’s shout out Unkilis, himself a convert, perhaps the most famous of all converts. Who was this Unkilis fellow?  Grada all the Ois knew about Unkilis while growing up was that his father OBM, Reb Yaakov ben Chaim Yitzchok Halevi, whose 13th yurtzeit was observed this past shabbis, used to be ma’aver the sedra weekly and would repeat each posik of the heylige Toirah twice along with one reading of Unkilis. And from the time the future Ois was seven years of age, he would wake up early on shabbis, sit with his father (involuntarily) near the kitchen window (the only source of light every shabbis morning) who would teach him how to review the parshas by chanting ‘shinayim mikro, viechod targum’ (repeating each verse twice along with each verse of Targum Unkilis once).  And who was this Unkilis fellow? Seemingly he was the most famous covert of all times and is referred to as Unkilis ha’Geyr. His uncle was the Roman Emperor Hadrian. Unkilis was the son of Hadrian’s sister. What events in his life prompted Unkilis to convert, we don’t know. Ober, at some point he translated the entire heylige Toirah into Aramaic and his translation is considered to the authoritative and authentic (Halocho Li’moishe MiSeenai) translation which accompanies the text and Rashi in kimat every Chumish published before Art Scroll, and later, others came along and gave him short shrift.  Ober why do many continue to read Targum Unkilis every shabbis? Says the heylige Gemora (Brochis 8a), azoy: Said Rav Huna bar Yehudah that we must -it’s a mitzvah mamish- to read ‘shenayim mikra, viechod targum’ (each verse of the parsha twice and each verse of the Unkilis’ Aramaic translation) once. Other sources tell us that though women may not be obligated, it’s not gifelrich if they do. Hec, they can no longer be ordained; let them keep busy reading Unkilis. It will zicher keep them busy, By the time they decipher the Aramaic, they will have lost interest in becoming rabbis. Moreover, parents are required to teach their children this concept. And guess what? Reading the pisukim twice along with Targum Unkilis comes with a rewards program. Says the medrish: anyone who does, will be granted long days and years.  A long life. And a long life zicher means we will be around and if around, we will buy more books and seforim.  Shtelt zich di shyelo (the question arises): what the hec happened to Unkilis and his translation? Why did Art Scroll elect to discard him? He and his translation are gone. Fartig!

Ois Unkilis!  Was Art Scroll sued by the heirs of Unkilis for copyright infringement? Did they not have enough funds to cover the royalties? Ober the answer raboyseyee must be that the good people over at Art Scroll hold, as do some others, that one can earn long days and life by chanting ‘shenayim mikroh vi’echod rashi’ (each verse of the heylige parsha twice followed by one reading of the Rashi).  Ober says the Ois azoy: bring back Unkilis and a complete translation of the Aramaic. Zicher Art Scroll can find a (few hundred) donors to dedicate the Unkilis in English!  The heylige Gemora tells us that Unkilis learned the Toirah from Rebbes Eliezer and Yehoishua and transcribed it for posterity. The Da’as Zekanim Ba’alei Hatoisfis record the entire myseh of his conversion and Hadrian’s reaction to his nephew’s yearning to become Jewish. It’s a good read; check it out.


A gittin Shabbis and a gittin Choidesh!

The Heylige Oisvorfer Ruv

Yitz Grossman



Source URL: https://oisvorfer.com/mishpotim-2024-loving-converts/