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

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Vol. 22   No. 18

This issue is sponsored anonymously

Parshas Mishpatim

Some Points Relevant to Parshas Shekalim
(Adapted from the Ramban)

The Three Donations

This they shall give …half a Shekel of the holy Shekel (double the regular one), each Shekel is twenty Geiroh … an offering to Hashem. Whoever passes through the census … shall give the offering to Hashem. The rich shall not give more … to give the offering of Hashem, to atone for their souls" (30:13-15)


As Rashi already points out, the triple mention of "the offering to/of Hashem" hints at the three donations that the people gave at that time: the fifteen commodities for the construction of the Mishkan (which fell under the heading of Bedek ha'Bayis) and two half-Shekalim, one for the Korb'nos Tzibur that would be brought that year, the other, to form the silver sockets on which the Mishkan stood. Whereas the former was a voluntary gift, the latter two were obligatory. Of these, the former became an annual donation, whilst the latter was given only once. It was also used to count K'lal Yisrael, which is why the Torah adds "to atone for their souls" (in keeping with what the Torah wrote in Pasuk twelve).


Although the Torah does not indicate here as to whether the donation to Bedek ha'Bayis was a once only or whether it was to become an annual donation, the Ramban cites Pesukim in Divrei ha'Yamim and in Nechemyah, which indicate that, beside the half-Shekel that they donated annually for the Korbanos, they also donated half a Shekel to Bedek ha'Bayis. Among the various uses of Bedek ha'Bayis listed in Shekalim, was paying the workers who did repairs in the Beis-ha'Mikdash.


A Third of a Shekel

The Ramban's proof that they gave half a Shekel annually for Bedek ha'Bayis is from a Pasuk in Nechemyah 10:33/34), which describes how they donated a third of a Shekel for Korbonos (of which it gives a detailed list) and for "the work of the House of G-d" … 'a third of a Shekel', because the Torah gives the value of the half Shekel as ten Geirah. Consequently, after they raised the value of the Shekel by one sixth, a third of a Shekel was equivalent to ten Geirah, so they changed the obligation accordingly from half a Shekel to a third.

In fact, says the author, citing a Mishnah in Shekalim, following their return from Galus Bavel, the amount that they initially donated annually was a Darchon (which is larger than a Sela). It should be pointed out that the minimum amount required for the annual donation is actually half a Sela (refer to the underlined phrase in the opening Pesukim), which is the equivalent of a Shekel, as a Sela equals two Shekalim. They subsequently lowered the donation, first to a Sela, then to half a Sela (a Shekel). Later, when they hit hard times, they wanted to lower the donation still further to a Dinar (half a Shekel, quarter of a Sela). This was not possible however, since one is not permitted to give less than the amount of ten Geirah fixed by the Torah.

A basic condition regarding the half-Shekel is that, as long as the donation is not less than ten Geirah, the people can give as much as they like, provided they all give the same.


David ha'Melech's Mistake

As is well-known, David ha'Melech sinned in counting the people, and for that he was punished with a plague of pestilence which struck the nation. It is inconceivable, says the Ramban, that this great Torah-scholar should have been unaware of the sin of counting the people without Shekalim and of its consequences - which are clearly hinted in Pasuk fifteen. He therefore attributes the sin to his belief that they could obtain an atonement for the counting, by donating half a Shekel after the counting had been performed.

The commentary discussing the Ramban's explanation, points out how the Pasuk clearly indicates that the plague comes about via the Ayin ha'ra that ensues as a direct result of the counting.

He then cites the Ramban in Bamidbar (1:3), who rejects his own explanation here, and who writes that the plague came about (not on account of the method of counting - of course he took half-Shekalim from the people, but) because he counted them unnecessarily - simply to revel in the large number of subjects over whom he ruled, or because he counted them from the age of thirteen, and not from twenty, as prescribed by the Torah.


The commentary also cites the Gemara in B'rachos, 62b. The Gemara there explains that because David described G-d as having incited Sha'ul against him, G-d punished him by causing him to forget a ruling (not to count Yisrael directly), which would result in a plague. In light of this Gemara, the question how David could make such a blatant error falls away.

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the Ramban)

Eved Ivri

"If you acquire a Jewish servant …" (21:1).

After explaining that Mishpatim follows the Aseres ha'Dibros, as it elaborates on the last of the Commandments - "Do not covet" (as we mentioned briefly in last week's issue), the Ramban discusses why the Torah opens Mishpatim with the Parshah of Eved Ivri. He attributes it to the fact that the Mitzvos connected with Eved Ivri are reminiscent of a). the Exodus from Egypt, like the Mitzvah of "Onochi", and b). the Creation of the World, like Shabbos. It is reminiscent of the former, as the Torah writes explicitly in Parshas Re'ei (15:15) in connection with the master's obligations that fall due at the conclusion of his term of servitude - " … remember that you were a slave in the Land of Egypt, and G-d redeemed you …".

And it is reminiscent of the latter, by virtue of the fact that just as Hashem created the world in six days and 'rested' on the seventh, so too, does the Eved Ivri serve six years and 'rest' on the seventh. Moreover, we find that the seventh year, like the seventh day, is holy, in the form of the Sh'mitah and the Yovel years.

And it is for the same reason that the Navi Yirmayahu (34:17-22) was unusually strict with regard to this Mitzvah, and decreed exile upon Yisrael for not adhering to its laws, thereby placing it on a par with the Mitzvah of Sh'mitah.


The Perfect Sequence

Commenting on the sequence of the Mitzvos that follow that of an Eved Ivri, the Ramban explains that next the Torah discusses the prohibition of murder, due to its severity … honouring one's parents … the prohibition of stealing … that of striking a person without killing him … killing a non-Jewish slave (which the Torah considers a grave sin by virtue of the severe punishment - the death-penalty should he die within twenty-four hours) … striking a pregnant woman and killing her fetus … wounding a fellow-Jew or a slave … and damaging an animal belonging to a fellow-Jew.


Special Treatment for Converts

"Do not (verbally) hurt a stranger (a convert) and do not oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (22:20).

The Ramban asks what the second half of the Pasuk has to do with the first half. Is the fact that we were strangers in Egypt a reason to provide Geirim with special treatment?

He dismisses Rashi's explanation -that if we treat him badly because he is a ger, he can turn round and remind us that we too, were strangers in Egypt and the similar explanation of the I'bn Ezra that we should remember that we too, were strangers in Egypt.


And he concludes that what the Pasuk means is that if one thinks that, because the Ger is a stranger, with no relatives and few friends, one can maltreat him with impunity, one should recall how, when we were in a similar situation, G-d heard our cries and rescued us from the hand of our oppressors. He is a G-d who stands up for the weak against the strong, and it is in that capacity that He will take the part of the Ger should we maltreat him.


Adding a Lo Sa'aseh to every Asei

"And all that I said to you, you shall observe" (23:13).

Rashi learns from this Pasuk that every Mitzvas Asei is accompanied by a Mitzvas Lo sa'aseh.

If that is so, says the Ramban, every Mitzvas Asei ought to be punishable by Malkos. And the reason that it is not is because the La'av is a 'La'av she'bi'Chelolus' (a general, unspecified La'av that covers a variety of issues).

But, in any event, he adds, the Gemara says in Eruvin (Daf 96a) that 'Hishamer' that is mentioned in connection with an Asei is an Asei, and not a La'av.


The Ramban therefore explains the Pasuk as an additional La'av to observe all La'avin connected with idolatry - not to worship them, to bow down to them, to put to death anyone who sacrifices to them and not to manufacture any form of image, adding a prohibition against mentioning the name of an idol or causing it to be mentioned.

The K'li Chemdah attributes the Ramban's source for this explanation, even though there is no hint about idolatry in the first half of the Pasuk, to the fact that the Torah says "all that *I* said to you …". For Chazal have taught that whereas the last eight of the Aseres ha'Dibros were said by Moshe, the first two, to believe in the One G-d and in no other, which are written in the first person, were told to Yisrael directly by G-d. Consequently, the Pasuk is warning us here to give special attention to those two Mitzvos.


A Covenant with the Cana'anim

"Do not form a covenant with them (the Cana'anim) or with their gods" (23:32).

At first sight, the Pasuk seems to be issuing a dual prohibition here, one against forming a covenant with the Cana'anim, the other, against forming a covenant with their gods. In other words, neither may one allow the former to remain alive, nor may one leave their idols intact.

Initially, the Ramban does explain the Pasuk like that. But he concludes that what the Torah is saying is that one may not make a pact with the Cana'anim as long as they continue to worship their gods. The moment they undertake to relinquish idolatry, it is permitted to keep them alive.


According to the Ramban, it would seem, it is permitted to keep alive any Cana'ani who gives up Avodah-Zarah, at any time.

Tosfos in Sotah (Daf 35b DH 'lerabos') however, maintains that, although the Cana'anim, like any nation with which Yisrael wages war, were given the option of peace terms - including the acceptance of the One G-d, once they refused the initial offer, Yisrael was obligated to destroy every Cana'ani man, woman and child. And that, apparently, is the opinion of the Rambam in Hilchos Melachim (Perek 6, Halachah 4).

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