by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS MISHPOTIM 5774 BS"DCh. 21, v. 2: "Ki sikneh evved Ivri" - When you will buy a Hebrew slave - This verse discusses the sale of a slave who has stolen. The verse discussing a person who is so destitute that he sells himself begins with "V'chi yomuch ochicho." Our verse does not mention selling, only buying, because he is sold by the court. This also explains the choice of Ivri, rather than Yisroel or "ochicho." He has sinned by stealing, hence "ivri," a sin. (Eitz Hadaas Tov)
Ch. 21, v. 21: "Ach im yom o yomayim yaamod lo yukom ki chaspo hu" - These words are homiletically explained by Rabbi Yaakov of Poznan: If a person only stands in prayer and repentance for a day, Yom Kipur, or two days, Rosh Hashonoh, "lo yukom," he will not endure, "ki chaspo hu," as it is only for his sustenance that he has prayed. (Nachal K'dumim)
Ch. 21, v. 37: "Chamishoh bokor y'sha'leim tachas hashor v'arba tzone tachas ha'seh" - The gemara B.K. 79b gives two reasons for the disparity between payment for an ox, 5 times its value, and a sheep, 4 times its value. Rabbi Yochonon ben Zakai says that the Torah has mercy even upon a thief. Since the thief wants to make a quick get away, he can carry a sheep. Since this entails some great effort and embarrassment, he only pays quadruple the value of the sheep. An ox is too heavy to carry, so the thief leads it away. He is not subject to the embarrassment of carrying an animal in front of people, and therefore pays more, five times the value of the ox. Rabbi Meir says that one pays only 4 times the value of a sheep because its loss is not that of a working animal. However, when an ox is stolen, not only does the owner endure the financial loss, but also loses a working animal. Therefore the thief pays 5 times its value.
The Ibn Ezra offers another explanation in the name of Rabbi Y'shu'oh. A sheep can be hidden and stolen. This can be done by anyone. To steal an ox and do this in a concealed manner requires the skills of a professional thief. A professional thief deserves to pay professional prices when caught.
The Rambam in Moreh N'vuchim section 3 explains that in general people can keep personal items locked and away from thieves. This serves as a deterrent and thus theft of such items is not so common. The Torah therefore suffices with a double payment from the thief. Cattle must be brought to pasture. This leaves them open to theft without having to break into someone's property. To avoid this becoming widespread the strong deterrent of double double payment is levied. This explains the quadruple payment for the theft and sale/slaughter (so that the thief would not be caught red handed with the theft in his possession) of a sheep. Why five times the value for an ox? Sheep generally graze together and the shepherd can keep an eye out over his whole flock for theft. Oxen graze in a very spread out area. It is impossible for one guard to keep an eye on all of them, thus raising the ease of opportunity for stealing an ox. This deserves even stricter retribution, hence a payment of five-fold is levied.
Ch. 22, v. 2: "V'nimkar bigneivoso" - The Sforno explains why the Torah prescribes such a strong punishment specifically for a poor thief. A person who has no assets would have no deterrent from stealing, because once he has passed it on or has consumed it, there is no recourse for the victim to recover his loss, as the poor thief has no assets. The world would thus be filled with robbers, an untenable situation. The Torah therefore meted out such strong medicine to deter a poor person from stealing.
Ch. 22, v. 22: "KI IM tzo'oke yitzak eilai - IF ONLY he will cry out to me" - The Ramban asks, "What is meant by "KI IM?" The K'hilas Yitzchok answers in the name of Rabbi Mordechai of Pinsk with a gemara B.B. 16a. Rabbi Levi said that P'ninoh had noble intentions in aggravating Chana. Emphasizing that Chana had no children would bring Chana to praying more fervently to Hashem. In spite of P'ninoh's noble intentions, she was punished by having most of her children die in her lifetime. This is alluded to in our verse. "Do not cause anguish to ANY widow or orphan." Rashi says that this includes anyone. This applies especially to a person who has a broken spirit. "KI IM," EVEN IF your only intention in making them suffer is, "TZO'OK YITZAK EILAI," that they should cry out to Me more fervently in prayer, and that I should hearken to their voice, (v. 23) "V'choroh api," and My anger will burn, and you will be punished in spite of your good intentions.
Ch. 24, v. 6: "Vachatzi hadom zorak al hamizbei'ach" - And half the blood he threw onto the altar - This was a two-sided covenant. The altar served, so to say, as a physical representative of Hashem's presence. (Sforno)
Ch. 24, v. 7: "Naa'seh v'nishmo" - We will do and we will hear - Doing is mentioned ahead of hearing. Philosophers with their limited grasp only have a glimmer of connection to spirituality, if even that. Given that Hashem has put our souls into physical bodies in a physical world, DOING brings us much greater comprehension than thinking, hearing, alone. (Holy Admor of Kotzk)
Ch. 24, v. 7: "Naa'seh v'nishmo" - We will do and we will hear - How can you do if you don't first hear what to do? A person on a high spiritual level is naturally drawn to do Hashem's will just as a newborn is naturally drawn to basic food. When one sins and becomes spiritually ill his connection to spirituality is weakened. This is just like when a person is sick and loses his appetite for food. At the time of the giving of the Torah the preparations the bnei Yisroel made so purified, "poska zuhamoson," them that they were capable of doing Hashem's mitzvos, spiritual sustenance, even before hearing precisely what to do. (N'sivos Sholo-m of Slonim citing the Magid of Zhlotchov)
Ch. 24, v. 11: "Va'yechezu hoElokim va'yochlu va'yishtu" - And they had a vision of Elokim and they ate and drank - This is written to honour Moshe. These people came close to Hashem through a spiritual vision, but they still needed to eat and drink to sustain their physical bodies. Not so Moshe. He ascended to the heavens and remained there for fort days and nights and did not need to eat or drink at all. (Chizkuni)
Ch. 24, v. 12: "A'lei eilai hohoroh ve'he'yei shom" - Ascend to Me onto the mountain and remain there - It is insufficient for a person to just ascend spiritually. He must also remain there. As well, he should be there in his totality, not with his body there and his mind somewhere else. (Holy Admor of Kotzk)
Ch. 24, v. 18: "Va'yovo Moshe b'soch he'onon va'yaal el hohor" - And Moshe entered into the cloud and he ascended the mountain - Just as a holy spirit is sent down to this world and is clothed in a physical garment, so too, before Moshe ascended to the heavens by way of the mountain he entered into a garment of cloud, a form of spirituality for him to exist in the heavens. (Holy Zohar on parshas Noach) This created the ability to exist for forty days and forty nights without eating or drinking.
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