Vertluch: Parshas Mishpatim


Parshas Mishpatim begins with all the applicable laws that pertain to the owning of a Jewish slave. Isn’t it a little ironic that the first set of laws/mitzvos that Moshe tells bnei Yisroel is not a very common mitzvah and not really relevant to everyone (as it’s only for people who steal and don’t have money to pay back, etc.) What pshat can we provide here that can show us why the Torah chose to begin with this mitzvah, immediately following the giving of the Torah?

Moreover, the Torah says that if the slave wants to remain with his master for longer than six years, we pierce his ear. Why was the ear chosen to be bored and not another organ in the body? Rashi (21, 6) says ‘RabbanYochanan ben Zakkai said: The ear that heard on Har Sinai, “You shall not steal” (20; 13) and [then] went and stole shall be bored. And if [the text is referring to] one who sold himself [into servitude, the reason is that] the ear that heard, “For the BneiYisroel are slaves to Me”(Devarim 25; 55) and [then] went and acquired a master for himself, [this ear] shall be bored.

This Rashi is problematic, for those two ‘sayings’ were not said by Har Sinai! The commandment of Lo Signov that was said was referring to kidnapping a person; not to stealing money from another person. The latter one, ‘ki li Bnei Yisroel avadim’, was also not even mentioned until later! This Rashi needs an explanation!

Perhaps the answer can be as follows.

There’s a famous Chazal that says that Hashem went to all of the other nations and offered them his precious Torah, prior to offering it to Bnei Yisroel. Every nation refused it for a different reason. Why? What is the reason that they refused the Torah and said that it wasn’t for them? Don’t they have to keep the seven mitzvos of Noach anyways?

In reference to the seven mitzvos of Noach they were very clear; it is a general ‘don’t do this and that ’. For example, if a gentile doesn’t physically kill another, he will not get punished. But nowhere else does it say that he can’t embarrass someone in public. Nowhere else does it state that there is an issur yichud and nowhere else does it say there is an issur ervah by seeing another married women’s hair. All it says is that one may not be mezaneh with someone else’s wife. It also says that one cannot steal. It doesn’t say anything about gezel sheina (stealing ones sleep) and no gezel da’as either; there are no boundaries or barriers. However, by our Torah there are so many subcategories and so many different levels that a person has to delve in the subject matter. The other nations were plain and simple not interested in all the different categories and sublevels. That was the difference between our obligations and theirs.

At the end of the parsha it says that all of the taryag mitzvos are built into the Aseres Hadibros. If a person was to examine them properly, he can find and discover within every single mitzvah all of the 613 mitzvos. When a yid was standing at Har Sinai, had he been listening properly he would’ve understood that these 10 dibros include all forms of kidnapping, stealing, cheating, etc. If he would have heard them properly he would realize what was underneath the Av, as the dibros are commonly referred to, and understood what the true aspirations of Hashem were from us. Yes, it wasn’t SAID but he was expected to understand that it’s not just cut and dry. There are many different facets to the mitzvos and we understood that when we accepted the Torah.

Yes, we have a long road ahead of us. But with following the traditions from our leaders and perseverance, we can feel that we are on our way and proceeding in the proper path.