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

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Vol. 19   No. 18

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
' ' "
on the occasion of his fourth Yohrzeit 27 Shevat

Parshas Mishpatim

Two Crowns
(Based on the Beis Halevi)

" he (Moshe) took the Book of the Covenant and he read it aloud to the people, and they declared 'All that G-d spoke we will do and we will hear (na'aseh ve'nishma)!' " (24:7).

In the Gemara in Shabbos (84), R. Sima'i states that, when Yisrael put "na'aseh" before "nishma", six hundred thousand angels descended and tied two crowns upon the head of each one, one corresponding to 'na'aseh', and the other, to 'nishma'. Why, asks the Beis Halevi, does the Gemara attribute the crowns to the fact that they put 'na'aseh' before 'nishma', rather than to the fact that they declared the two words 'na'aseh' and 'nishma'?

Moreover, he asks, why indeed, did Yisrael say 'na'aseh ve'nishma' and not 'nishma ve'na'aseh', which at first sight, is the more correct sequence?

To answer the questions, the author cites the Zohar, who explains the two expressions to mean that 'We undertake to perform good deeds (i.e. to observe the Mitzvos) and we will listen to the words of Torah!'

The Beis Halevi then explains that there are two kinds of Torah-study. One is studying in order to keep the Mitzvos. Indeed how can somebody who has not learned possibly observe the Mitzvos, as Chazal have said 'An ignoramus cannot be pious!' In fact, this aspect of Torah-study pertains to women no less than to men, since it is merely a prerequisite to the fulfillment of Mitzvos and part of it.

The second kind is where Torah-study is an independent Mitzvah in its own right (just like the Mitzvah of wearing Tefilin) that has nothing to do with the observance of the other Mitzvos. And this aspect of Limud Torah pertains to men only. Indeed, a woman who studies Torah does not fulfill a Mitzvah per se at all.

This explains the Gemara in Menachos (99b), where R. Yishmael informed his nephew, ben Dama, that even though he had studied the entire Torah, he was not permitted to now go and study Greek philosophy, unless it was in a time that was neither day or night (in keeping with the Pasuk "And you shall study it [Torah] by day and by night!").

As far as keeping the Mitzvos goes, ben Dama had nothing to gain by continuing studying, as he already knew all that he needed to know towards that end. And it was on account of the intrinsic Mitzvah of learning Torah at all times that R. Yishmael forbade him to study other things.

In a nutshell, the first Mitzvah of Limud Torah belongs to 'the yoke of Mitzvos', the second, to 'the yoke of Torah'. Had Yisrael declared 'Nishma ve'na'aseh', they would have demonstrated their readiness to study Torah in order to observe it, and no more. Now that they reversed the order, they were declaring that not only were they prepared to observe all the Mitzvos (which they would obviously need to study first), but that they were also ready to study Torah for its own sake. And it was for those two dual undertakings that the angels placed two crowns on their heads.

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Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Riva)

A Woman is Chayav Too

" someone who curses his father and/or his mother will surely be sentenced to death" (21:17).

Rashi explains that, bearing in mind the Pasuk which discusses a man who curses his parents, the Torah finds it necessary to insert this Pasuk here, to teach us that a woman is subject to this Din, too.

The Riva asks why this is necessary, as we have a principle that a woman shares the same responsibilities as a man, and faces the same punishment as he does.

And he answers that this principle pertains to La'avin that are written S'tam (without specifying); but whenever the Torah uses the word "ish", it comes to exclude women - unless it makes a point of including them (as it does here by virtue of the insertion of an otherwise superfluous Pasuk).


Someone Who Kills his Slave

"If a man strikes his slave with a rod, and he dies he shall be avenged (nokom yinokem)" (21:20).

Rashi explains that this refers to death by the sword.

According to those who consider Chenek (strangulation) more stringent than death by the sword, asks the Riva, why does the Torah see fit to insert this ruling here? Since someone who murders a fellow Jew is put to death by the sword. And if he is sentenced to (the more lenient) death by the sword (and not by strangulation), then how much more so somebody who murders an Eved Cana'ani?

And he answers that if not for our Pasuk, we might have thought that, since the Torah is lenient regarding the Din of an Eved Cana'ani, to exempt his master from the death-penalty if he dies after twenty-four hours, the Torah would be unlikely to add another leniency. Consequently, where the Eved does die within twenty-four hours, the master will receive the more stringent punishment of Chenek. That is why our Pasuk teaches us that he too, receives the more lenient death.

See also 'Highlights on the same Pasuk.


Entering into the Covenant

" Moshe took half the blood and placed it into the bowls, and the other half he sprinkled on to the Mizbei'ach" (24:6). There were two bowls explains Rashi, one for half the blood of the Olah and one for half the blood of the Shelamim, both of which Moshe sprinkled on the people. And this is the source of Chazal, Rashi concludes, that our fathers at Har Sinai entered into the covenant with Milah, Tevilah and Haza'as Damim (sprinkling of the blood), as there is no Haza'as Damim without Tevilah.

In that case, says the Riva, the Gemara in Yevamos, which specifically states that our fathers performed Milah but not Tevilah, must be referring to Avraham, Yitzchak and Ya'akov, and not to our fathers at Har Sinai.

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Living with a Cana'ani Slave-Girl

"If his master gives him (a Jewish servant) a 'wife', who bears him sons or daughters, the wife and her children belong to the master " (21:4).

This teaches us, says the Da'as Zekeinim M.T., that the master has the authority to force him to live with a Cana'ani slave, and that any children that they bear will be his slaves. But that happens only if he already has a wife, but not if he is single.

The reason for this, the Da'as Zekeinim explains, is because if he does not have a Jewish wife, he will become too attached to the Cana'ani slave, which, for obvious reasons, the Torah does not want to happen.

The Punishment of a Murderer

"If a man strikes his slave with a rod, and he dies he shall be avenged (nokom yinokem)" (21:20).

This Pasuk teaches us that if a man viciously strikes his slave, who succumbs to his wounds within twenty-four hours, the master is sentenced to death. Rashi explains that he is put to death by the sword, since we find the same term in connection with the sword ("cherev nokemes n'kam b'ris"), in Parshas Bechukosai.

And it is from here that the Gemara in Sanhedrin (52b) learns that every murderer is put to death by the sword, despite the principle that wherever the manner of death is not specified, the perpetrator receives chenek (strangulation), the most lenient of the four deaths prescribed by the Torah.

The reason for this ruling is that, it would be illogical for someone who kills his own slave to receive (the stricter) death by the sword and someone who kills a free man receives ( the more lenient) death by strangulation.

An Eye for an Eye

"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth" (21:24).

What the Pasuk means is that if Reuven knocks out Shimon's tooth or eye, he has to pay Shimon the value of the missing limb, as is assessed by Chazal.

It cannot be taken literally, says the Rosh, since in the process of blinding Reuven, one is liable to kill him, in which case, he will receive a bigger punishment that the one that the Torah prescribes.

Although the Pasuk mentions only a tooth and an eye, the Rosh adds, the Halachah of paying for the damages extends to all the twenty-four major limbs listed by Chazal. And the Torah lists these two as examples of limbs that are revealed and which, once removed, do not re-grow.

And the reason that the Torah chose these two limbs as examples, he explains, is because it was with them that Cham (No'ach's son, who brought slavery upon his descendents) sinned when he saw his father's nakedness and made some kind of whistling sound.

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