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

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Vol. 16   No. 18

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
R' Yoel Zev ben R' Yosef HaLevi Ehrentrau z"l
on the occasion of his first Yohrzeit
27 Shevat

Parshas Mishpatim

Their Judges are Not Our Judges
(Adapted from Rabeinu Bachye)

Commenting on the Pasuk "And these are the civil laws which you shall place before them" ("lifneihem", rather than 'lohem'), the Gemara in Gitin (38b) states "before them", 'and not before gentiles'. Basically, this prohibits two Jews from bringing their law-suits before a gentile law-court (certainly where a Beis-Din is available).

R. Bachye cites another Gemara there, which bearing in mind that the Pasuk here refers to the Sanhedrin of seventy elders who accompanied Moshe part of the way up Har Sinai (see 24:1), actually Darshens "before them", 'and not before laymen', forbidding taking one's Din-Torah before inexpert judges (who are not ordained - and remember that nowadays, genuine Semichah does not exist, so nobody is officially ordained). However, he points out, whereas the latter prohibition is largely waived by a ruling of Chazal 'Shelichusaihu ka'Avdinan' (allowing laymen to stand in for them regarding the majority of civil laws), the former is not. Consequently, it remains strictly forbidden to present one's Din-Torah before a gentile court, even if one knows that they happen to issue the same rulings that a Jewish court would regarding the matter being judged.

Indeed, say Chazal, it is a Chilul Hashem to do so, as we shall see shortly.


R. Bachye, adding that whoever who goes to such a court is guilty of transgressing one sin which carries the weight of many sins, illustrates with the following example. Everybody knows what a terrible sin murder is. After all, one eliminates not only the victim, but all the numerous souls that would have descended from him (as Chazal extrapolate from the Pasuk in Bereishis, 4:10 "the voice of the bloods of your brother [note the Torah's use of the plural] are crying out to Me from the ground where he is buried").

One has only to look at Adam ha'Rishon's descendents, he explains, to realize the stark reality of that statement. Indeed, that is why Chazal have said (Sanhedrin 37a) that someone who murders one person (in Yisrael) it is as if he has destroyed a whole world; and that conversely, if someone saves one person (in Yisrael), it is as if he saved an entire world.


Yet, in spite of the severity of murder, the author continues, that of theft and certainly, that of Chilul Hashem (desecrating G-d's Name), are more severe still. This is evident from the fact that, whereas Teshuvah atones for murder (as we see by Kayin, whose Teshuvah for the murder of Hevel was accepted [Pirkei de'R. Eliezer]), it does not atone for theft (unless one actually returns what one stole [Tanchuma]), and it does not atone for Chilul Hashem (Yuma 86a) until it is followed by a process that ends with death.

And it is these two terrible sins, theft and Chilul Hashem, both worse than murder, that one commits when one takes one's lawsuits to a gentile court of law. One commits Chilul Hashem, by giving honour to their gods, and by automatically detracting from the Honour of one's own G-d (see Rashi on the current Pasuk). And one commits theft, because any money that is extracted by such a court is considered pure theft; And what's more, precisely because the money appears to have been extracted legally, the likelihood of one's returning it is remote, in which case it will never be subject to Teshuvah and Mechilah (forgiveness).


And if all the above is true about a gentile court, it stands to reason that the same applies to taking it before a secular court that does not issue its rulings in accordance with Torah-law. Bear in mind that the gentile judges, in spite of the fact that they are under no obligation to judge according to Torah-law, and who have therefore done nothing wrong by not doing so, yet it is considered theft and a Chilul Hashem to go to them for judgement. How much more so, will that be the case if one takes one's litigation to Jewish secular courts, where the judges are under oath (from Har Sinai) to abide and to rule by the law of the Torah. And seeing as, in addition to that, they deny G-d and His Torah, and trample its laws underfoot, the Chilul Hashem is that much more blatant.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Based on Rabeinu Bachye)

The Animals Shall Rest

"Six days you shall do your work and on the seventh you shall desist, so that your ox and your donkey may rest " (23:12). To be sure, R. Bachye explains, the purpose of Shabbos is not for the animals to enjoy a day of rest. What the Pasuk therefore means is that because there is a Mitzvah to desist from work on Shabbos, the animals shall desist too. In similar vein, when the Torah writes in Re'ei (16:3)"Seven days you shall eat on it (the Korban Pesach) Matzos because you left Egypt in haste, in order that you shall remember the day that you left Egypt ", the Pasuk does not mean that they left Egypt in haste in order to remember that they did. What it means is that because they left Egypt, they are obligated to remember the Exodus from Egypt, and how they left in haste.


When did Yisrael Proclaim

'Na'aseh ve'Nishma'?

"And to Moshe He said, Go up to Hashem " (24:1).

R. Bachye agrees with Rashi, who establishes this Parshah before Matan Torah (despite its location), whereas the Ramban establishes it after Matan Torah, where it is written.

See footnote in R. Bachye, who cites the two opinions as a dispute in the Mechilta.

The Gemara in Shabbos, which describes "Na'aseh ve'Nishma" as an incredible phenomenon, appears to support Rashi. According to the Ramban, it took place after the Torah was already given, and it is difficult to see what was so special about it. R. Bachye's goes on to explain that the next Pasuk "And Moshe alone, shall approach Hashem" is equivalent to the Pasuk in Yisro (20:21) "And Moshe alone shall approach the darkness", which was also said before Matan Tatan.


Master, Emissary, Custodian


Seeing as G-d was speaking, the Pasuk ought to have said 'And to Moshe He said, Go up to Me' (and not "to Hashem"). Therefore. The Zohar explains that the second Hashem refers to the revered Angel Matatron, who is called after Hashem's Name (i.e. The Gematriyah of his name is three hundred and fourteen, as is that of 'Shakai').

The name 'Matatron', the author explains, is based on three words - 'Matruna' (Matron [basically a Latin word]), which Chazal use to describe an aristocratic woman; the Greek word 'Mantatur', meaning an emissary, and the Arama'ic word for charge or guard (see Vayikra 8:35). All of these define this great Angel, who, at one and the same time, at the behest of his Master, rules the world, incorporating everything that is below him (all the Hosts of the upper and lower worlds),which fall under his jurisdiction, serves as His top emissary and guards the world, for 'he rules over all that belongs to Him (G-d)'.

The significance of the double 'Tes' (according to the first of the three above definitions), says R. Bachye in his first explanation, lies in their numerical value of eighteen, which hints, in turn, at G-d, who is also known as 'the Life of the Worlds' (Chei ha'Olamim), whose title Matatron bears (as we explained earlier).

Matatron is also known as 'Na'ar' (see for example Tehilim 37:25), which explains why the firstborn are described in this Parshah (24:5) as 'ne'arim'.


A Dangerous Encounter

The awesome Matatron, Rabeinu explains, was the angel that Acher (Elisha ben Avuyah), R. Meir's Rebbe, encountered on his trip to the Spiritual Realm called 'Pardeis'. So awesome is he, that even a great man like Acher was overcome by him, to the point that he believed that he was in the presence of G-d Himself. This constitutes the ultimate sin of confusing G-d for His creations (a sort of power-sharing, which the commentaries refer to as 'Kitzutz bi'Neti'os'), and is a mistake of which Adam ha'Rishon, K'lal Yisrael (when they worshipped the Golden Calf) and Nadav and Avihu (when they entered the Kodesh with the Ketores) were guilty.

Such is the danger of an encounter with Matatron, which explains, says the author, why the Torah inserts this Parshah immediately after the word "le'mokeish" (as a snare). This is the angel that Moshe (and Moshe alone) was invited to meet inside the Cloud.

'The perfect Tzadik R. Akiva', R. Bachye concludes, 'who took care not to be ensnared in the trap, entered (Pardeis) in peace, and left in peace'.

To ensure that, he noted that Matatron, for all of his majesty and awesomeness, bore similarities with other angels, whereas based on the Pasuk in ve'Zos ha'B'rachah (33:2)"ve'oso be'Rivevos Kodesh", Chazal say 'Os Hu be'Rivevos she'Lo' (G-d is distinct from all His myriads of angels).

* * *

(on the first Pasuk)

"ve'Eileh ha'Mishpatim asher tosim lifneihem" (And these are the civil laws which you shall place before them [21:1]).


The acronym of

"ve'Eileh" is 'Ve'chayav Adam Lachkor Ha'din' (a person is obligated to examine the Din carefully).

"ha'Mishpatim asher" is 'Ha'dayan Metzuveh She'ya'aseh Pesharah Terem Ya'aseh Mishpat Im Sh'neihem Rotzim' (the judge is obligated to compromise before doing justice, should both parties agree).

"tosim" is 'Tishma Sh'neihem Yachad Medabrim' (hear both of them when they both speak together - and not one of them when his opponent is not there).

"lifneihem" is 'Lo P'nei N'div Yehader; Hisnaker Meihem' (Do not honour a rich litigant; estrange yourself from them).


The Torah juxtaposes Mishpatim

immediately following the expression "and do not climb up steps" to teach us that a judge must be slow and deliberate when judging ('Hevu mesunim ba'Din') , and not arrive quickly at his decisions. In fact, the Gematriyah of "Ma'alos" (steps) is 'Mesunim'

shortly after "gods of silver .. ", to teach us that one should not appoint a judge on account of his financial status. close to the words "because if you will wave your sword over it", to inform a judge that when he judges, he must consider as if a sword was placed against his thigh .

(Dinim) next to Avodah, since they constitute two of the three things on which the world stands (see first and last Mishnahs of Perek 1 in Pirkei Avos).


The Torah also juxtaposes Mishpatim next to the Mizbei'ach on the one side and next to Asheirah (a tree that one worships) on the other, to teach us that someone who appoints a worthy judge, it is 'as if he has built a Mizbei'ach', whereas if he appoints one who is not, it is 'as if he has planted an Asheirah next to the Mizbei'ach'.


The last letters of

"ve'eileH ha'mishpatiM asheR" spell 'Marah', which is where G-d taught Yisrael Dinim (the civil laws).

ve'eileH ha'mishpatiM asher tosiM" spell 'merumah' (a lawsuit that the judge realizes smacks of dishonesty), which the judge is obligated to examine particularly thoroughly to clarify the matter.


The word "Asher" equals the first letters of "Man'al, Shofar Retzu'ah (a Chalitzah shoe, a Shofar and a strap for Malkos), the three accessories that a Beis-Din requires.


"asher tosim lifneihem" shares the same Gematriyah as 'Dikdukei ha'Torah ve'dikdukei Sofrim' (the intricacies of Torah and the intricacies of the (words of the) Chachamim.


The Pasuk contains five words, to teach us that whoever judges with absolute integrity is considered as if he has fulfilled all five books of the Torah and as if he was a partner with G-d in the Creation.

* * *

(Adapted from the B'nei Yisaschar)

The Medrash cites a dialogue that took place between Moshe Rabeinu and Hashem. 'After my death', Moshe complained, 'I will no longer be mentioned!'

'I swear', Hashem replied, 'that just as you stand today and give Yisrael the Parshah of Shekalim whereby you raise their heads, so too, every year, when they read before Me the Parshah of Shekalim, it will be as if you were standing there and raising their heads! 'Hence the Torah writes "When you will raise the heads of B'nei Yisrael" ("will raise" note, not 'raise').


To explain this Medrash, the B'nei Yisaschar cites another Medrash (in Mishpatim), which refers to two 'good measures' that G-d negated from the nations of the world: the first that they would never have prophets; the second, that Yisrael would not be handed over to an angel as long as Moshe lived, but after Moshe's death, the angel returned, in the days of Yehoshua (as the Pasuk writes "And it was when Yehoshua was in Yericho and he (the angel) said 'No, for I am the angel of the Hosts of Hashem, now I have come!' ").


We can easily understand the significance of the prophets that were denied the nations of the world. Indeed, it is synonymous with the Gemara in B'rachos (7a) which explains that Moshe's request that the Shechinah should not rest on the gentile nations was granted.

But what is the significance of Yisrael not being handed over to an angel as long as Moshe lived, and the fact that this ceased when he died?


All the nations, R. Bachye explains, are under the jurisdiction of one of the seventy angels that surround G-d's Throne. These angels, known as 'Sarim' (rulers) is the head of that nation that leads its destiny. And in the same way as, when one removes a head from the body, the body ceases to exist, so too, if any particular Sar is removed from office, the nation that it leads disappears from the face of the earth (as we indeed find with some of the mightiest nations, who disappeared during the course of history).

Yisrael on the other hand, who have been placed under G-d's direct supervision, can never become extinct.

What happens when Yisrael go into exile? We have learned how when Yisrael go into Galus, the Shechinah goes with them. Kevayachol, says the B'nei Yisaschar, It envelops itself in the Sar of the host nation, where it remains in a state of Hester Panim (Its Face hidden), as the Pasuk writes in Eichah "He drew back His right hand before the enemy". Yet even in that state, it protects Yisrael from undue harsh decrees, and ensures their survival.


Following the Sin of the Golden Calf, G-d told Moshe that He would send an Angel (Micha'el, whose Gematriyah equals that of 'Mal'ach', and whom the author refers to as 'the Great Guardian of Yisrael') to lead them (in which the Shechinah would envelop Itself). He accepted Moshe's protest however, and agreed to continue leading them directly, via the Aron ha'Kodesh, rather than hidden inside the Angel, as we explained above. This meant that Yisrael continued to live an existence that superceded the laws of nature, as they had done since leaving Egypt.

And that is how it was up until Moshe's death, when the Mal'ach told Yehoshua that he had just arrived.


We see that as long as Moshe was alive, the Shechinah did not even hide in the Great Guardian, Micha'el, let alone in any other angel. On his merit, the Shechinah led them and guarded them.

Moshe was afraid however, that after his death, the situation would change, to the point that, when Yisrael were in Galus, they would fall completely under the jurisdiction of their host nations, who would do with them as they pleased, and that he (Moshe i.e. his influence) would be forgotten.

That is why G-d issued him with the promise that we cited above. He reassured him that, just as he was standing at that moment teaching Yisrael the Parshah of Shekalim (which represented the Korbanos, which in turn, created a direct link with G-d, with no separation between Yisrael and Him), causing their heads to be raised high ("ki sisa es rosh B'nei Yisrael"), something that he achieved by not allowing the Shechinah to be enveloped in angels (even Micha'el) as we explained earlier. So each year, even when they are in Galus, when Yisrael read the Parshah of Shekalim, it is as if you were there, 'raising their heads', negating the evil decrees that the nations of the world plan against them.

In this Parshas Shekalim serves as a reminder to Yisrael that G-d will raise their stature and will eventually redeem them from Galus.


This is the good Midah that G-d took from the nations, that throughout the days of Moshe, Yisrael would not be placed under the jurisdiction of an angel, but under the direct influence of G-d Himself. This was the result of Moshe's request, and continued even when Yisrael were in Galus, whenever they read Parshas Shekalim, as if Moshe was present.

* * *

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