Shalom and welcome back. “And these are the mishpatim that you will place before them.” (Shemot/Exodus 21:1) Rashi explains the word “ואלה”, “and these” it adds on to the first [words]. Just as the first ones ( the Ten Commandments ) are from Sinai, so too these are from Sinai. The Torah is telling us that the 52 mitzvot given in this parshah are given directly from HASHEM, like when we heard him speak the Ten Mitzvot (commandments) at Mt. Sinai.
So what does this mean? These mitzvot appear to be exactly like the civil law of any other nation, but the Torah is telling us that we received these laws from a Higher Wisdom, then what mankind has created. One example of an extremely misquoted mitzvah is, “But if there will be a fatality then you will give a life in place of a life; an eye in place of an eye, a tooth in place of a tooth, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot.” (Shemot/Exodus 21:23-24) The Torah shel ba’al peh explains that there is five kinds of monetary damage. There is (loss of income) שבת, (medical expenses) רפוי, (embarrassment) בשת, (pain & suffering) צער, (damages) נזק.
It may be shocking for some people to learn that these modern legal concepts of compensation, were given in a mitzvah over 3000 years ago. But still it must be something even greater than this, the Torah is teaching us. Even though many of these mitzvot resemble the civil laws of other nations, they are more spiritual in nature. These laws not only teach us how to get along with each other, but they also teach us how to relate to HASHEM.
Mankind can create laws that will help establish an orderly society. But the Creator and Sustainer of all life, can teach us what life was created for. It can expand our perspective of life, and of a higher justice than what is easily visible. With the knowledge that these laws are they very blueprint by which the Universe was created, we can start to understand how the world works, and why it was created.
Civil law can try to administer justice in a civilization, some times successfully, sometimes not. But if the laws are created by an Infinite Being with a more expansive perspective, than a infinite amount of good can be given to all of mankind. Study of the mitzvot begins to explain why seemingly good things happen to the bad, and bad things happen to the good. HASHEM created the world and mankind with an infinite good. To the extent that even a thief who steals a sheep instead of a cow, has to pay a lower compensation; because it was embarrassing to carry the goat on his shoulders. HASHEM wishes to give the best to each person, even if they choose to do evil; and can give and even greater reward if they choose to do good.
Each man is in a constant war internally, between evil and good. It is not always easy to bring perfect good and perfect justice to others. Most of us constantly battle against our own prejudices, weakness, sickness and lack of clarity to achieve true justice. The Torah is trying to inform us that not only was the world created with the highest good, but it is administered with the highest good everyday. Even though it may not appear that way. I look forward to any comments anyone may have about this concept.
Have a great Shabbos,
23rd Shevat, 5771
Shalom, welcome back. In this parshah Ya’akov Aveinu (Jacob) passes away at the age of one hundred forty-seven. There is a concept in Torah called ma’aseh avot siman banim (the actions of the fathers is a sign for the children). Meaning whatever Avraham (Abraham), Yitzhak (Isaac) and Ya’akov did, is repeated in Jewish History.
So how is it that Ya’akov, also known as Yisrael (Israel) can die? Hashem refers to the Jewish people as an “eternal nation”, we will never disappear as a nation. So what does it mean that the man, whose 12 sons became the 12 tribes; died in Egypt and was buried in ma’arah machpeilah in Hevron in Eretz Yisrael?
We look forward into hearing your insight and ideas. Think about it, study the parshah, read the commentaries, ask a Rabbi. Please lend your own sweet and good Torah.
Shavuot Tov, have a great week!
12th Teves, 5771
Shalom, welcome back. This week we see the greatness of Yosaif (Joseph). The secret of his greatness is that through all his yisurim (suffering, trials), Yosaif remains connected to Hashem. He doesn’t fall into self pity or depression, and this allows him to be a tzadik (righteous) in all his tests. Not only does he remain righteous, but as a result is blessed with success and greatness in each and every trial.
First Yosaif is almost killed by his brothers, and then sold by them into slavery. He becomes a slave in the home of an Egyptian named Potiphar, a minister to the King. The Torah tells us, “His master saw that Hashem is with him, and all that he would do Hashem would make successful in his hand. Yosaif found favor in his eyes, and he attended him; he appointed him over his household, and all he had, he placed in his custody.” (Bereishis/Genesis 39:3-4). Rashi explains that “Hashem is with him”, means the Name of Heaven was fluent in his mouth.
The next trial is when the wife of Potiphar tries to seduce him, he resists the temptation every day. Until one day she grabs his garment, and he decides to escape; leaving his clothes in her hands. Instead of being rewarded for resisting temptation; Yosaif is falsely accused of having illicit relations with Potiphar’s wife, and is thrown into prison.
Here was a another opportunity for Yosaif to say that he tried to keep the Torah, but it lead him to disaster. Yosaif remains loyal to Hashem and the Torah, and is even elevated while in prison. The Torah tells us that, “The prison warden placed all inmates that were in the prison in Yosaif’s custody, and everything that was done there, he would do. The prison warden did not scrutinize anything that was in his custody, because Hashem was with him; and whatever he would do Hashem would make successful.” (Bereishis/Genesis 39:22-23)
We learn an beautiful and precious lesson from Yosaif. In life we must sometimes undergo suffering in the form of sickness, monetary loss, anxiety, loss of loved ones, etc. But we must always remember that it all comes from Hashem and it is always for the good, even if it is not apparent to us at the time. It is possible to see suffering as an opportunity for spiritual growth, refining of our middos (character traits), change of perspective, appreciation of our other blessings. We can change our focus to see suffering as a blessing and not a curse, and can work on the greatness that resides in each of us.
Have a great week.
21st Kislev, 5771
Shalom, welcome back. This week’s parshah is the confrontation between good and evil. Yakov (Jacob) is the embodiment of emet (truth) and tiferet (beauty or splendor). He is confronted by his twin brother Eisav, coming with 400 warriors to kill him. Yakov is returning from exile to Eretz Yisrael (Land of Israel). He left a poor man, Eisav’s son Eliphaz took all of Yakov’s money, instead of killing him. He now returns with two wives, two handmaids, eleven sons and a vast amount of flocks, herds, cattle, gold and silver. His wife Rachel is pregant with Binyamin (Benjamin), and he may lose everything to Eisav.
After crossing his family and all his possesions over the river Yabbok, Yakov is attacked by the guardian angel of Eisav. This is no ordinary angel. It is the Yaitzer Harah (Evil Inclination), whose other jobs include being the Prosecutor in the Heavenly Courts; and the Angel of Death. This angel also being the one, who seduced Adam and Chavah (Eve) to eat the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The spiritual force that brought Evil into this world.
Yakov wrestles with this angel all throughout the night. Then the Torah says, “When he perceived that he could not overcome him, he struck the ball of his thighbone; and the ball of Yakov’s thighbone became dislocated as he wrestled with him.” (Bereishis/Genesis 32:26) The angel then asks Yakov to release him because it is dawn. Rashi explains that the angel means he must recite songs (of praise to Hahem) by day. So the force of Evil, must sing to the Infinite Creator during the day.
After surviving this battle, Yakov must now face Eisav HaRasha. Eisav’s descendants will go on to found the Roman Empire, which still lasts today in superpowers like the United States and Russia; combined with other nations like England, France, Spain, Germany and Italy. Yakov appeases his brother by sending him a tribute of 10% of his wealth, words of submission and bowing down to Eisav seven times. Even though his father Yitzhak (Isaac) gave Yakov the blessing, “Nations will serve you, and regimes will prostrate themselves to you; be a lord to your brothers, and your mother’s sons will prostrate themselves to you; may those who curse you be cursed, and those who bless you be blessed.” (Bereishis/Genesis 27:29)
Eisav is appeased for the moment, kisses Yakov on the neck and says, “Travel on and let us go I will walk alongside you.” (Bereishis/Genesis 33:12) Yakov responds by saying, “Let my lord go ahead of his servant; I will make my way at my slow pace according to the gait of the work that is before me, and to the gait of the children, until I come to my lord at Seir. Yakov tells Eisav, that his descendants of the Roman Empire will rule the world; it’s been over 2000 years now. Rashi explains this will end in the days of Mashiach (Messiah).
So what does it all mean? We see that the Yaitzer Harah (Evil Impulse) is just a servant of Hashem, like the myriad of legions of the rest of the angels. The Heavens and the Earth have been created by an All-Loving, All-Powerful Creator. If we mistakenly make bad decisions, we can be injured by them. But if we struggle to be good, and fight against the temptation for evil, we cannot be defeated. Because ultimately, evil was just created to help us become greater, by overcoming it. Even the force of evil itself, sings praises to the Greatness of Hashem everyday.
Also we see that history will end in the Messianic Age, and finally in the eternal peace and happiness of Olam Habah (World to Come). Hashem gives all the world life everyday. Hashem creates a beautiful world everyday. Everyone of us has greatness inside of us. We must fight through the doubt, and darkness to see the Emet (Truth) that is all around us. The world is sweet and good, and everyone has the potential to be this also. We only need to walk with Yakov at the slow pace of the work, and the slow pace of our children; enjoying the blessings that always surround us. We can see that sickness, poverty and even death are gifts from the Almighty. Because in the end, everything is replaced with health, prosperity and life in an eternal world. Dare to start looking for the truth, and you will find it.
14th Kislev, 5771
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