“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu




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בס"ד

B PARASHAT HASHAVUA B

PARASHA : Mishpatim

Date :29 Shevat 5770, 13/2/2010

“The Best of Parashat HaShavuah” Articles taken from list subscriptions on the internet, edited, reformatted and printed for members of Kibbutz Sde Eliyahu (Editor: Arieh Yarden)

Dedicated to the loving memory of Avi Mori

Moshe Reuven ben Yaakov z”l

Please respect the Holiness of these pages

These pages are also sent out weekly via the internet in MS Word format. Anyone who is interested in receiving them, can subscribe via the Parasha web site: http://parasha.sde.org.il/eparasha - Arieh.

HhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhHhH

1 - SHABBAT B’SHABBATO (Tzomet)

Extract from SHABBAT-B'SHABBATO, published by the Zomet Institute of Alon Shevut, Israel; http://www.moreshet.co.il/zomet/index-e.html

INSIGHTS FOR THE SHABBAT TABLE

by Bar-on Dasberg

Human Sacrifices in Judaism?

The usual interpretation of the verse, "If a man plans to kill his friend with guile, take him away from My Altar to die" [Shemot 21:14], is that it refers to a murderer who takes hold of the corners of the Altar as a means of sanctuary, like Yoav Ben Tzruya. The verse teaches us that even in such a case a murderer should be put to death. However, the verse can be understood in a different way.

It is written, "The land will not be atoned for the blood spilled in it except through the blood of the one who spilled it" [Bamidbar 35:33]. This seems to imply that the murderer can be considered – as it were – a Chatat sacrifice whose purpose is to atone for the sin that was committed. But in order to show that we do not condone human sacrifices, the murderer should be killed far away from the Altar (although in fact the Sanhedrin really does sit not far from the Temple and the Altar). "Take him away from My Altar to die."

Does the Ox Bear any Responsibility for the Damage?

It seems that the answer to the above question is yes! If an ox that has killed a human being were killed only in order to prevent further harm or in order to punish the owner, the act could be done in a much simpler way. However, the punishment of stoning indicates that there is an intention of punishing one who is guilty. Thus, when an ox repeatedly kills, we consider both the owner and the ox himself to be guilty. "The ox will be stoned, and his owner will also die" [Shemot 21:29]. But when an ox which has not killed twice before kills a person, we accuse only the ox. "Let the ox be stoned... and the owner of the ox will be free" [21:28].

This can explain the special law of an ox who is not a repeat offender –the owner only pays half the damage, taken from the value of the ox itself. This implies that the ox and the owner share responsibility for the damage. If the ox has repeated the offense at least three times, the full damage must be paid. If the ox is not a repeat offender, the owner is not guilty, and the ox should rightfully be required to pay half the damage. Since the ox usually does not have a bank account, the money is taken from what it actually has, that is the value of its own body.

Where did the Girgashi Go?

The Almighty promises, "My angel will go before you, and he will bring you to the Emorite, and the Chitite, and the Perizi, and the Canaanite, and the Chivi and the Yevusi" [Shemot 23:23]. What happened to the Girgashi? Rashi notes, "Six nations are mentioned here, because the Girgashi stood up and fled from them." Evidently Rashi bases his words on the Talmud Yerushalmi: "Yehoshua sent three messages to Eretz Yisrael before he entered the land. Those who want to leave, may leave. Those who want to accept our rule, can make peace with us. Those who want to wage war can do so. The Girgashi went away, and G-d believed them, and they went to Africa... The Givonim made peace..." This information can be verified by the words of the Byzantine historian Procopius (from the sixth century, about two hundred years after the text of the Talmud Yerushalmi was set): "In ancient times a single king ruled that entire land, which was occupied by large tribes, such as Girgashi and Yevus... They went to Libya and settled in many cities there... There are two marble pillars there, where the following appears, written in the Phoenician language: 'We are the people who fled from the bandit Yehoshua Bin Nun...'"

(Source: Menachem Dasberg)

POINT OF VIEW: Are Most of the Divorces Granted during the Last Two Years Invalid?

- by Rabbi Yisrael Rozen, Dean of the Zomet Institute

A Two-Pronged Attack

It is common on the occasion of the Torah portion of Mishpatim to discuss courts true to Torah law and the vision of redemption, "I will reinstate your judges as in the beginning" [Yeshayahu 1:26]. But like many other prophesies, the path to fulfillment can take a very long time.

The subject of rabbinical courts in Israel is caught in the grip of two significant disputes about their character, their status, and how broad their reach should be. The first struggle is against the secular community, which sees the religious courts as an excess, an unnecessary institution in the face of the secular law system which is "enveloped in glory and splendor, shining with royalty." The struggle on this front takes place not only in the realms of lawmaking and public relations, including the media, but also in a constant duel which can be termed a "war of authority" between secular courts for family affairs and the rabbinical courts. The secular courts, backed up by rulings of the Supreme Court, regularly curtail the movements of the rabbinical courts.

The second realm of the struggle is between the Chareidi sector and the religious Zionists. This consists of a struggle that has been taking place for many years, with many failed attempts to appoint rabbinical court judges who studied in the national religious educational system. The argument is not about distributing jobs to people whom we like and not about the style of kippa that will be worn. Rather, it is about the agenda of the courts and about extricating them from their existing almost total subordination to the stringent opinions and viewpoint of the Lita'i stream of Judaism.

It has been announced that we can expect eight new appointments to the rabbinical courts in the month of Nissan, and I do not have any illusions about the probable choices of judges. Today I want to look at the Chareidi sector, but not at the main thing which occupies them – divorce and people who refuse to give divorce papers. Rather, let us discuss the realm of monetary laws.

I have two points that I want to make – the first is a constructive idea, and the second one presents a challenge.

Expanding the Authority of all the Sectors

Here is my first point, a constructive suggestion: The Knesset has recently begun to discuss a proposed law to broaden the scope of authority of the rabbinical courts, allowing them to deal with monetary matters with a legal authority that is exactly the same as the authority of the civil courts. Why has this been proposed? The answer is that for many years the rabbinical courts have acted in the capacity of financial arbitrators, both in cases related to divorce and in strictly financial matters. In the year 5766 (2006), the Supreme Court ruled that the rabbinical courts do not have the legal authority to act as arbitrators, even if the two sides agree and the meetings take place outside the normal working hours of the rabbinical courts. The Supreme Court also took note of "stolen time" and that the administrative facilities of the courts are used for discussions that are not within the authority of the religious courts at all. In practice, the religious courts continue dealing with financial matters, and the proposed law is meant to legitimize this practice. In addition, the proposal enhances the status of the courts – they will no longer be arbitrators but rather they will have full judicial authority.

Well, I have a (naïve?) suggestion: Let two panels of judges be chosen next month expressly to deal with financial matters, and let the positions be filled from the ranks of the nationalistic yeshivot. The two sides in court cases will agree in advance to accept the rulings of these courts. There is a large reserve of experienced people who have served in monetary courts that were set up as non-profit organizations and that regularly serve this sector. This will kill three "birds" with one stone: (1) Judges will be appointed from the sector of knitted kippot, at least in the secondary realm of financial cases. (2) It will give us an opportunity to find out if there really is a difference between the two sectors in terms of the agenda of rulings and trial procedures. (3) We may entertain the hope that in this way the national religious community will begin to give preference to Torah law over using the civil courts.

Personal Invalidity of a Judge who is Suspected of "Theft"

And here is my "challenge:" After the ruling by the Supreme Court revoking the right of the rabbinical courts to act as arbitrators, and in addition ruling that this constitutes "theft of time and resources," we should have doubts about the validity of all the divorces that have since been ruled on by these judges, since they are guilty of "theft." And if somebody would like to react by claiming, "Who is this Supreme Court that we should listen to its rulings?" – All the decisions starting from the month of Adar 5768 (2008) should certainly be invalidated, since on that date Rabbi Y.S. Elyashiv ruled that "a regional court which continues to rule in spite of the decision of the Supreme Court is involved in stealing" [Rabbinical court decisions, Jerusalem, volume 11, page 510].

This is nothing less than a "kal vachomer," a logical inference. A judge of the highest rabbinical court, Rabbi Avraham Sherman, invalidated all the conversions performed by the court of Rabbi Chaim Drukman, in an outrageous ruling, since the judges are unacceptable in his eyes because of their general outlook and because of "false" signatures of one judge when another one actually appeared in court. How much more so must we be wary of the prohibitions involving married women related to divorce proceedings run by judges who also acted as arbitrators during their normal work hours. Don't think that I am joking – the month of Adar has not yet arrived. I really think that my "provocation" deserves a serious answer!

* * * * * *

Purifying the Vermin

Since the subject of stringent or lenient judges has come up, I will remind my readers of an interesting note by the Maharsha (Rabbi Shmuel Eliezer Eidels of Cracow, from the sixteenth century, whose commentary is printed in all the editions of the Babylonian Talmud). He explained that the well known ruling that "nobody should be appointed to the Sanhedrin unless he can prove from the Torah that vermin are pure" [Sanhedrin 17a] not as legal acrobatics that could turn day into night. Rather, he explains, "the only person who should be appointed to the Sanhedrin is one who can find merits for one who is guilty... which is like finding a way to purify vermin."

That is: a basic trait of a judge is the ability to find points of light within the darkness. This type of "finding credit" is only relevant to criminal or administrative law and not to cases between man and man or between a man and wife, where a ruling in favor of one side is bad for the other side. However, the "purifying" state of mind is relevant for every case in court.

SOMETHING FOR THE SOUL: Why Only Half a Shekel?

- by Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Rosh Yeshivat Ramat Gan

Moshe found it difficult to understand the mitzva of half a Shekel. He was not satisfied until the Almighty showed him a fiery coin and said to him: "This is what they should donate." Actually there is a valid question here: why half a Shekel? What is there about this half a Shekel that serves as a penitence for the disastrous action of the sin of the Golden Calf?

If we look into the matter, we can see that this week's Torah portion of Mishpatim has several issues based on a concept of "a half." When Moshe offered sacrifices, he collected half the blood in basins and he sprinkled the other half onto the Altar (Shemot 24:6). Rashi explains that the blood of the Olah sacrifices was sprinkled on the Altar, and the other blood which was set aside and later sprinkled onto the people came from the Shelamim sacrifices. The two halves represent the two sides of the covenant, G-d and Bnei Yisrael – one half from above and the other half from below.

This clearly indicates how we should understand another set of halves which together makes up the totality of receiving the Torah – "Everything that G-d spoke about, we will do and we will listen" [Shemot 24:7]. "We will do" is a simple act of dedication in reaction to the Divine revelation, which is beyond our powers of hearing. "We will listen" refers to internalization, the revelation penetrating deep into our intellect, and applying it in all aspects of our life at the lower level of existence.

Two halves that represent a similar dichotomy can also be seen in the events of the Golden Calf. The sages teach us that the hidden meaning of what the people saw about Moshe – "That he was slow in coming" [32:1] – is that "six hours of the day had already gone by" (based on the word "boshesh," which can also be read as "besheish" – at the sixth hour). The day when Moshe was supposed to return was divided into two halves, like Moshe himself. He was "a man of G-d" [Devarim 33:1] – "from his middle down he was a man, from his middle and up he was Divine." The sin of the Golden Calf showed that the time was still not ripe, and that the time had not yet come for the future recombination that was the goal of the original split that began when the physical worlds were separated from Divine perfection

However, it is not easy to see how any repair for the situation is provided by the half of a Shekel, which certainly represents the lower half of reality, and leaves it separate, without the other higher-level upper half. This is the very situation which led to the sin in the first place, when Bnei Yisrael asked, "Is G-d in our midst or not?" [Shemot 17:7]. This gave Amalek an opening, so that he could come and challenge the people. According to the Sefat Emet, if Amalek had not been able to spread his poison at that time, the people would not have reached the lowly level of the Golden Calf. How do we then allow the prosecutor to take over the role of a defender?

In answer, we can learn from how the confrontation with this oppressor developed in later years, at the time of Mordechai and Esther. Yisrael descended to the lowest possible level and enjoyed the banquet of the evil king, but in the end this in itself provided the source of their salvation – "Just the opposite happened, and the Jews controlled their enemies" [Esther 9:1]. Amalek whispers like a serpent in hidden recesses, plants the seeds of heresy and weakness, and separates between the halves of the nation. He has great power to blur boundaries and to soften the lines, to deny and to hide truths. He can sometimes send us into a prolonged slumber. His greatest mistake is when he decides "to destroy, to kill, and to annihilate" [Esther 3:13] – to openly challenge the unique characters of both halves of the nation. Then he discovers to his surprise that the weakness and the despair were merely an external facade which had taken hold within us. But in an instant it was revealed to him and to us that even the earthly half of our being burns like a fiery coin and has the ability to raise up the heads of the fallen ones, bringing them quickly back to their roots.

The special Haftara of Shekalim takes precedence over the regular Haftara of the weekly portion, Mishpatim. A preference is given to the situation that is revealed by the half of a Shekel, when its lowly earthy half stands alone and is forced to reveal its hidden value, as opposed to the lofty ideal of "we will do and we will listen" which appears in Mishpatim, signifying a reunification of both halves into a complete whole. Whenever unity prevails, it is possible to make a mistake and to believe that the lowly half is dark in principle, and that it is lit up only through the kindness of the upper half. But when the earthly half must stand alone and reveal its own light, everybody can clearly see that "G-d is in our midst" and that the claims of Amalek have no basis at all.

This revelation is the main purpose of creation. Man, on the earth, must be sanctified from within, such that the following verse will apply to him: "Your insides will be holy" [Yeshayahu 12:6] - to insist on the powerful words of our sages, "A man should always treat himself as if all holiness rests within his own intestines."

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