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TorahAnytimes Newsletter Mishpatim

Parshat Mishpatim

Compiled and Edited by Rubin Kolyakov

"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter Parashat Mishpatim 27th of Shevat, 5776 | February 6, 2016 Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik Rabbi Yossi Mizrac



"The TorahAnyTimes" Newsletter

Parashat Mishpatim
27th of Shevat, 5776 | February 6, 2016

Compiled and Edited by Elan Perchik

Rabbi Yossi Mizrachi
Remember Me

כל אלמנה ויתום לא חענון

You shall not cause pain to any widow or orphan (Shemos 22:21)

As a widow with four young children, life was difficult. Repeatedly needing to make requests of the local grocery market for credit, the family just barely managed. But then another problem arose. The house they lived in began to leak. The roof and walls were suffering in consequence and it was certainly time to make some major repairs. It could no longer be postponed.

Calling a plumber to inspect the house and provide an estimate price of the job, the mother waited anxiously. After a short while of walking throughout the house, the plumber returned with the job description. It would take a few days to fix the house in entirety and cost a hefty price. The plumber reassured her that his price was the most reasonable there was, but even so, it was much too expensive for her at the moment. “I don’t have the money right now,” the mother said, “but I will make you a deal. By the time you finish the job, I will see to it that you have all the money. I will borrow if necessary.” Listening to the woman’s arrangement, the plumber agreed to take the job.

Beginning the work, the plumber noticed the four orphans in the house. He could not help but imagine what life must be like for this poor widow and her children. As he continued to work, his heart went out for her in pity. He convinced himself that he would not take any money from the family. “But what should I do?” he thought to himself. “I already told her the price; I cannot renege on my word now.” But then he came up with a brilliant idea.

After finishing the job, the plumber approached the mother with the bill. But little did he intend for her to pay a penny. “I have something to tell you,” he said. “I looked into the matter and discovered that there is an approved special program from the city hall. Since you are a widow, you are entitled to receive help from the government. Just sign here and I will get paid. And don’t worry, I will make more money in this way than had you paid me. You don’t have to pay anything. Go enjoy your house.”

Hearing such great news, the mother and her children were beside themselves. “You mean I don’t have to pay anything?” “That’s right,” repeated the plumber. The children too were shocked. They were worried how their mother was ever going to pay the bill. But now, all their worries turned into smiles.

Twenty years later… this plumber’s small company had grown to become a large corporation. Being hired for a big project, he headed to Petach Tikvah to a building warehouse where all sorts of plumbing and housing supplies were stocked. Figuring out all the materials needed for the project, he made a list of all the items and gave it to the warehouse workers. He intended to receive an estimate of how much everything would cost, whereupon consider if there were any cheaper prices. “Okay,” they said, “we will look over your order and call you back with the prices.”

The next day as the plumber awoke, a huge business truck pulled up to his house. “Suri and Avi Plumbing Supply” was emblazoned on the outside of the truck. Not remembering that he had ordered anything, he quickly headed outside. “What is this?” he asked the driver. “I am delivering a shipment of plumbing supplies.” “You must have the wrong address,” said the plumber, “I didn’t order anything.” “It says right here you that you did,” explained the driver as he pointed to a piece of paper. Look, it says that you paid in full and that I am supposed to make the delivery today.” “I never made an order!” insisted the plumber. “I told the store to give me an estimate price of how much it would cost. I was comparing prices. I didn’t put in a final order nor did I pay a penny!” “I am very sorry sir,” said the driver, "but I have a long day ahead of me, and I am only making the delivery. If you have any problems, go down to the office and speak to the owners.”

Frustrated, the plumber raced to the office. Entering inside, he headed straight to the secretary’s desk. “Excuse me,” he said, “but I just had a shipment of plumbing supplies delivered to my house. The problem is that I didn’t order anything and I didn’t pay for it either. Can you please confirm this?”

Looking up the plumber’s information, the secretary said, “It seems as if everything has been taken care of. It says that you paid in full and the delivery is supposed to be made today.” “I don’t understand,” impatiently exclaimed the plumber. “I did not make any order!” Standing there dumbfounded, the plumber could see that he was not getting anywhere.

“Listen,” said the secretary, “why don’t you go upstairs to the owners. Maybe they can help you.” Walking up the stairs, he hoped that this attempt would finally sort out everything. As he opened the door, he saw two men comfortably seated in an office. “Hi, how can we help you?” the men asked. “I just had delivered to my house a large shipment of plumbing supplies which I didn’t order. There must be a mistake. I asked to receive prices on your materials. Why did you deliver it already?”

Looking back at the man, one of the owners spoke up. “Don’t worry sir, everything is alright. We have a special arrangement with city hall. Everything has already been paid for.” Standing there confused, the owner continued, “Do you remember us? We were those little kids whose mother you helped twenty years ago. For twenty years we have been looking everywhere for you! Yesterday, when you showed up in the store, my brother and I recognized you right away. We have been waiting for this day for a long time. As soon as we heard you inquiring about prices, we immediately told our workers to send you everything free of charge. This is our way of paying you back. You took care of us and we will take care of you.”

Sometimes we think that the small gestures in life have little impact and only make their imprint for the short term. The truth, however, is quite the opposite. Those little decisions to help another and think of them in their moment of plight reverberate for years. And then the day finally arrives when we ourselves could use a favor. And who comes to our side? That little deed we thought so little of years before. That little act of kindness pops up and says, “Do you remember me? I’ve been waiting so long for this moment!” And when that happens, all we can do is smile and remind ourselves that nothing we do in life goes unremembered.

Rebbetzin Chaya Sora Gertzulin
The Impact of Mitzvos

כי תפגע שור איבך או חמרו תעה השב תשיבנו לו

If you encounter an ox of your enemy or his donkey wandering, you shall surely return it (Shemos 23:4)

As made clear throughout the Torah, mitzvos are divided into three different categories: chukim, laws incomprehensible to the human mind; eidus, laws symbolically testifying and representative of an event or concept and mishpatim, laws rationalistically understood. While the category of chukim are beyond our comprehension, the Rambam (Hilchos Meilah 8:8) writes that it is fitting for one to contemplate their meaning to his utmost and strive to understand them.

One such example of an irrational law is that of keeping Kosher. While the Torah does not explicitly state the reason for this command, numerous rationales have been suggested in the hope that our appreciation of the mitzvah is enhanced. All kosher species possess distinct properties that Hashem wishes for us to inculcate. For example, no kosher animal is a predatory animal. It is this idea we are to be mindful of when consuming our food: those animals which are permitted are nonviolent and peaceful. Consciously being aware that we are forbidden to ingest animals with violent natures ingrains within ourselves feelings of compassion and kindness. Moreover, many kosher animals tend to travel in herds. The message embedded here is that of unity and harmony. Jews from all backgrounds and walks of life are to coalesce and form one cohesive unit.

The second category of mitzvos is referred to as eidus, testimonies. These mitzvos include eating matzah on Pesach, commanded in commemoration of the Jewish people leaving Egypt. With these commandments, we relive and connect to our past.

The third type of mitzvos is what our Parsha focuses upon. Mishpatim refers to rationalistic and ethical commandments which can clearly be understood and appreciated. Acting with kindness and justice, respecting elders, honoring parents and showing compassion to widows and orphans are just a few of the many mitzvos which make up the mishpatim. These mitzvos are certainly logical and would be carried out by any good-hearted individual, but that is not where it ends. For a Jew, even the mishpatim are meant to be performed because it is a commandment from Hashem.

Consider the rationalistic mitzvah of hashavas aveida, returning a lost item. Many people live by the motto, “Finders keepers, losers weepers.” They may view returning a lost object as a kind and altruistic gesture, but not something obligatory and worthy of going out of one’s way for. But the Torah teaches us otherwise. Even if one’s moral compass only dictates so much, when dealing with Hashem’s commandments, one is to make the extra effort and go the extra mile.

I remember one night being unable to fall asleep. Deciding to read, I began perusing through the different Jewish newspapers I had from cover to cover. After a while, I finally got to the point where I had read everything and all that was left was the Lost and Found section.

Looking through the various items lost, my eye caught one in particular: “Lost on 16th Avenue in Boro Park –Diamond Engagement Ring.” Thinking to myself “Oh, poor lady,” my heart went out for the woman. I could only imagine the heartache she was going through. That announcement was in The Jewish Press.

Then I looked at another newspaper, Yated Ne’eman, and again reached the Lost and Found section. Looking through the items listed, I was shocked with what I saw. “Found in Boro Park –Diamond Engagement Ring.” As soon as I saw that, I thought to myself, “Why don’t I make a shidduch (match) between the newspapers?” Unable to wait until morning, I immediately contacted each newspaper. “I don’t know the exact story behind it all,” I said, “but one ring was lost in Boro Park and one ring was found in Boro Park. I am led to believe that there is some connection between the two.”

Contacting both the one who had lost the ring and found it, a match was made between them. And indeed it was the ring. Soon thereafter, I received a phone call from both the finder and loser who said to me, “I don’t buy the other newspaper. Thank you so much. If not for you, I might never have contacted the other person.” As I myself had subscribed to both newspapers, I was able to make the connection.

This is what a looking to do a mitzvah can result in. Making even a small effort can go a long way and make a great difference in the lives of others.

But stories of returning lost objects are not a recent phenomenon; they in fact go back to the times of the Talmud.

The Talmud Yerushalmi (Bava Metzia 2:5) relates the story of Rav Shimon ben Shetach who suffered from abject poverty and struggled to make a living selling linen. His students encouraged him to leave the linen trade and purchase a donkey in the hope of faring better financially. Buying a donkey from an Arab, the students were astounded to discover a beautiful gemstone fastened to it. Informing Rav Shimon ben Shetach of the great news, they said, “Look what we found! Not only did you purchase a donkey, but also an exquisite jewel!”

Listening to the words of his students, Rav Shimon ben Shetach inquired if the Arab was aware that a gem was attached to the donkey. Responding in the negative, Rav Shimon ben Shetach said, “It isn’t mine then. I am going to return it to the Arab who I bought it from.” In taking honest measures to return the gem, Rav Shimon ben Shetach remained without the fortune. But that was because, explains the Gemara, he was more interested in hearing the Arab says, “Blessed be the G-d of the Jews” than receiving all the money in the world.

That is how we are to view the laws categorized as mishpatim. Not only are they ethical and beautiful, but they are Hashem’s mitzvos and therefore worth every effort and sacrifice. When we can adopt such a perspective, a grand Kiddush Hashem awaits to result.

Fast forward two-thousand years to November of 2013.

Rabbi Noach Muroff, a ninth-grade teacher at the Yeshiva of New Haven, one day decided to purchase a desk. Finding the desk he was looking for on Craigslist for $150, he ordered it.

After arriving at his home and attempting to move it through a narrow doorway, there was one problem: the desk did not fit through by just a fraction of an inch. With no other alternative, Rabbi Muroff and his wife began to dismantle the cabinet drawers and remove the top of the desk. And then came a surprise they would never have imagined.

Hidden beneath some drawers was a bag with $98,000 inside. While most people would have looked at this occurrence as the greatest deal of their lives, Rabbi Muroff and his wife had other plans. Instead of remaining $98,000 richer, they cashed the money in for a global Kiddush Hashem.

Contacting the woman from whom they purchased the desk, she told them that she had inherited the money and forgotten that she hid it away in the desk. And so, the next day, Rabbi Muroff and his wife along with their children returned the money to its rightful owner. Sending a worldwide message about the importance of honesty and integrity, the owner herself wrote to the family in a thank-you note, “I do not think there are too many people in this world that would have done what you did by calling me.”

From Rav Shimon ben Shetach to Rabbi Noach Muroff, the mitzvah of hashavas aveida accomplished much more than just reuniting an item with its owner. It sent a reverberating message about the beauty of a Torah Jew and the mitzvos which hallmark his life.

But the mitzvah of returning something lost is not limited to an object or animal. The Ohr HaChaim (Devarim 22:1) homiletically explains that underlying the Torah’s command to return lost objects is the mitzvah to return lost neshamos to our Father in Heaven. Those beautiful souls which are distant from Hashem are to be brought back home with warm love and care. And when we can achieve that, we can rest assured that Hashem will look down upon us with a smile and be filled with nachas that we are taking His mitzvos and changing the world one step at a time.

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