Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 8   No. 18

This issue is sponsored l'iluy Nishmos
David and Stella Wilschanski n.y.

Parshas Mishpotim (Shekolim)

An Atonement for the Soul

Rashi explains the posuk "Kol ho'over al ha'pekudim" 'All who pass by the counting' (referring to the line of people who passed in front of Moshe and the Nasi of each tribe as it was being counted).

The K'li Yokor however, connects the expression 'al ha'pekudim' with the posuk 'Pikudei Hashem yeshorim', referring to the mitzvos. In this sense, the posuk is saying that it was those who transgressed (all) the mitzvos, (since serving idolatry is akin to transgressing the entire Torah) who are obligated to give the half-shekel.


The K'li Yokor also gives three explanations as to why the mitzvah of Machtzis ha'Shekel has to comprise half a shekel (rather than a whole one).

1. Because the sin of the Eigel ha'zohov caused the Luchos to be broken into two, Consequently, they had to give a broken shekel to atone for the broken Luchos.

2. Because a complete person is made up of body and soul, comprising twenty components, the ten physical aspects provided by his parents, and the ten spiritual aspects provided by G-d (as the Gemoro explains in Nidah 31a.). In that case, the 'atonement for the soul' had to consist of ten geiroh or half a shekel, corresponding to the half of him which comprised the ten components of the soul, for which it was coming to atone.


3. The Medrash Tanchuma, comments on the posuk "and each man shall give an atonement for his soul". It explains how Moshe was afraid that it would not be possible to pay so large a sum of money, until Hashem assured him that His demands were small indeed, no more than a half-shekel from each person.

The Medrash then explains Moshe's fears, citing four opinions as to what was on his mind. According to Rebbi Yehudah bar Ila'i, quoting a posuk in Melochim (in connection with the king of Aram, who denied that Hashem supervised the world) "ve'Hoyoh nafshecho tachas nafsho, o kikar kesef tishkol", was afraid that everyone would have to give one kikar (3.000 Shekolim). Rebbi Yossi, based on the din of a motzi shem ra (in Ki Seitzei), thought that the figure would be a hundred shekel for each person, the amount that a motzi-shem-ra must pay for slandering his wife.

Whereas Resh Lokish cites the case of an o'nes (a man who was guilty of rape) as the basis of Moshe's fear that they would have to pay fifty shekel apiece. Finally, there is the opinion of Rebbi Yehudah bar Si'mon, who refers to the din of a goring ox which killed a slave, whose owner must pay thirty shekolim to the slave's owner.


The K'li Yokor explains this Medrash in connection with the three cardinal sins and loshon ho'ra, which are all hinted in the Medrash, and which are all connected with the sin of the Eigel. The different opinions dispute which aspect of the sin the money was coming to atone for.

Rebbi Yehudah bar Ilo'i maintains that it was coming to atone for idolatry (as is hinted in the posuk from Melochim that we quoted earlier), the basic sin of the Eigel ha'Zohov. Rebbi Yossi is of the opinion that it was meant to atone for the wicked speech that Klal Yisroel spoke when they proclaimed 'These are your gods Yisroel, who brought you out of Egypt!" In Resh Lakish's opinion, Moshe thought that the money came to atone for immorality (to which idolatry [an act of faithlessness] is compared). Indeed, the Mechilta, describing how the five commandments on the one Lu'ach matched with the five on the other Lu'ach, matches "Lo yihyeh le'cho" with "Lo tin'of".

And according to Rebbi Yehudah bar Si'mon, Moshe ascribed the money they were about to give, to the murder of Chur, which resulted from the Chet ho'Eigel. He compared Chur to a slave because, when Yisroel do not perform the will of Hashem, they are called slaves. And he compared Yisroel to an ox that gored, because by virtue of their deeds, the ox eating grass that they produced, was no more than a reflection of the level on which they were.


And to all of these Hashem replied 'Not a Kikar, not a hundred shekel, not fifty shekel and not thirty shekel. This is what they shall give - half a shekel!' The K'li Yokor attributes this to the well-known principle that one becomes rid of a malaise by attacking its root. And the root of their problem was love of money, the result of the fortune that they had amassed in Egypt and by the Yam-Suf, as the Gemoro explains in Yuma. And this in turn, explains why they desired specifically an ox, since symbolically, the ox is the left support of G-d's Throne (on the north side), and Iyov already taught that "gold comes from the north". Chazal have also said that someone who wants to be rich should pray towards the north.

And that is also why the Torah fixed half a shekel; because Yisroel wanted a lot of money. So Hashem prescribed half a shekel as an atonement, to remind them that wealth does not solve any problems. Because a person always has half of what he wants, as Chazal have said 'Someone who has a hundred wants two, and when he obtains two hundred he wants four'.

Alternatively, one might venture to add, the small sum of half a shekel teaches us that one should always be satisfied with what one has, however little it may be.


Parshah Pearls


(adapted from the Ba'al ha'Turim)

Saved by the Boundary

"ve'Samti lecho mokom asher yonus shomoh" (21:13). The numerical value of "lecho mokom" is equivalent to that of 'le'alpayim amah' ('to two thousand amos'). This is a hint, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that a murderer be'shogeg who escaped to a city of refuge, is safe already from the moment he arrived within two thousand amos of the wall of the town (the t'chum Shabbos).


Two Kinds of Tricks

"And when a man deliberately murders his fellow-Jew in trickery (be'ormah), you shall take him from My altar to die" (21:14). On only one other occasion does the word 'be'ormah' occur in T'nach, comments the Ba'al ha'Turim quoting his father the Rosh. In Yehoshua in connection with the Giv'onim (who tricked Yehoshua into believing that they had come from afar and did not belong to the seven Cena'ani nations) the Novi writes "And also they acted with trickery (be'ormah).


Both the murderer in our parshah and the Giv'onim in Yehoshua, displayed cunning and trickery, yet the contrast between them is evident, the Rosh explains. With his act, the murderer distanced himself from K'lal Yisroel; therefore the Torah demands his removal from the Mizbei'ach to be killed. The Giv'onim, on the other hand, tricked Yehoshua in order to come closer to Yisroel. That is why they merited to become wood-choppers and water-drawers for the Mizbei'ach.


Three are Forgiven

"Im yokum ve'his'halech ba'chutz al mish'anto ve'Nikoh ".

The word "ve'nikoh (and he will be innocent) occurs three times in T'nach, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out. Here (in the context of a man who has been severely wounded and recovers); "ve'Nikoh ho'ish" (in Noso, in connection with a sotah who takes his wife to the Beis-haMikdosh to the kohen, who gives her the mei sotah to drink [enabling him to marry another wife when she dies]); and "Mi sholach yodo bi'Meshi'ach Hashem ve'nikoh" (in Shmuel, in connection with Dovid refusing to kill King Shaul when he fell into his hands).

A clear hint, the Ba'al ha'Turim concludes, at Chazal, who list three people whose sins are forgiven: someone who was ill and recovers, a choson when he marries, and a king who ascends the throne.


At Sixes and Sixes

"ve'Chi yakeh ish es ein avdo tachas Eino. ve'Im shein avdo tachas shino" (21:26-27). Each of these pesukim begins and ends with a 'vov'. 'Vov' has the numerical value of six, and four times six equals twenty-four, corresponding to the twenty-four limbs (the tips of - the fingers and the toes, the nose, the two ears and the b'ris milah, whose removal sets a Cena'ani slave free). In fact, there are two more limbs that fall into this category; the tooth and the eye (which the Torah writes specifically, describing them in the singular, making a total of twenty-six. This too, is hinted in the twenty-six words contained in the two pesukim. Exactly the same dual hint occurs in No'ach, where, in connection with No'ach cursing Cena'an, son of his son Chom, the Torah writes "va'Yomer, orur Cena'an, eved avodim yihyeh le'echov. Va'Yomer,.. lomo". There too, both pesukim begin and end with a 'vov', and the sum total of words in both pesukim is twenty-six.


Deadly Interest

"and your children will be orphans. When you lend ... do not charge him interest" (22:23-24). The juxtapositioning of these two pesukim teaches us, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, that someone who takes interest (regularly) will die, his wife will become a widow and his children, orphans. This is precisely what the Novi in Yechezkel writes about someone who transgresses this prohibition.


Everyone who participates in the transaction of a loan where interest is specified, transgresses the above La'av - the borrower, the lender, the witnesses, the sofer and even the guarantor.

All of these, the Ba'al ha'Turim points out, are hinted in the words "Lo sasimun olov neshech", whose numerical value is equal to "echod ha'loveh ve'ha'malveh; ve'echod ho'eidim ve'ha'sofer,ve'echod ho'oreiv, ovrim be'ha'la'av'.


Throw Him to the Dogs

Chazal teach us that someone who speaks loshon ho'ra deserves to be thrown to the dogs (who knew to hold their tongues during the plague of Makas Bechoros). This too, is hinted in the juxtaposition of the pesukim "throw it (the flesh of an animal that was torn by a wild beast) to the dogs. Do not accept slander".

Also apparent from here is how utterly despicable is the person who speaks loshon ho'ra in the eyes of Hashem. His level is lower than that of a dog, to whom he deserves to be fed.


How to Get Rid of the Yeitzer ho'Ra

"When you see the donkey of your enemy crouching beneath his burden" ("rovetz tachas maso'o" [23:5[).

The word "crouching" ("rovetz") occurs three times in the Chumash. Here, in Bereishis "la'Pesach Chatos rovetz" (in connection with Kayin's sin), and in Vayechi "rovetz bein ha'mishpesoyim" (in Ya'akov's b'rochoh to Yisochor, the tribe of Torah-scholars). This sequence teaches us the following lesson, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim:

la'Pesach Chatos rovetz" refers to the Yeizer-ha'Ra. When a person has allowed himself to be overburdened by the Yeitzer-ho'Ra ("rovetz tachas maso'o"), then the only antidote is to study Torah diligently, like Yisochor (whom Ya'akov blessed with the words "rovetz bein ha'mishpesoyim", in reference to their diligence in Torah-study).

This also conforms with the Gemoro in B'rochos (5a), which advises someone who is confronted by his Yeitzer ho'ra, to drag him to the Beis-ha'Medrash, where the power of Torah will help him overcome it.



Adapted from 'Mitvos ha'T'luyos bo'Oretz',
based on the rulings of the Chazon Ish by R' Kalman Kahana z.l.)

How to Use Sh'mitah Produce

67. Sh'mitah produce that is designated for human consumption, may not be used for medicinal purposes, even if it is to be used by people. Neither is one permitted to use it for soaking or washing clothes, even if it is commonly used for that purpose. One may however, use it for dyeing (on condition that it is for the use of people) or as fuel, provided they are commonly used for either of these purposes.


68. If the Sh'mitah produce is designated for animal consumption, then all of the above are permitted, provided it is intended for the benefit of people, but not if it is for animals.


69. A product that is normally eaten raw, may not be eaten cooked, or vice-versa. Consequently, animal food that is not normally cooked, must be served to the animal raw. It is permitted to squeeze fruit that is generally squeezed (such as olives and grapes), for its juice, and that extends to lemons, because this is the way that they are normally consumed. And this concession probably extends to oranges too (and nowadays, one would imagine, to many other fruits besides these). In the event that, after squeezing, some of the solid fruit remains, one may not throw it away, but must put it aside intil it goes bad.


70. Because of the prohibition of feeding to an animal, food that is fit for human consumption (particularly in the Sh'mitah year), one must prevent an animal that is working with detached food from partaking of it (even though in other years this is forbidden). Presumably, one would be advised to provide the animal with substitute food to alleviate its suffering.


71. One is permitted to feed moldy bread to one's animal, but not to eat it oneself (because eating something that is inedible to humans, but fit for animals, is considered destroying Sh'mitah fruit).


72. One is permitted to peel Sh'mitah fruit, even if it could be eaten together with its peel. This is because there is no mitzvah to eat Sh'mitah produce, only not to do business with it and not to spoil it. However, the peel has the sanctity of Sh'mitah and may not be thrown away. It should be placed in a container until it becomes unfit for animal consumption, when one may throw it away, but not as long as it is still fit for animals.


The Din of Bi'ur (Clearing away)

73. The Torah's concession to eat Sh'mitah produce and to use it, applies only as long as that particular species is still available in the fields, vineyards or orchards. Once it has terminated there, one is obligated to clear out that species from one's house. This stage is not determined by produce that remains in one field, vineyard or orchard (since that will not render that species 'not finished for the wild beasts of the field'; neither will the fact that no produce remains in one field render the produce 'finished for the wild beasts of the field'. ). What determines whether or not, is 'finished ... ' is whether or not, that produce is still to be found in the majority of fields.


74. 'Bi'ur' entails removing what remains of that particular species from one's house, placing it on the ground in the public street, and declaring it 'hefker' in the presence of three people. It does not matter if those three people are close friends who, he knows, will not take the fruit for themselves (even though they are entitled to do so). Having performed the mitzvah of Bi'ur, he is permitted to acquire the Hefker himself and take it back into the house.


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