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15th Day of Shevat, 5745
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Study of Rambam One Chapter Daily

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Vol. 25 Shevat-Nissan, 5745

Shabbos Parshas Mishpotim
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25th Day of Shevat, 5745

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  A Coin of FireEve of the 7th of Adar, 5745  

[The first sichah has been published as a separate essay, entitled A Coin of Fire.]

1. The main Torah reading today was the portion of Mishpatim, which was read prior to the reading of Parshas Shekalim; what lesson and teaching may .rn /1nrn ~Zo f rorm 1 t9

Despite the many topics and mitzvos included in the portion of Mishpatim, its theme is very clear and concise; it is expressed by the name Mishpatim, which means laws.

The corpus of the 613 commandments of the Torah may be divided into three general categories: Chukim [statutes], Edos [testimonies or precepts] and Mishpatim [laws].

The first category, statutes, includes those commandments which are superrational and transcend intellect in one of two ways:

  1. statutes for which we cannot find a logical explanation; they defy interpretation,

  2. statutes which are antilogical or antithetical to normal reasoning.

Often these statutes may seem oppressive to outsiders, as Rashi comments on the law of the Red Heifer: ... the nations of the world taunt the Jews, saying: What is this command and what reason is there for it. We are scoffed at for observing these statutes.

Testimonies, the second group, are mitzvos which have no independent rationale and if not for the edict of G-d these mitzvos would not have been thought of, nor would we have elected to observe them on our own. Nevertheless, having been commanded by G-d to observe them, they do take on a form of testimony, and bear witness to certain particular themes, e.g. Pesach, ... Commemorating the Exodus from Egypt. Somehow, once they were commanded they do make sense, and our observance becomes meaningful.

The third group, Mishpatim, laws, are those commandments which human intellect demands and which society requires and expects; if the Torah had not ordered us to perform them, we would have chosen to establish these laws on our own. [This group includes: Honor to parents, charity, not to murder or steal, etc.]

To recap: Chukim defy rationalization, they have no logical substance; Edos, in and of themselves are also without reasonable substance, but they bear testimony on matters of great substance; while Mishpatim are conceptually substantive and are easily understood and accepted by everyone.

These categories, when interpreted literally, are often applied to group the 613 mitzvos within the rigid frameworks just described. However, they may also be loosely or figuratively understood, so that often, we find all mitzvos referred to as Edos. Chukim or Mishpatim.

For us, this synonymous use is not just a choice of style, but it indicates a deeper meaning, that in truth each and every mitzvah has all three aspects. The laws have the theme of statutes and the statutes may be defined as laws, and the concept of testimony applies to all three.

In our Divine service we may understand this point in the following manner.

What is the theme of testimony in all the commandments? They all bear witness to the connection and attachment between man and the Holy One, Blessed be He, despite the vast incompatibility of physical and spiritual.

How does the theme of statute apply to all the mitzvos? Simple! Even those mitzvos which our intellect motivates us to fulfill must be done only as a commandment of G-d, with acceptance of the yoke of heaven; the mitzvah may have a solid logical reason still, we do it because it is the will of G-d! There is a well-known saying, quoted in many Chassidic discourses, that, If we had been commanded to chop wood ... [we would fulfill that command with the same enthusiasm.

The theme of Mishpatim also permeates and encompasses all the mitzvos, including the statutes. How? Take for example any mitzvah of the Chukim group which has no logical rationalization. The dearth of reasoning is only in relation to the logic of the commandment itself. We cant understand why it was commanded, why it should be done. However, once it was decreed, even the average human intellect can well understand that if this be G-ds will there must be some great quality and benefit in doing it. Thus, notwithstanding its superrational state, you can fulfill even a statute, not by force, as one who is coerced, but rather with enthusiasm and zealousness, just as you would perform a mitzvah which is very meaningful to you, and your own mind motivated you to do i t f

It is this theme that is emphasized in the portion of Mishpatim by including such statutes as: Do not cook meat in its mothers milk. Certainly this is a Chok. To prohibit the combination of milk and meat in eating, cooking and any other form of benefit, has no logical explanation, yet it is included in the portion of Mishpatim!

This exposition should and must be understood even by the average Jew. To augment the explanation it would be wise to refer to an explanation of the term mitzvah brought in several Chassidic discourses.

Mitzvah is of the same root as tzavsah which means connection, for through mitzvos there is a connection and association made between the person who performs the commandment and the giver of the mitzvah, the Holy One, Blessed be He.

There is a parable told to illustrate this relationship:

There once was a great, wise man who had exceptional and wondrous intellectual faculties. He was truly a genius, who had attained the apex of wisdom and had reached the true essence of understanding. He was continually involved only in cerebral, intellectual pursuits. Naturally, this great sage had nothing in common with the simpleton, especially since the ignorant fellow never bothered with intellectual matters, and never used his brain to investigate or think about wisdom, science, or knowledge. In the eyes of the genius, the simpleton was subhuman. Now what should happen if for some reason the man of brilliance should command the ignorant fool to do something for him. Instantaneously, with this one commandment, the ignoramus rises from oblivion to the level of humanity in the eyes of the philosopher. When the simpleton will actually do the request of the thinker he will create a bridge of connection between himself and this lofty individual. A relationship has been developed by fulfilling the request of the wise man. By bringing satisfaction and great pleasure to the sage, he has become important and appreciated.

What do we learn from this story?

When a Jew fulfills the commandment of the Holy One, Blessed be He, he effects a connection and association between himself and G-d. Additionally, he causes pleasure and satisfaction for G-d, who is satisfied that His words and commands were followed. He has become important in G-ds eyes! The overwhelming joy and pleasure that he will experience at that moment motivates him to perform the statutes of G-d with excitement and tremendous enthusiasm.

This is the lesson of Mishpatim, that all aspects of the Divine service in Torah and mitzvos, even the performance of the superrational, or anti-logical Chukim, must be performed and carried out in a surge of excitement, warmth, joy, and pleasure, for he is doing the will of G-d!! It is S 1 shar of 1 ovr !

An additional point will help us to see this idea in the perspective of Mishpatim.

The first verse of Mishpatim says: And these are the laws which you shall place before them. In Talmud Yerushalmi it compares the word tosim (to place) with the word sima (treasure). This means that the laws of Torah, and all aspects of Yiddishkeit should be presented to the Jewish people as a wonderful treasure, as precious as diamonds, pearls and precious stones. Naturally this will engender enthusiasm and excitement in the performance of those precious mitzvos. When transmitting Torah to the Jewish people make sure to reach the inner essence of the soul of the Jew, for then he will appreciate that the mitzvah brings satisfaction to the inner desire of G-d and he will be overjoyed at his opportunity to fulfill C.-ds will

2. In addition to the lesson of Shekalim and Mishpatim we must also take a lesson from Shabbos Mevarchim Adar.

The theme of the month of Adar can be expressed by understanding the meaning of the name Adar, for it is, The name by which it is called in Hebrew, and therefore represents its essence.

Should you question that, The names of the months came up with us from Babylon, and maybe they are not Hebrew? It has been discussed on previous occasions that since we find so many homiletical interpretations on the names of the months connected to their Hebrew meanings, this indicates that they are really Hebrew in root. It was during the Babylonian exile that these particular words were attached to specific months [prior to that the months were indicated by numerical order]. We might go further and say that the names were actually used for the months in earlier times in Eretz Yisrael, before the destruction of the first Temple, but they were lost or forgotten and renewed during the Babylonian Exile.

In explaining the meaning of the word, Adar, my father, of saintly memory, writes: Adar means power and strength, as it says (Tehillim 93:4), ... the L-rd is (Adir) mighty on High. He further quotes the Talmud in Beitzah 15a: He who desires his property to be preserved for him should plant therein an Adar [type of tree], for it says: The L-rd is mighty on High. Rashi explains there that it means continuity and strength.

The Tzemach Tzedek in his discourse on the verse, The L-rd is mighty on High, brings the Comnrn i n Monnehns S

Let the Mighty One come and take vengeance for the sake of the mighty, from the mighty, by means of the mighty. Let the Mighty One come that is the Holy One, Blessed be He, as it is written: The L-rd is mighty on High, and takes vengeance for the sake of the mighty that is Israel, as it is written: They are the mighty ones in whom is all My delight. Clearly the Shabbos which blesses the month of Adar comes to us with the message that our Divine service in all aspects of Torah and mitzvos must be done with strength, continuity and firmness.

This must be understood in simple terms.

A normal healthy Jew might reason that it is not necessary to labor and toil in the service of G-d in order to fulfill the dictum of the Mishnah, I was created to serve my Master. Why all the anxiety? Instead, I can take it easy. So he sleeps the slumber of the righteous, or he sits idle all day, which is also considered as sleeping! This philosophy can lead a person to sleep through the seventy years of his life!

You ask how someone can sleep for seventy years. Everyone knows the story of the Gemara, that Choni Hamagel slept for 70 years! Except that when Choni slept his soul rose to the spiritual worlds and drew new life, while this person is just sleeping!

Sleep is not a bad thing. The body has all its faculties, organs and vessels. In fact some functions of the body operate even better when we sleep, e.g. the digestive system. But this is not the case when we speak of his purpose in life.

Well finally, one day, he realizes that he really cannot sleep his whole life away, so he decides that he has to wake up. So he makes a deal with his yetzer tov [good inclination] to awaken and to outsmart his yetzer hora [evil inclination].

But he is only partially successful. In outsmarting the yetzer hora he had hoped that he would start improving his life and his Divine service with new strength, vigor and greater joy. Instead, his deal backfires and the yetzer hora still gets the better of the deal. He already had livelihood, honor, pleasure but it lures him into new desires: more physical pleasures, more money, more honor.

He just woke up, but the yetzer hora exploits his new enthusiasm for his own shoddy and dubious ends.

The month of Adar comes along and directs our attention to the true path of Divine service not only to be awake, but also to serve G-d with vigor and strength, which should propel him to steadily increase his involvement and accomplishments.

For example, when you awake in the morning you proclaim: I offer thanks to You, living and eternal King, for You have mercifully restored my soul within me; Your faithfulness is great. Your thanks to G-d for awakening, with a refreshed soul, may be said with simple appreciation, or it can be said with the strength of one who realizes that the King of kings is hovering over you waiting to see just how you would say I offer thanks.

If you had taken the moment to meditate on the deep significance of what you were about to say, you would then be prepared to advance to the later stages of Divine worship in the daily prayers: Offer praise to the L-rd, proclaim His Name (See Siddur, Morning Prayer), then the Verses of Praise, the Blessings of the Shema, and then the thanks of: We thankfully acknowledge that You are the L-rd ... of the daily Amidah. Each moment of the day, every day of the year, will be strengthened to help you rise to higher levels of Divine service.

The month of Adar and the Shabbos Mevarchim of Adar, give you the ability to carry on in this manner.

Now we can combine the teachings of Shekalim, Mishpatim and Mevarchim Adar. The lesson of the coin of fire, that the action itself becomes holy, and the lesson of Mishpatim, that all aspects of Torah must be done with warmth and enthusiasm, together add depth and breadth to the lesson of Adar, that our Divine service must be full of energy and forcefulness. The combined directive is now full-bodied, broadened and comprehensive. It gives us meaning in all aspects of our lives and for all future times. The action is essential, let us put it into practice. And since two, together, can carry more than the total of both when each one carries separately, so too, a triple lesson is really magnified many fold more.

Which reminds us of the Terumah, which is mentioned three times in the portion of Shekalim, and also the three Holy Temples, which are included in the verse: And make a sanctuary for Me. Especially the Third Beis HaMikdash. And this three-fold action should bear fruit and offspring more Jews which will bring the unity of the Jewish people, Torah and the Holy Land ... the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year (Devarim 11:12).

3. On the verse: I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river (Shmos 23:31), Rashi comments: ... to the river the Euphrates. This is clear to Rashi from the simple meaning of the verse, as well as from previous references in the Torah to the Euphrates River.

Back in Bereishis, the five-year-old Chumash student learned of the special importance of the Euphrates. When the Torah states: ... and the fourth river is Euphrates (Bereishis 2:14), Rashi says: The most important of all, being mentioned in connection with the Eretz Yisrael. Where is it actually mentioned? When G-d spoke to Avraham at the Covenant of the Parts He said: To your descendants I have given this land ... as far as the great river, the Euphrates (Bereishis 15:18). On that verse Rashi comments:

Because it is associated with Eretz Yisrael, Scripture calls it great river although it is the last mentioned of the four rivers that went out of Eden, as it is said: ... and the fourth river is the


So Rashi tells us, that we already know of the great importance of the Euphrates, and when in our verse it uses the word the river in connection with the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, without indicating which river, we know that it must be the Euphrates.

Learning Rashis commentary here, and realizing that its meaning refers to the promised boundaries of Eretz Yisrael at the time of the first conquest of the land, we are faced with a serious question.

In the portion of Beshallach we learned, that on the verse, Then the chieftains of Edom were terrified, the mighty men of Moav were panic-stricken ... (Shmos 15:15) Rashi explained that the words terrified and panic-stricken do not convey emotions of fear because ... they had no cause to fear anything, because they did not march against them. Everyone knew that only the land of Canaan was to be conquered and not Edom and Moav. Consequently, there was no cause for fear among the Edomites and Moavites. Instead they were only ... annoyed and distressed by the glory that Tqrsol hnd sehiovod

The dilemma.

The Torah clearly states here: And I will set your borders from the Red Sea ... until the river. Looking at any map of the Middle East you clearly see that this border includes the lands of Edom and Moav! The Jewish people were on their way to enter the land and settle within these boundaries, not only the land of Canaan!

Although the earlier promise to Avraham, at the Covenant of the Parts, may be understood to refer to the future borders of Eretz Yisrael, the discussion here is about the immediate entering into the land and the proposed borders at that time.

The paradox will be magnified later in the book of Bamidbar when the five-year-old Chumash student will learn, that at the time they actually conquered and settled the land they were told not to attack or conquer Edom and Moav!? Still more perturbing; in the description of the boundaries given at the end of Bamidbar there is no mention of the Euphrates!

As Rashi does not raise these questions one must assume that the clarification lies in the simple understanding of the text of Scripture up to this point.

At this point I should also touch upon several questions that were presented to me in relationship to the aforementioned discussion of Rashi.

Rashis point was that Edom and Moav, who were related to Avraham, felt jealousy at the glory of Israel. The other Canaanite nations were only angered. Yishmael was also a son of Avraham, yet since he did teshuvah [repentance] he made no claim on the glory given to Yitzchaks offspring. Of Avrahams other children we are told, that they were sent away and also had no share with Yitzchok. Finally, Amon, being the son of Lots younger daughter, who was modest and had named him euphemistically, would rather keep his anonymity.

On this interpretation the following questions were raised and presented to me. (1) If Yishmael repented, was he not was now more worthy of sharing the honor with the children of Yitzchok? and (2) Maybe after so many years, all of the happenings and relationships of the past were forgotten and there should be no distinction between Edom, Moav and the other nations?

In answer to question (one), we may look to Rashi who had defined Yishmaels repentance in terms of ... placing Yitzchok before him (Bereishis 25:9), clearly admitting that all the glory will belong to the offspring of Yitzchok. Regarding question (two) it should be noted that the question is strange and not properly structured on logic. In the rules of Talmudic study even the elementary student should know that to raise a question you must have a solid foundation on which you base your query. You cannot say maybe or perhaps the case was such and therefore I challenge your assumption. There is no challenge based on maybe!

Having raised this point, I will take this opportunity to alert the public about the fact that in yeshivah circles it has not been customary to learn the Rules of Talmudic Study; not knowing the rules, questions such as the previous one may pop up.

My teachers also did not teach me the Rules of Talmudic Study, which I first saw in the Vilna Shas, at the end of tractate Berachos, several years after I was already learning on my own. When I perused the rules I found that in addition to outlining the well-known rules of Talmud, e.g., In a dispute between R. Yehudah and R. Meir the halachah follows R. Yehudah or, The halachah is according to Shmuel in monetary matters, etc., they also outline the approach to proper and systematized study, which should be taught as an introduction to Talmud study. Sorry to say, no attention is given to this.

When I searched for an explanation as to why these rules are not studied in the yeshivos I was given two answers: (1) They are printed at the end of tractate Berachos, which laymen study. It is not one of the traditional yeshivah tractates. (2) We rely on the clear thinking of the students to find the right way to study. Why teach rules which were not made at the time of the Talmud but st n milch 1 stor d:~tf~?tw

Well, reality catches up with us, you see the results of not teaching the Rules of Study; it brings ignorance in the proper logical structure of a question.

To return to the explanation of our questions on Rashi.

At the beginning of Mishpatim Rashi commented:

[The words] and these are, adds something to the former subject. What is the case with the former commandments? They were given at Sinai! So these too were given at Sinai! (Shmos 21:1)

This indicates to us that the contents of Mishpatim, including the verses which speak of the boundaries of Eretz Yisrael, were told to Moshe subsequent to Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah at Sinai). If so, they were spoken several weeks after the splitting of the sea, which took place on the seventh day of Pesach. [The Torah was given seven weeks later and the laws of the portion of Mishpatim (including the border description) even after that.]

At the time that the Jews left Egypt and came to the Red Sea, everyone thought that their intention was only to conquer Canaan. When Moshe had spoken to the Jews in Egypt he had said to them that G-d promised to give them the land of Canaan (Shmos 6:4). This was the information which the nations also had received.

At the time the Jews came to Egypt they had stated: We have come to stay a while in your land (Bereishis 47:4): In other words, their intention was to return to their own land, the land of Canaan. So too, was the promise that G-d had given Yaakov: I will also bring you back again (Bereishis 46:4). Where? To Canaan.

Therefore the other nations had no reason to think that the Jews were intent upon attacking or conquering them. Thus, it is clear that at the time of the splitting of the sea, Edom and Moav had no reason to fear. Hence, Rashis commentary in Beshallach.

The verses in Mishpatim, which describe the boundaries, were told to Moshe much later than the miracle of the sea.

Now, however, the following question arises. If this promise of boundaries up to the Euphrates were given to Moshe at this time, just prior to entering the land, why was it not carried out?!

The five-year-old Chumash student will be aware of this problem when he studies the portion of Masser and there he will read:

... when you come to the land of Canaan, this is the land within the borders of the land of Canaan that shall be your hereditary territory (Bamidbar 34:2). Then he will ponder and wonder, what happened to the promise: And I will set your boundaries from the Red Sea ... to the river.

By that time however, the student will realize that many things will have changed, e.g. Moshe will not be the one to lead the Jews into Eretz Yisrael. A priori, the student will therefore understand, that just after receiving the Torah, the directive had been to conquer all of Eretz Yisrael, including the Keni, Kenizi and Kadmoni [Edom and Moav] immediately upon entering the land. But later, [after 40 years] certain events caused some changes, and in fact the first conquest was only to include the land of the seven nations; the Keni, Kenizi and Kadmoni would be conquered only at the time of Mashiach.

[To recap: At the time of the Exodus it was understood that the intention was to conquer only their old homeland of Canaan. Later, in Mishpatim, G-d tells Moshe that the proposed boundaries would reach till the Euphrates. After 40 years in the desert, the actual conquest included only the original Canaanite lands and the others will be included at the time of Mashiach.]

4. In connection with a topic in this weeks portion there is an halachah in the Rambam which henrR clarification.

In Mishneh Torah, Laws of Entrance into the Sanctuary, 2:5, the Rambam writes:

If a Kohen ... went out of the Sanctuary [Beis HaMikdash], he incurred the penalty of death only if it was in the time of the service.

The commentary, Mishneh Lemelech raises a question on this halachah. He does this by first inferring from the aforementioned halachah that the intention of the Rambam is that under no circumstance may a Kohen leave the Sanctuary. He then quotes the Gemara in Tractate Yoma 85a-b:

R. Akiva answered and said: If a man came presumptuously upon his neighbor, etc., [and killed him] you should take him from My altar, that he may die, i.e. only off the altar, but not down from the altar. [Rashi: If he was about to start the service yes, if he had already started no.] And in connection therewith Rabbah b. Bar Chana said in the name of R. Yochanan: That this was taught only when ones life is to be forfeited, but to save life, [Rashi: if the Kohen knew exonerating evidence about a person who was sentenced to die,] one may take one down even from the altar.

From Rabbi Yochanans explanation of R. Akiva, we see that a Kohen should drop everything, even his actual service in the Sanctuary, and go testify on someones behalf. The Mishneh Lemelech then asks why does the Rambam not mention this case as an exception to his ruling which prohibits Kohanim from leaving the Sanctuary?

In answer to this question, the Mishneh Lemelech describes, that the Rambam held, that R. Akivas interpretation, which made a distinction between a Kohens pre-service state to his mid-service state is not accepted by the Mechilta as Halachah and therefore Rabbi Yochanans explanation is no longer valid. Thus, says the Mishneh Lemelech, the Rambam holds that a Kohen may not leave the Sanctuary during the time of the service. under any circumstances.

This deduction is very perturbing. Can we really accept that the Rambam will rule according to the view of the Mechilta against the clear ruling of Rabbi Yochanan in the Talmud?

It would rather appear correct to say that Rambam rules, that saving a life supersedes even the service in the Sanctuary, and a Kohen would be obliged to interrupt his Sanctuary activities and go testify on someones behalf. But then why does the Rambam not state so specifically?

The answer is simple. The Rambam follows his rule that he relies on rulings that appear earlier in Mishneh Torah. For, in Laws Concerning the Basic Principles of the Torah, 5:1, the Rambam writes. that in the case of a threat to life all mitzvos of the Torah are suspended [except for the three cardinal sins]:

... for concerning the commandments it is said, which, if a man does them, he shall live by them ... (Vayikra 18:5), and not die by them!

Having established this basic rule, that saving a life supersedes all laws of the Torah, it is no longer necessary for the Rambam to list the specific case of a Kohen who has the opportunity to save a life.

Understanding this principle, that saving a life suspends a Kohens service in the Sanctuary, will enhance our work in spreading Torah and Yiddishkeit. At a previous farbrengen we mentioned the ruling that even the Kohen Gadol, in the midst of his service in the Holy of Holies, on Yom Kippur, would be required to leave everything, if he were needed to help remove a pile of stones that had fallen on a one-day-old baby.

In a spiritual sense this means that one must interrupt even his loftiest activities in order to go out and save one Jewish soul, by bringing him closer to Torah and Yiddishkeit.

Another point comes to mind now.

The Midrash states on the verse in Tehillim 147:19: He tells His words to Yaakov, His statutes and laws to Yisrael, He tells the Jews to do that which He does. If so, G-d must also conduct Himself according to this rule.

We live in a difficult era of constant life-threatening danger. Intermarriage is increasing as R direct result of the uncorrected law of Who is a Jew. Jews are assimilating with the goyim, heaven forbid, and there is a lack of involvement to save the Jews by bringing them closer to Torah and mitzvos. This is not a potential threat, it is actually happening at every moment.

Therefore, the responsibility lies on the Kohen Gadol, the Holy One Blessed be He [Your G-d is a Kohen (Sanhedrin 39a), A Kohen Gadol (Zohar 3:17),] to go out and remove the pile of rubble and save every Jewish soul. G-d cannot rely on an angel or on the Jewish greats but must undertake this mitzvah Himself in His full honor and glory. To remove stone after stone the hearts of stone which hide the G-dly spark of every Jew. And although ultimately no one will be lost, G-d should not wait even one moment, because the mitzvah of saving a life is measured even in moments. So G-d should not keep us in exile even one moment longer.

Regarding the ultimate redemption, we have the promise that even before the actual end of the exile, on the eve of the redemption, while we are still in galus, we will taste the sweetness of that Day which is completely Shabbos (Gemara Tamid, end), as a table set ready before the person. The tasting now will bring the proper eating then.

Simply, may Mashiach come immediately, and then the Jewish people will leave the exile in unity, with the unity of Torah, and go to the Holy Land, where ... the eyes of the L-rd your G-d are on it at all times, from the beginning of the year until the end of the year (Devarim 11:12), and as we read in this portion of Mishpatim: And I will set your borders from the Red Sea until the Philistine Sea from the desert to the river. Speedily and truly in our days.

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