V’ki yigach shor … v’im shor nagach hu mit’mol shil’shom v’huad biv’alav (21:28-29)
A common criticism of yeshiva students is that they spend their days engrossed in the study of archaic and irrelevant laws such as the intricate minutiae of goring cows. In reality, the Torah is Hashem’s blueprint for creating the world, and the answer to every question and problem may be found therein, as evidenced by the following amazing story.
A panic-stricken woman once approached the Rogatchover Gaon, explaining that several weeks had passed during which her newborn baby nursed properly during the week but absolutely refused to nurse on Shabbos, thereby endangering his health. The Rogatchover nonchalantly suggested that on the following Shabbos, the woman should wear her weekday apparel rather than her Shabbos clothes.
Bizarre as his suggestion seemed, she followed his advice with blind faith and was amazed to discover that by donning her regular clothes the problem went away, just as the Rogatchover had predicted. To her incredulous inquires about the source of his supernatural knowledge and abilities, he casually explained that the answer to her dilemma was “explicit” in the Talmud.
The Torah differentiates between the laws governing an ox that gores only periodically, a “tam,” and one which is confirmed to gore habitually, a “mu’ad.” The Mishnah in Bava Kamma (4:2) rules that an animal which has gored repeatedly – but only on Shabbos – is considered to be a mu’ad with respect to its actions on Shabbos but a tam regarding damages it may cause during the week. The Yerushalmi (19b) explains that the ox gets confused on Shabbos when it sees people wearing nice clothes to which it isn’t accustomed, causing it to attack and act wildly, but during the week it recognizes its surroundings and behaves normally.
Based on this, the Rogatchover deduced that the woman’s nursing difficulties stemmed from the fact that her baby didn’t recognize her in her Shabbos finery, and a minor wardrobe change indeed resolved the problem – archaic indeed!
U’basar ba’sadeh treifa lo soch’lu lakelev tashlichun oso (22:30)
Upon discovering that an animal in his flock or herd has been killed by wild animals, the Torah specifically requires the owner to give the carcass to the dogs, a connection which doesn’t seem to be readily apparent. The Daas Z’keinim explains that most farmers and shepherds employ guard dogs to protect their animals against predators. Presumably, when the wolf stealthily came to attack in the middle of the night, the dog detected its presence and fought valiantly, albeit unsuccessfully, to ward it off. For this effort, as well as for its successful guarding of all of the other animals until now, the Torah requires the owner to show gratitude to the dog by presenting it with the dead animal’s remains.
In doing so, the Torah is teaching us the fallacy a common English expression. If a person gives of his precious time and energy in an earnest attempt to help somebody out, only to have his efforts fail, the average American will tell him, “Thanks, but no thanks.” This expression indicates that he is owed no debt of gratitude for his efforts and not-so-subtly suggests that the next time he should just mind his own business. In contrast, the Torah teaches that because the dog was willing to help, and tried to be of assistance in doing its best to protect the animals, its owner is obligated to show appreciation for its good-faith efforts and reward it with the carcass.
So many times a relative, friend, co-worker, or shadchan will volunteer to try to help us out. Unfortunately, these efforts don’t always lead to the results we were hoping for. The next time it happens, instead of rubbing in the failure to somebody who already feels badly enough, let us remember the lesson of the guard dogs and express our sincere appreciation for their time and good intentions.
Lo sisa sheima shav (23:1)
Even in his youth, Rav Yonason Eibeshutz was legendary for his diligence in studying Torah day and night, showing no interest in joining the other kids at the games and sports so popular among children of his age. When asked about it, he explained that Rashi writes that it is forbidden for a judge to listen to one of the litigants until the other side is present to have a chance to rebut the claims and allegations.
The Sages teach that the yetzer hara (evil inclination) is present in a person from the moment he is born, but his yetzer tov (good inclination) isn’t given to him until he becomes an adult. “If so,” young Yonason brilliantly concluded, “it may be that the yetzer hara is correct in trying to get me to take a break from my studies and join the other kids in their games. However, as a judge who must determine the right course of action, I am forbidden to listen to him until I am able to hear the opposing arguments presented by my yetzer tov, and until that point, I just keep sitting and learning.”
Ohr panecha aleinu Adon n’sa v’shekel esa b’vayis nachon v’nisa (Yotzeir l’Parshas Shekalim)
In the Yotzros for Parshas Shekalim, which often coincides with Parshas Mishpatim, this petition forms the basis of the chazzan’s refrain during the Mussaf prayers. Why do we beseech Hashem for the opportunity to contribute a shekel to the Beis HaMikdash when the Torah specifically emphasizes (30:15) that every Jew is to contribute half of that amount, not more and not less?
Rav Yehoshua of Belz suggests that this glaring difficulty provides us with an ingenious resolution to another question. The Gemora in Berachos (20b) records that the Heavenly angels challenged Hashem that if He wrote in the Torah (Devorim 10:17) that He doesn’t show favoritism, how can He be partial to the Jewish people (Bamidbar 6:26)? Hashem replied, “How can I not show them favor after I commanded them to recite Birkas HaMazon after eating to the point of satiety (Devorim 8:10) and they are stringent to do so even after consuming less?”
We learn from this Gemora that the Jewish people merit “preferential treatment” for performing mitzvos in a stricter manner than required by the Torah. If so, how can we request in this refrain from Yotzros such treatment in conjunction with the contribution of the half-shekel? This is one of the few mitzvos where the Torah actually forbids us to be stringent by giving more.
The Mishnah in Shekalim (1:6) rules that when two people jointly give one shekel, they are required to add a small amount (known as “kalbon”) corresponding to the amount that they saved by not having to pay the money-changer to break the shekel into two half-shekels. By bringing one whole shekel, it is possible to give more than is required, and it is this opportunity that we request of Hashem. Doing so will cause Him to shine on us the light of His face, may it be speedily in our days.
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Parsha Points to Ponder (and sources which discuss them):
Rashi writes (21:1) that legal disputes must be brought before a beis din and not before a non-Jewish court, even if one knows that they will judge the case just as would the beis din, because doing so is a desecration of Hashem’s name. Is a person allowed to file papers to sue another person in secular court not because he plans to actually do so but simply to scare him and force him to appear in beis din? (Bishvilei HaParsha)
If two men are fighting and one of them strikes a pregnant woman and causes her to miscarry, he must pay the monetary damage caused by the loss of the fetuses to the woman’s husband (Rashi 21:22). Why does the Torah refer to the standard case as one in which the woman is pregnant with multiple children? (Mayan Beis HaShoeivah)
A student in yeshiva asked another student to wake him up at a specific time. On his way into the room of the sleeping student, his friend accidentally walked on top of the glasses of the boy who was sleeping and broke them. Is he obligated to pay for them? (Shu”t K’nei Bosem 1:154, Pischei Choshen Dinei Nezikin 8:10, Ma’adanei Asher 5769)
A master who knocks out the eye or tooth of his non-Jewish slave must immediately free the slave (21:25-26). The Gemora in Kiddushin (24a) rules that a slave goes free not just through the loss of an eye or a tooth at the hands of his owner, but of any limb which won’t grow back. Why does the Torah specifically single out the eye and the tooth if many other body parts are also included in this law? (Rabbeinu Bechaye, Peninim MiShulchan HaGra)
At Mount Sinai, Moshe and the elders saw that under Hashem’s feet was the likeness of sapphire brickwork (24:10). Rashi explains that Hashem placed it there during the Jewish enslavement in Egypt so as to constantly remember the pain and suffering they endured while making bricks for their Egyptian taskmasters. As almost two months had passed since the Exodus from Egypt, why did Hashem still keep it so close to Him? (Noam HaMussar)
© 2010 by Oizer Alport.