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FEBRUARY 4-5, 2000 29 SHEBAT 5760

Rosh Hodesh Adar will be observed on Sunday & Monday, February 6 & 7.

Pop Quiz: Who filled in for Moshe when he was on Har Sinai for 40 days?

Rabbi Reuven Semah

"And these are the laws you shall place before them" (Shemot 21:1)

Moshe Rabenu is given the important job of teaching all of Israel the laws of the Torah. He is to place all the laws before them, which means that he must make them understandable to all the people. Rashi quotes the Talmud, which learns from the word "before them" that disputes must be brought in front of Jewish judges, or a bet din. The bet din will judge according to the laws of the Torah. For Jews to bring their cases before a gentile court - even if their laws are the same in a particular instance - is a desecration of Hashem's name, because it is tantamount to a public declaration that their system of justice is superior to that of the Torah.

Rabenu Bachya describes the severity of going to a gentile court. We all understand that murder is the greatest crime. Not only is the victim killed, but so are all of his future children. We know that all of the billions of people on this earth today came from one man. Killing that one man would mean killing an entire world of people. That is what Kayin did when he killed his brother Hebel. However, going to a gentile court is more severe! Kayin did teshubah for his act. He realized how awesome his sin was, and he repented. His teshubah was accepted. However, if one goes to a gentile court and wins the case he is awarded the money from his fellow Jew. He thinks this money is legally his, since it was awarded to him by the court. He won't realize that the Torah doesn't recognize this ruling, and he essentially is stealing the money. One can't make teshubah for stealing unless he returns the money, which he will not do in this case. Therefore he will not be forgiven forever.

Secondly, he desecrates Hashem's Name - a hilul Hashem - and a hilul Hashem is only forgiven at death. Each one of these points alone is severe, and when both are combined it is surely a very grave situation.

Not going to a bet din is caused by rationalizing that we can gain much more by suing in court. "I'll wipe the floor with him," or "I'll get a better settlement," or "They will treat me more fairly," etc. We must always put our financial position in the proper perspective. The true source of blessing is in direct proportion to the degree that our dealings follow the Torah. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Shmuel Choueka

"If you will lend to my people, the poor with you" (Shemot 22:24)

Although lending money to those who need it is a misvah, the Torah phrases it as if it's voluntary, "if - eem," to teach us that we should do the lending with all the goodness of our heart. The obligation should be as if it's voluntary. How can we bring ourselves to this feeling? The Torah says "he'ani imach - the poor with you," as if to say to view the poor as if he's one of your family. If we would have someone very close to us in a financial difficulty and we could help them, there is no question we would do it, and in a positive manner. We would be eager to help out our loved ones if we were able to. The Torah wants us to visualize those in need as if they were our close family, so that our helping them would come from love, not as an obligation. It is a tall order, but Hashem knows that we have it within us to be able to do it as He commands it of us. Shabbat Shalom.

Rabbi Yaacov Ben-Haim

Maran Harav Yosef Karo writes the following halachah in the Shulhan Aruch (Hoshen Mishpat 26:1): "It is forbidden to bring a case before non-Jewish judges or before their courts, even if they rule in this law the same way Israel does...Whoever comes to them for judgment is wicked. It is as if he commits blasphemy and raises his hand [to strike] at the Torah of Moshe Rabenu." The Rama adds: "He should be ostracized and excommunicated."

Why should the law in this case be so harsh? Aren't we dealing with a situation in which the non-Jewish court follows the Jewish law? But this is insufficient. The essential condition which characterizes a Jewish court is that the judges be of exemplary character. The Torah uses the same word for "judge" as it does for "G-d" - "Elokim". It is due to the fact that the judge is a supreme authority, empowered to execute any sentence by virtue of his decision-making powers, that he has this Divine quality. The Sages go so far as to say that the Holy One, Blessed Is He, Himself is present when the judges sit, and imbues them with holiness in their judgment. How then, can we choose to sit before judges whose conduct is remote from the Divine ideal?

In order to maintain an ideal and proper world, judges must manifest total perfection. The Mishnah (Abot 1:18) says, "Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says: The world stands on three things - truth, justice, and peace." The Rambam comments, "Justice refers to the proper functioning of society. Truth is intellectual attainment. Peace refers to proper character traits." The judge who holds the reins of justice, who is in charge of maintaining order of the continued existence of the world, must be perfect in all three of these areas. Only then, when we will be privileged to have a Sanhedrin whose members are the select of mankind, who put into practice the statutes of G-d, will we arrive at the solutions to society's problems, of which it says (Vayikra 18:5), "You shall observe My decrees and My judgments, which man shall carry out and live by them - I am Hashem." Shabbat Shalom.


"And you shall serve G-d your Lord, and He will bless your bread and your water, and banish sickness from among you." (Shemot 23:25)

The yeser hara (evil inclination) has many different ways of keeping a person from going to shul to pray. Some people argue that they can't spare the time away from their business, because customers may go elsewhere if they are not around. Others say that they need the extra sleep in order to remain healthy and strong for the rest of the day. Still others may use the cold weather as an excuse, saying that they will get sick if they go out in such weather.

This pasuk comes to answer all of these arguments. "And you shall serve G-d" - this refers to prayer. If you are afraid of losing customers - "and He will bless your bread and your water." Don't worry about getting sick from lack of sleep or nasty weather because "He will banish sickness from among you." (Yalkut Hamishai al HaTorah)


Moshe was on Har Sinai for forty days and forty nights, learning the Torah from Hashem. It is obviously beyond the ability of even the greatest contemporary man to memorize all of the details of the Torah in forty days. Moshe did this while he also learned how to observe the misvot, including the specifics of the construction of the Mishkan and its vessels, which are not written in the Torah. Consequently, we may deduce that the process of study which transpired on the mountain was nothing less than a miraculous feat.

The question thus arises: Why were the forty days an integral part of this learning process? This great wisdom could have been miraculously imparted to Moshe in a single moment. We may derive from here that Moshe's effort was required. Forty days of extreme mental intensity were mandated. Only after this unique endeavor was he rewarded with miraculous success. This procedure was specifically intended to serve as a model for future successful study. Effort is always required, no matter how unique the talents of the individual. Hashem rewards effort with success. (Peninim al HaTorah)

Answer to Pop Quiz: Aharon and Hur (Miriam's son).

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