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February 25, 2006 Parshas Mishpatim

27 Shevat 5766 Volume 20, Number 18

T
Freedom and Geula Hashkafic
Thought
The Townsman and the
Avraham Engelson
wenty years ago, American While the Book of Shemos is The Jewish People eventually
Jewry pressured the Soviet referred to as the “Book of received the Torah and built the Villager: Yeshayahu vs.
Government to allow Russian Redemption,” most of its sec- Mishkan after leaving Egypt, Yehezkel

I
Jews to leave the Soviet Union. tions are in fact not related to thus returning to the spiritual Rabbi Hayyim Angel
They rallied behind the pop- level of the avos, and as a n the year that king Uzziah died
ular slogan: “Let my people consequence, Shemos is I saw also the Lord sitting upon
go.” While these words referred to as the “Book a throne, high and lifted up, and his
echoed the first half of The Ten train filled the temple. Above it
of Redemption.” Shemos stood the seraphim; each one had
Moshe’s famous plea to
Pharaoh on behalf of the
Commandments in recounting the Jewish six wings; with two he covered his
People’s journey to the face, and with two he covered his
enslaved Jewish People, the and civil laws spiritual heights of the feet, and with two he did fly. And

are both equal


slogan omitted the second avos describes this one cried to another, and said,
half of Moshe’s request to “redemption.” However, Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of
Pharaoh, namely, that after
being let free the Jewish
expressions of Parshas Mishpatim does hosts; the whole earth is full of His
not fit into the Ramban’s
glory! (Yeshayahu 6:1-3).

People “will [then] serve Me Hashem’s will interpretation, primarily It is difficult not to be awestruck by
this magnificent throne room
[God]” (Shemos 7:26). describing civil laws as vision of Yeshayahu, permanently
Moshe’s request highlights opposed to the leaving of enshrined in our Kedushah liturgy
the fact that God did not only the Exodus from Egypt. The Egypt or the building of the and fittingly read as the Haftarah
want to bring the Jews out of Ramban explains that Hashem Mishkan. for Yitro, which contains God’s
slavery physically; He also had two aims in redeeming the The Nesivos Shalom explains revelation of the Ten
wanted to “free” the Jewish Jews: He wished to both take Parshas Mishpatim’s “place” in
Commandments. Chazal compare
Nation spiritually by making them out of Egypt and give and contrast this vision with that of
Sefer Shemos by describing the Yehezkel’s famous vision of the
them His slaves. them their spiritual mission. “ma’aseh ha-merkavah” (found at
the beginning of Sefer Yehezkel);
continued on page 3

this analysis can enable us to better

T
T abl e Torah Hardly a Mundane Matter
he first Rashi in Parshas Mishpatim connects An additional theme of this week’s parsha is the The verses that discuss compassion toward one’s
continued on page 2
Daniel Solomon

the lofty spiritual events of Parshas Yisro, importance of showing sensitivity, kindness, and fellow Jew coupled with the close proximity of the
namely the giving of the Ten Commandments, to mercy toward one’s fellow Jew, which the Torah parsha to the Ten Commandments teach us that
Parshas Mishpatim, which deals with seemingly explicitly connects to the Exodus from Egypt, although today we are unable to experience the
mundane civil law. Rashi’s message is that for the warning us, “… to taunt or oppress a stranger, for miraculous events of the Exodus from Egypt, we
Jew, religious devotion involves not only lofty spiri- you were strangers in Egypt.” Furthermore, the can still attain equally grand spiritual heights by per-
tual practice but also seemingly ordinary, worldly Ramban believes the mitzvah of freeing a Jewish forming mitzvos between ourselves and our fellows.
matters such as the laws of damages and money bondsman is a reminder of Israel’s own freedom
lending. from Egypt.
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Is there a Place for The Townsman and the Villager continued from page 1
understand these visions as well as personal backgrounds of the
prophecy in general. prophets may have affected their

T
Logic in Torah?
In Haggigah (13b), Rava claims that prophetic experiences (Rashi-
he Midrash1 states that the torah of place? Yehezkel and Yeshayahu saw the Abarbanel, Rambam #2); the other
Ephraim Meth

was given at dawn, while the same vision. He compares two pertain to the need for
These two extremes, says R. Bloch,
mishpatim, laws, were given in the Yehezkel to a villager who saw the prophets to express themselves in a
spawn two faulty approaches to
evening. This symbolizes the sym- king, and Yeshayahu, to a towns- manner appropriate to their audi-
Torah study. Adherents of the first
biosis between torah and laws.2 Just man who saw the king. Although ences (Rambam #1, Tosafot).
extreme refuse to acknowledge par-
as we cannot easily claim that dawn allels between Torah and common there are significant ostensible dif- Furthermore, several mefarshim
precedes evening or that evening sense; consequently, they are unable ferences between the visions of stress how a prophet’s historical
precedes dawn, we cannot accord to decide any matter with certainty, these two prophets, namely that context helps shape the way he per-
primacy solely to torah or to mish- since subjective certainty relies on its Yehezkel describes the merkavah ceives God. For example, Rashi
patim. appeal to common sense. In con- vision at great length while (on Yehezkel 1:4) observes that
Clearly, the Midrash is treating torah trast, adherents of the second Yeshayahu devotes but a few verses since Yehezkel was prophesying at
and mishpatim as subcategories of extreme attempt to explain the to the same description, Rava links the time of the destruction of
the Torah value system given to entire Torah in terms of economics, the two. What exactly is the mean- Jerusalem, Yehezkel perceived God
Moshe at Mount Sinai. The Midrash law, sociology, etc.; however, they fail ing of Rava’s cryptic statement? in a “violent storm.” Malbim (on
Rashi in Haggigah, and Abarbanel Yehezkel 1:4) adds that Yeshayahu
does not, however, clarify the distinc- to adequately explain the fine dis-
(introduction to Yeshayahu, p. 4), saw God on His throne, since the
tion between torah and mishpatim. tinctions that are so integral to
suggest that Yeshayahu was accus- Mikdash was still standing at that
Indeed, the classical commentaries halakha. R. Bloch names the second
tomed to audiences with human time; in contrast, Yehezkel was in
remain mysteriously silent about this approach higgayon ha-mishpati,
kings. Yehezkel, in contrast, lived exile, and therefore saw God “on
distinction, even legal thought.
in the Babylonian exile. Since wheels,” moving away from
We cannot
when both The correct
Yeshayahu was familiar with the Jerusalem. Abarbanel (on
torah and mish- approach to
ignore the
experience of an awesome, power- Yeshayahu 6:2) quotes Kuzari with
patim are writ- Torah study,
ful human leader, he was relatively a similar idea.
ten in the same
crucial
taking into
verse.3 In light of less stunned by the vision of the In their subsequent discussion of
account the
contribution of
the symbiosis King of kings than Yehezkel and Rava’s statement, Chazal observe
existence of
discussed by the consequently described it more that the exile caused the angels in
b o t h
human logic and
Midrash, I will tersely. Yehezkel’s vision to decline: they
extremes, is a
homiletically Rambam (Moreh Nevuchim III:6) had only four wings, whereas
law towards
synthesis of
discriminate proposes two additional interpreta- Yeshayahu had perceived the angels
appreciation
our true
between torah tions: Yeshayahu’s audience may with six wings (Haggigah 13b).
for the Torah’s Similarly, a Yerushalmi (Sukkah 4:3,
and mishpatim, transcendence have understood the vision imme-
leaving a discus- understanding with aware- diately because they were on a high 54c) concludes that the Babylonian
servitude must have been worse
of Torah
sion of the ness of its spiritual level; hence, he needed to
words’ simple spend only a few verses talking than the Egyptian slavery. They
innate sensi- derive this from the manner in
meaning for a about the vision. In contrast,
bility. Just as which the respective communities
later date.4 Yehezkel needed to describe the
mishpatim were given after torah, we perceived God: the Israelites in the
vision in greater detail since his
R. Eliyahu Meir Bloch5 eloquently cannot impose our preconceived legal desert perceived God as “livnat ha-
audience did not understand and
articulates one of the largest intel- schemata upon the corpus of Torah sappir,” a brick of sapphire
therefore needed elaboration.
lectual problems that confront seri- literature. However, just as night pre- (Shemot 24:10). Yehezkel, in con-
Alternatively, perhaps Yeshayahu
ous Torah scholars. He points out cedes dawn, we cannot ignore the trast, describes God as an even ha-
himself attained a higher level of
that at one extreme the Torah often crucial contribution of human logic sappir, a stone of sapphire
prophecy, and therefore was not as
presents laws with details and dis- and law towards our true understand- (Yehezkel 1:26). Since stones are
overwhelmed by the vision as was
tinctions that seem beyond the grasp ing of torah. harder than bricks, the Yerushalmi
Yehezkel.
of human intelligence. At the same A second homiletic interpretation concludes that the Jews in
time, we find many Torah laws that Tosafot (on Haggigah 13b) present
can be suggested based on the writ- Babylonia must have been suffering
are tasteful and appealing to our another possibility: Yehezkel’s audi-
ings of R. Shimon Shkop.6 R. Shkop more.
common sense and to our logic-ori- ence believed that nobody would
is bothered by an apparent contra- Thus, we have seen that the
ented minds. These two extremes receive prophetic revelation in
diction between two laws. On the prophets’ portrayal of Truth is
seem to provide us with a mixed Babylonia. Therefore, Yehezkel
one hand, we are instructed to act affected by personal background,
message: do human logic and com- elaborated on his vision to con-
stringently when uncertainty arises vince his listeners that he indeed the nature of the audience, and
mon sense really have any place in regarding prohibitions of biblical historical context. Next week we
explaining the significance of Torah experienced the Shekhinah.
origin.7 However, we are also will discuss how these issues relate
laws, or is it the fine details that seem instructed to rule leniently in mone- The foregoing interpretations are
to Moshe Rabbenu’s superior
beyond our grasp that are really out tary matters. For example, when one valuable insights into the nature of
prophecy.
continued on page 3
prophecy. Two explain how the

EINAYIM L’TORAH • 2
Is there
vhv, ohn,a Place for Logic in torah? continued from page 2

litigant claims that he definitely owns the disput- matters stem from their legal, rather than 1. Shemos Rabbah 30:11, based on Shemos 19:16
ed object, and the second litigant says that he per- halakhic, status. Once a person legally possesses 2. R. Shlomo Kluger, in his introduction to Sefer Mili d-
haps owns it, we award the object to its present an object, he cannot be halakhically treated as a
Nezikin
holder even if he is the uncertain one. R. Shkop thief, even if he is uncertain about his rights to
asks if indeed the awardee is uncertain, shouldn’t that object. 3. See, for example,
contBamidbar 15:16
pagand
e 1 Devarim 17:11.
the possibility of violating the biblical prohibition There is a parallel between the ideas of R. Bloch
inued from
4. R. Samson Raphael Hirsch, in Horeb, defines torah as
of theft mandate us to rule stringently and force and R. Shkop. Both suggest that there is a synthe- “fundamental principles relating to mental and spiritual
him to cede the object to his opponent? sis between legal logic and the transcendence of preparation for life,” and mishpatim as “declarations of
R. Shkop suggests that “monetary mishpatim are the Torah. On the intellectual plane, R. Bloch
justice towards human beings.”
unlike all the mitzvos of the Torah. Regarding all notes that certainty is linked to a logical apprecia-
mitzvos, our main obligation is to fulfill the mitz- tion of the Torah, while practically, R. Shkop 5. Shiurei Da’as, vol. 1, p. 7
vah. However, in monetary matters our obliga- points out that halakhic laws are based on an 6. Shaarei Yosher 5:1
tion to fulfill the mitzvah is preceded by a legal already present legal status. Both agree, however,
7. Rambam, Hilchos Mamrim 1:5
obligation to clarify who legally deserves the that the Torah is the primary determinant of our
money. Thus, our lenient rulings in monetary ultimate values.

Freedom and Geula continued from page 1


intimate connection between civil laws and mandments and civil laws are both equal judgments, just as it came down to Har
the giving of the Torah. He cites the well- expressions of Hashem’s will. Sinai to give the Jewish Nation the com-
known explanation of Rashi that the The connection between Parshas mandments of the Torah.
“Vav” in the first word of Parshas Mishpatim and Har Sinai indicates that It emerges that Sefer Shemos is indeed a
Mishpatim connects the civil laws located obeying civil laws is a spiritual activity. thematically consistent book. It describes
in this week’s parsha with the Ten Imposing taxes to support communal the Jews’ transformation from an enslaved
Commandments recounted in last week’s services and other types of civil laws is people in Egypt to the servants of
parsha. The connection between the two required to help maintain a stable society. Hashem. The Jewish People needed to
Torah sections shows that the laws con- While the Torah’s civil laws accomplish receive the Torah at Har Sinai along with
tained in both sections are linked and of many of the same functions as govern- its civil laws in order to develop into true
equal importance. The relationship mental civil laws, the Nesivos Shalom servants.
between them is also apparent from the explains that there is a qualitative differ-
following verse in Tehilim: Magid Devarav ence between the two types of laws. While Hopefully, reading about the freedom of
L’Yaakov Chukav U’Mishpatav L’Yisrael gentile laws are man made and pragmatic our forefathers and remembering the
(Psalm 147). This verse describes the in nature, Hashem’s civil laws are enacted recent freedom of Russian Jewry will out-
telling over of Hashem’s Devarim, or com- as expressions of His intention of how the line for us, the Jewish nation, what we
mandments to the Jewish nation, as well as world should run, and in fact, Hashem should be doing. Just like the Jews who
the giving of His Mishpatim, or civil laws. involves Himself with disputes involving left Egypt, we too must try to improve
From the juxtaposition in this verse civil law, as the Talmud says, “The ourselves spiritually by enhancing our level
between Dvarav (from the root of Shekhinah resides with three who sit in of Avodas Hashem and obeying all of
Devarim) and Mishpatav (from the root of judgment” (Berachos 6a). The Shekhinah Hashem’s commandments—especially the
Mishpatim), it is apparent that the com- comes down to the world to deal with civil civil ones.

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PARSHAS MISHPATIM • 3
Parsha Points in Mishpatim
Ephraim Meth
• Mishpatim means “laws.” The following laws are discussed in this week’s parsha: Servitude: Jewish
man and maid-servant. Murder: Deliberate and accidental murder, murder of parents, murder of
slaves, oxen murdering people or slaves, and murder of thieves. Moral misdeeds: Penalties for kid-
napping, sorcery, bestiality, worship of other entities, and seduction. Favoritism of judges, truthful Einayim L’Torah
testimony, falsehood, and bribery. Cursing: Cursing parents and others. Torts: Payment for induc- 500 W. 185th Street
ing miscarriage, personal damage, and for damage to slaves. Payment for damages by pits, oxen, New York, NY 10033
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objects. Guardians: Payments of the altruistic guardian, paid guardian, and borrower. Pain: Pain editor@einayim.org
of a convert, orphan, or widow. Compassion for animals. Diet: Non-kosher meat and the prohibi-
tion of meat and milk. Times and ceremonies: Shemittah, Shabbat, three annual festivals, first Executive Director
Editors In Chief
fruits, and first-born redemption. Canaanites: Exhortation to destroy Canaanite idols. Exhortation Yehuda Brand
against treaties with Canaanites. Yehuda Brand
M a n a g i nFriedman
Pinchas g Editor
• The Jews enter a blood-covenant with Hashem. They agree to obey and heed His word, which Josh Weinberg
Moshe reads to them. Moshe offers sacrifices for them. Executive Editors
Zev
A s s o Koller
ciate Editors
• Moshe ascends into the cloud that surrounds Mount Sinai. He leaves Aharon and Chur behind to
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EINAYIM L’TORAH • 4 PARSHAS MISHPATIM