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Foreshadowed Events Print E-mail
Monday, 05 February 2024

In Parshat Chayei Sara, Breisheet Chapter 24 we read the story of Avraham sending his servant (Midrashically known as Eliezer) to find a wife for Yitzchak.

Rabbeinu Bachya comments (Breisheet 24:22):

All the details of what was happening with Rivka at this time foreshadowed events of the future involving her offspring. Similarly, all that happened to Avraham’s servant on this mission foreshadowed events that would happen to her descendants in the desert.

Avraham told Eliezer in Breisheet 24:7:

HaShem, God of heaven, Who took me from my father’s house, and from the land of my birth, Who spoke to me, and Who swore to me, saying, “To your descendants I will give this land”- He will send His angel (Malacho) before you, and you shall take a wife for my son from there.

Just as an angel had been at Eliezer’s side through the efficacy of Avraham’s prayer who had said that “G-d will send His angel before you,” so too did it happen to Avraham’s descendants in the desert. The angel in question was not a regular natural phenomenon but one of the disembodied spiritual creatures. As well, the angel who accompanied the Jewish people was such a disembodied spiritual force who had been emanated by the merit of Avraham.

This was whom the Torah had in mind when it quoted God as telling Moses in Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 23:20:

Here I am about to send an angel (Malachi) ahead of you.

Just as Avraham referred to this divine force as Malacho, “His angel,” so too did God refer to the same divine force as Malachi, “My angel.”

Rabbeinu Bachya adds more similarities between the two stories:

Just as the waters at the well had risen towards Rivka, so the waters rose towards her “children” in the desert as it says in Bamidbar 21:17: “It was then that Yisrael sang the song: ‘Arise, O well, sing to it!’”

The mission to find a wife for Yitzchak was carried out by a trusted servant (Eliezer). The Jewish people in the desert were led by God’s trusted servant (Moshe).

We read in Breisheet 24:10: “The servant took ten camels from his master’s camels and departed. All the best of his master was in his hand…” Eliezer had been equipped with all the “good” of his master, Avraham, The Torah, in a parallel reference, tells us that God equipped Moshe for his task by equipping him with all ‘His goodness’. This is what is meant in Shmot 33:19: “God said, ‘I will cause all My goodness to pass before your presence...”

Eliezer gave gifts to Rivka at the well (Breisheet 24:22):

When the camels had finished drinking, the man took a gold nose ring, weighing half a shekel, and two bracelets for her arms, weighing ten gold shekel.

He also gave gifts to Rivka and her family at her father’s house (Breisheet 24:53):

The servant took out articles of silver, articles of gold and garments and gave them to Rivka. To her brother and mother, he gave precious fruits.

The Jewish people also received gifts on two separate occasions. They received the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai and received the gift of the covenant shortly before they entered the Land of Israel (Devarim 28:69):

These are the statements of the covenant that God commanded Moshe to ratify with B’nai Yisrael in the land of Moav, beside the covenant that he made with them at Chorev (Mt. Sinai).

At that time many commandments which were applicable in the Land of Israel were revealed for the first time in detail as B’nai Yisrael were getting ready to enter the Land.

We see from here that Rabbeinu Bachya’s parallels really work. Just as Good took care of Eliezer and Rivka, so too did He take care of Moshe and B’nai Yisrael.

Now we need to be taken care of once again. We need God to send us an angel to help us fight this war, we need trusted leaders that we can rely on and we need to appreciate the Torah, God’s bond with the Jewish people including the agricultural mitzvot which help connect us with the Land of Israel.

What is the Book of the Covenant? Print E-mail
Thursday, 16 February 2023

In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 24:3-4 we read: “Moshe came and told the people all the words of God and all the laws. The people responded with one voice and said, ‘All the words that God has spoken, we will do (na’aseh).’Moshe wrote down all the words of God...” A few verses later (verse 7) we read: “He then took the Sefer HaBrit (Book of the Covenant) and read it in the ears of the people. They said, ‘All that God has spoken, we will do and we will listen (na’aseh v’nishma).’”

What was written in the Sefer HaBrit?

Rashi brings the Mechilta’s interpretation that the Sefer HaBrit listed everything from Breisheet until the Giving of the Torah as well as the mitzvot that were commanded at Marah (B’nai Yisrael’s first encampment in the wilderness).

What happened at Marah and which mitzvot were given there?

The incident at Marah is told in Parshat Beshalach, Shmot 15:22-25:

Moshe led B’nai Yisrael away from the Reed Sea, and they went into the desert of Shur, they travelled for three days in the desert and they did not find any water. They came to Marah but they could not drink the water because it was bitter. The place was therefore called Marah (bitter). The people complained to Moshe saying, “What shall we drink?” He (Moshe) cried out to God, And God showed him a tree and he threw it into the water, and the water became sweet. There he set before them the statutes (chok) and ordinances (mishpat), and there he tested them. 

Rashi who seems to be basing himself on the Mechilta’s explanation and on the Talmud, Sanhedrin 56b, says that in Marah God gave B’nai Yisrael some sections of the Torah so that they could occupy themselves with studying them: These were the sections dealing with Shabbat, the Parah Aduma (the Red Heifer) and the Administration of Justice.

However, the Mechilta as well as the Talmud actually say that the mitzvah of Kibbud Av v’Em, Honoring Your Parents was introduced in Marah along with Shabbat and the Administration of Justice (with no mention of the Parah Aduma).

Maskil L’David tries to rectify this by saying that Rashi was quoting a midrash which has been lost to us.

Gur Aryeh explains that Parah Aduma is a mitzvah that we don’t have a reason for and therefore fits into the category of a ‘chok,’ so Rashi’s interpretation makes sense.

The Talmud, Sanhedrin 56b brings a braita:

Ten mitzvot were given to B’nai Yisrael at Marah: Seven that the B’nai Noach accepted upon themselves to which were added three more: Administration of Justice, Shabbat and Honoring Your Parents.

Why does it make sense for Shabbat and Honoring Your Parents to already have been given at Marah?

In Dvarim Chapter 5, in the second recording of the Ten Commandments- both Shabbat (5:12) and Honoring Your Parents (5:16) end with the words “as Hashem your God commanded you.” Rabbi Yehuda said: as He commanded you in Marah.

It is interesting to note that when commenting on Dvarim 5:16, Rashi states that the mitzvot of Honoring Your Parents and Shabbat were already given at Marah!

Even if we don’t know exactly which mitzvot B’nai Yisrael were given at that time, it is clear that after hearing Moshe read the Sefer HaBrit, they already had an idea of what they were getting themselves into when they said “na’aseh,” “we will do”, and they were willing to commit to taking on more mitzvot that they didn’t even know about yet when they said “nishma,” “we will listen.”

The Torah is so vast that even those who have been studying for years always find more to learn. When studying Torah and living a Jewish life we must take the attitude that B’nai Yisrael had when they first got a taste of the Torah- we will do and we will listen.

Cancelling Debts in the Shmita (Sabbatical) Year Print E-mail
Monday, 24 January 2022

Sponsored by Bonnie Kamel and Steve Toberman in honor of their Mother’s 14th yahrzeit on Thursday night, January 27th,

Miriam bat Ya'akov Hersh Halevi and Devora, Marion Betty Tomsky Toberman

Born on Sept. 27 1922 in St. Paul Minnesota

Shmita is not only about agriculture. Loans are also cancelled out by the end of the Shmita year. In addition to the agricultural laws of Shmita that we learn about in Parshat Mishpatim and in Parshat Behar, in Parshat Re’eh (Dvarim 15:1-10) we learn about Shmitat Ksafim (cancelling debts):

At the end of seven years you shall institute a remission. This is the matter of the remission: every creditor shall remit his authority over what he has lent his fellow; he shall not press his fellow or his brother for He has proclaimed a remission for God. You may press the gentile; but over what you have with your brother, you shall remit your authority…Beware lest there be a lawless thought in your heart saying, “The seventh year approaches, the remission year,” and you will look malevolently upon your destitute brother and refuse to give him- then he may appeal against you to God and it will be a sin upon you. You shall surely give him and let your heart not feel bad when you give him, for in return for this matter, Hashem, your God will bless you in all your deeds and in your every undertaking.

Is Cancellation of Debts D’Oraita (a Biblical obligation) or D’Rabbanan (a Rabbinic Obligation) today?

Hillel instituted prosbul (a document that allows debts to be collected after Shmita) for the benefit of society (Talmud, Gittin 36a).

We learn in the Mishna (Shviit 10:3-4):

When a person writes a prosbul, he does not have to relinquish his loans and may collect them after Shmita. This is one of the things that Hillel HaZaken instituted for he saw that the people refrained from lending money to one another as Shmita approached because they were afraid that they would not be repaid in time. They thereby transgressed that which is written in the Torah (Dvarim 15:9): “Beware lest there be a lawless thought in your heart saying, “The seventh year approaches, the remission year,” and you will look malevolently upon your destitute brother and refuse to give him…” Hillel therefore rose and instituted prosbul.

The Gemara asks: Is it possible that from a Biblical standpoint, the seventh year cancels loans yet Hillel decreed that it does not cancel?

The Gemara answers: Abaye said: Hillel instituted prosbul to be effective only in regard to the observation of Shmita nowadays, following the view of Rebbi, that Shmita’s cancellation of loans nowadays is only a Rabbinic law. As it was taught in a Braita: Rebbi says “and this is the matter of the remission, remit”. The verse speaks of two Shmitot (relinquishments) one is the relinquishment of land (Shmita of the land) and one is the relinquishment of monies (Shmitat Ksafim) that are owed to you. The Torah compares the two to teach us that at a time that you relinquish land, you relinquish monies that are owed to you. But at a time that you do not relinquish land, you do not have the obligation to relinquish monies.

Abaye continues: Nevertheless, the Rabbis declared that Shmita should cancel out loans even nowadays, as a reminder of the Biblical law of the seventh year so that it will not be forgotten. Since Shmita’s cancellation of loans became Rabbinic, when Hillel saw that people refrained from lending money to one another, he rose and instituted the prosbul.

The Rambam, Rashi, Rabbeinu Tam, Rashba and Ritva all follow the view of Rebbe and Hillel that Shmitat Ksafim is Rabbinic today.

How does the Prosbul work?

The lender authorizes a Beit Din (a court of three observant men) to collect money on their behalf. Only loans between a Jew and their fellow Jew are cancelled (not loans between a Jew and a Beit Din) as we learn in Dvarim 15:3, “You must forfeit a claim against your brother.”

We see that Shmita is not only about agriculture, it is also about loans being cancelled out by the end of the Shmita year. If you lent out money which you would like to get back, then you should set up a prosbul!

Do Not Take a Bribe Print E-mail
Friday, 12 February 2021

We learn about not taking a bribe twice in the Torah:

In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 23:8 we are told:

Do not accept a bribe, for the bribe will blind those who see and corrupt words that are just.

In Parshat Shoftim, Dvarim 16:19, we are commanded using almost the same words with a slight variation:

Do not wrest judgment; do not display favoritism; neither take a bribe for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and make just words crooked.

Nechama Leibowitz points out the extremes that the rabbis in the Talmud went through in order to not transgress this mitzvah:

The very concept of bribery has been extended by our Sages to include not only the acceptance of a monetary gift but all kinds of benefits and services, even the student’s showing respect to his teacher. Though this is his duty, if it is liable to create a predisposition in his favor in the heart of the judge, it comes under the prohibition of: “neither take a bribe.”

Professor Leibowitz brings two examples from the Talmud, Ketubot 105b:

“Neither take a bribe”- not merely a monetary gift but even verbal bribery is forbidden. What is meant by verbal bribery? Shmuel (a Talmudic sage) was crossing a ferry and a man came up and gave him his hand for support. Shmuel said to him: “What are you doing here?” The man answered: “I have a lawsuit to submit to you.” Shmuel answered: “I am disqualified from judging your case.”

Amemar was judging a case. A bird perched on his head. A man came and removed it. Amemar asked him: “What are you doing here?”  He answered: “I have a lawsuit here.” Amemar observed: “Then I am disqualified from judging your case.

The Rambam (Hilchot Sanhedrin v’HaOnshin HaMesurin Lahem 23:3) teaches:

Any judge who sits and seeks to amplify his reputation in order to cause the wages of his attendants and scribes to be enhanced is included among those who seek after profit (betza). This is what the sons of Shmuel the Prophet did. As we see in Shmuel Alef 8:3 "His sons did not follow his ways. They were swayed by profit (betza). They took bribes and they perverted justice."

Shmuel’s sons moved down to Be’er Sheva and charged for their services as opposed to Shmuel who was located in Ramah which was much more accessible and never accepted payment.

When it was time to choose a new leader, the elders told Shmuel (Shmuel Alef 8:4) “You have grown old and your sons did not follow your ways. So now appoint for us a king to judge us, like all the nations.”

The elders understood that it is impossible to continue with corrupt leaders who take bribes.

There is a reason why the Torah mentions not taking bribes twice when it could have been mentioned once. We need an extra reminder that our leaders must be upstanding like Shmuel who did everything above board as opposed to his sons who were doing business under the table.

Some things never change. Many Israelis still don’t seem to understand what the big deal is if a Prime Minister takes gifts such as cigars. The Torah and the rabbis therefore emphasize that this is not acceptable and it should not be done. The rabbis in the Talmud were careful not to even take the case of a person that helped them out for a minute (without an exchange of material gifts).

When we go to the elections next month, may we focus on the original commandment, take the Rambam’s message seriously and not support candidates and leaders who chase after money or other forms of corruption. Can we find any candidates who meet these criteria? For the sake of our future, I certainly hope so.

Who was Chur? Print E-mail
Friday, 01 February 2019

In Parshat Mishpatim (Shmot 24:12-14) God asks Moshe to come up to Mount Sinai:

God then said to Moshe, “Come up to Me to the mountain and remain there. I will give you the tablets of stone, the Torah and the commandment, which I have written in order to teach them.” Moshe and Yehoshua, his attendant, set out, but only Moshe went up to the mountain of God. He (Moshe) said to the elders, “Wait here for us until we return to you, and Aharon and Chur will be with you. Whoever has a claim can approach them.”

The first time that Chur was mentioned in the Torah was in Shmot 17:11-12, during the fight against Amalek:

When Moshe raised his hand, B’nai Yisrael prevailed: But when he let his hand down to rest, Amalek prevailed. Moshe’s hands became heavy. They took a stone and placed it under him and he sat upon it. Aharon and Chur supported his hands, one of them on one side. His hands remained an expression of faith until sunset.

Who was Chur? How was he chosen to hold up Moshe’s hands and why was he left in charge of the nation along with Aharon while Moshe went to receive the Torah?

Rashi comments on Shmot 17:12 that Chur was Miriam’s son (this is derived from the Talmud, Sotah 11b).

In his commentary on Shmot 24:14, Rashi mentions that Chur was Miriam’s son and adds that his father was Kalev ben Yefuneh as it says in Divrei HaYamim I 2:19, “Kalev took Efrat (as a wife) and she gave birth to Chur. In Sotah 11b we learn that Efrat is Miriam.

The background story can be found in Divrei HaYamim 18-20:

And Kalev the son of Hetzron had children with Azuva, his wife and with Yeriot; her sons are Yesher and Shovav and Ardon. And when Azuva died Kalev married Efrat who gave birth to Chur. And Chur begot Uri and Uri begot Bezalel.

The Agaddeta in the Talmud, Masechet Sotah answers some difficult questions on these verses:

Why is Kalev called the son of Hetzron if in the Torah his name is Kalev the son of Yefuneh?

Kalev’s father’s name was Hetzron. However, since he turned aside (fanah) from the bad behavior of the other scouts, he was called the son of Yefuneh.

Who were Azuva and Yeriot?

They were both names of Miriam. She was called Azuva (deserted) since the men didn’t want to marry her when she had the skin disease, tzaraat. She was called Yeriot since her complexion was similar to undyed curtains.

Why don’t we know anything about Yesher and Shovav and Ardon?

They weren’t actually sons (vaneha), rather they were her builders (voneha) and describe her husband, Calev who didn’t follow the bad behavior of the scouts who gave about report about the Land of Israel.

Why does it say that she died?

When she was sick it was almost like she died.

Why is she called Efrat?

The name Efrat has the root “paru”, “were fruitful.” When Miriam was a midwife (Puah) she ensured that B’nai Yisrael were fruitful and multiplied.

Why does it say that Calev married Efrat?

When she was healed it was like she was a new person and they renewed their wedding vows.

King David was called an Efrati since he was a descendant of Miriam.

Chur was the son of important parents, Miriam and Kalev, leaders of B’nai Yisrael. His uncles were Moshe and Aharon. He merited to have Bezalel, the artist chosen to create the artifacts for the mishkan (Tabernacle), as his grandson.

The miracles cannot happen soon enough Print E-mail
Thursday, 08 February 2018

In Memory of Esther Zuroff z”l 

In Parshat Mishpatim, we read about God’s promise to Moshe that B’nai Yisrael will be brought to the Land of Israel and that God will protect them there. In Shmot 23:26, we read: “No woman will suffer miscarriage or remain childless in your land. I will cause the number of your days to be full.”

This means that in an ideal world, women would carry their babies to term and give birth to healthy children who would live full lives.

According to Ramban, this would be a true miracle which would include no deaths from war, plague or illness. Rather, people would die at a ripe old age- whatever happens to be the normal span of life in that particular generation (during the time of King David people lived into their seventies and eighties).

This blessing can’t come soon enough. After teaching an eight week fertility workshop and seeing what trials and tribulations the women in the group are going through in order to conceive and give birth to a healthy full term baby, I can only pray that they are blessed and that “no woman will suffer a miscarriage or remain childless” as each baby is truly a miracle.

This past week, Israel suffered a great loss as a twenty-nine year old teacher, husband and father of four, Rabbi Itamar Ben Gal z”l was murdered by a nineteen year old Israeli-Arab while waiting at a bus stop. This senseless murder especially affected our community as Rabbi Ben Gal’s sister teaches at our elementary school in Jerusalem and over the years has taught our children. This murder took place just a month after Rabbi Raziel Shevach, a thirty-five years old mohel, husband and father of six was fatally shot.

Both rabbis lost their lives because they were Jewish. Now more than ever we need God’s protection of the Jewish people in the land of Israel as stated in our parsha.

May the miracles of Shmot 23:26 be fulfilled speedily in our days and may the blessing that we recite during the Sheva Brachot (Seven Blessings) at each wedding be fulfilled: “Bring intense joy and exultation to the barren one (Jerusalem) through the ingathering of her children amidst her in gladness. Blessed are you, God, Who gladdens Zion through her children.”

May we be blessed in celebrating happy occasions in Jerusalem and throughout Israel.

Protecting those who are most vulnerable Print E-mail
Friday, 24 February 2017

In Parshat Mishpatim (Shmot 22:21) we are commanded: “You must not mistreat (lo t’anun) any widow or orphan.”

Rashi comments that nobody should be mistreated. Nevertheless, since widows and orphans are frequently mistreated, the Torah specifically points them out.

Rav Saadia Gaon explains that not mistreating includes not mistreating their bodies as well as their money and dealing with them fairly in a court of law.

According to Ibn Ezra, whoever sees someone mistreating a widow or an orphan and doesn’t go to help them is considered as if they themselves are mistreating them.

Although it may seem obvious to some of us, the Torah emphasizes the fact that we must not mistreat the widow and the orphan (as well as the convert) as they may not have anyone to stand up for them.

The same is true for many residents of nursing homes.

Over the past few weeks, an issue arose in Israel where many nursing homes have been exposed as not treating their residents properly. Security cameras are now being installed in Israel’s 120 nursing homes to make sure that if there is a case of abuse it will be caught. Unfortunately, there is a culture in long term care facilities to pay more attention to the needs of those residents who have family and friends checking up on them on a regular basis and neglecting those who don’t. It is the responsibility of all those who work in or visit nursing homes to speak up if they see residents being mistreated. This includes looking out for physical abuse, verbal abuse and theft.

We must remember that if we don’t personally step in to help those who are vulnerable it is as if we too are mistreating them.

Is Shmita Once Again Becoming a Biblical Commandment? Print E-mail
Wednesday, 03 February 2016

In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 23:10-11, we learn about the mitzvah of Shmita (the sabbatical year): “You may sow your land for six years and gather its crops. But on the seventh year you must let it rest and abandon it and let the needy among your people eat it. What they leave over, the beasts of the field can eat. Do the same with your vineyard and your olive trees.”


We just finished observing the Shmita year this past September and many of the fruits that are available are still considered to be from the Shmita year, yet we are already planning for the next one.


Since the destruction of the Beit HaMikdash, we have been observing Shmita as well as the other Mitzvot Hatluyot Baaretz (agricultural mitzvot that are only observed in the Land of Israel) as Mitzvot DeRabanan, Rabbinical mitzvot, as most of world Jewry was not living in the Land of Israel.


We learn this concept from the Rambam, Hilchot Trumot, Chapter 1:

Trumot and Maasrot (contributions and tithes) are only observed Biblically in the Land of Israel… when all of Israel is there as it says “ki tavohoo”, when you shall all come.


While Shmita was considered a Rabbinical mitzvah, leniencies were set up such as Heter Mechira (where the land was sold to a non-Jew and therefore it could still be worked and the fruit could still be sold during the Shmita year).


According to studies that deal with demography, as of now there are more Jews living in Israel than in any single country in the world. Within ten years, most of the world’s Jews will be living in Israel. If that is in fact the case, then either the next Shmita year (in less than seven years) or the following Shmita year (in less than 14 years) will be considered a Biblical mitzvah.


This will depend on a lot of factors such as if aliya continues to rise, if native Israelis and olim I(immigrants) remain in the land, if those who are living in Israel who have not officially converted take the plunge and convert according to Halacha and if Jews around the world continue to assimilate.


It will be interesting to see what will happen over the next few years. If world Jewry will come on aliya en masse then we will be able to observe the mizvot Biblically the way that they were meant to be observed.


In the event that Shmita does in fact become Biblical, the State of Israel will need to set up a fund for the farmers now to make sure that they will be able to survive during the Shmita year if all of the fields become Otzar Bet Din where the produce can not be exported but rather distributed throughout Israel by the courts and not sold for a profit.


May we reach the day when all of the Jews in the world can live peacefully in the Land of Israel and fully observe the Torah in the way that God commanded.

A Year Devoted to Social Justice Print E-mail
Tuesday, 17 February 2015

Parshat Mishpatim teaches us many laws about the proper way to conduct our lives. One law that is especially relevant this year is the law of Shmita (the sabbatical year).

In Shmot 23:10-11 we read: “You may sow your land for six years and gather its crops. But on the seventh year you must let it rest and abandon it and let the needy among your people eat it. What they leave over, the beasts of the field can eat”.

The Shmita year teaches us about social justice. Technically all of the fields should be hefker (abandoned) and anybody that needs food should be allowed to enter any field and harvest what they need.

On a private level the concept of the “abandoned field” still takes place during the Shmita year in Israel. If one has a garden, in order to eat what is being grown, one must share with others. This is done by leaving the gate open and putting up a sign alerting the neighbors when they are free to pick from the garden. The lesson here is that what is being grown this year does not belong to me, it belongs to everybody.

Community gardens also observe Shmita when the members of the community plant the garden before the Shmita year begins and work together to tend to the garden on a regular basis throughout the year. The garden is open to the entire community who come to pick from a variety of seasonal produce.

There is also a feeling of community that extends beyond the crops that are being grown. The Shmita year is a time to step back and figure out how we can help those who are less fortunate. In Biblical times all loans that had not been repaid were canceled out during the Shmita year. Today the Israeli government is working on a project called Shnat HaSmita initiated by MK Ruth Calderon to help 1500 families who are over their heads in debt. The project helps families who are in debt due to an illness or death in the family, divorce, unemployment or another family crisis get their finances in order and guides them in setting up a plan to repay their debt, find other sources of employment and ways to cut spending so that they can remain on their feet. Projects like this literally plant the seeds for a brighter future for Israelis who have been going through a difficult time in their lives.

These are just some of the initiatives that are taking place in Israel this year to bring the social justice aspect of Shmita into our consciousness. Our hope is that the loving kindness taking place this year will spill over into the upcoming years as well.

The Torah Has No Tolerance For Negligence Print E-mail
Friday, 24 January 2014

In Parshat Mishpatim (Shmot 22:5) we read about damage which may be caused by negligence: “If a fire goes out of control and catches on thorns and a stack of grain or a standing crop or a field is consumed, full restitution must be made by the one who started the fire.”


According to Rashi, though he lit the fire on his own property and it spread of its own accord by means of thorns which it found, he is nevertheless obligated to make restitution for not keeping his burning coal from breaking out and causing damage.


We learn from here that the Torah has no tolerance for negligence. It is very easy to say that the fire was out of my control. However, we are taught that we must take responsibility to make sure that both our own and our neighbor’s properties are safe. Even someone who is normally careful can turn around for a minute and find that a fire consumed their property as well as the property of their neighbors.


We can not let our guard down for a minute.


This past week there were two terrible and deadly incidents that occurred in Jerusalem which were caused by negligence.


The first was in an apartment building in Gilo. Residents in the building complained that they smelled gas. The technician from the gas company came to check it out and said that he didn’t see a problem. He closed off the gas and said that he would return in the morning to do a more thorough exam. A few hours later, one of the gas balloons exploded killing a couple and their toddler son.


The next incident was in an apartment in Givat Mordechai. An exterminator used poisons that are not intended for household use in a residential apartment. The children started to feel ill but they thought that they had food poisoning so when they went to the clinic they didn’t realize that their feeling ill had something to do with the extermination that took place in their apartment. The clinic did not ask them if they had been exposed to anything hazardous and sent them home. In the morning the children felt worse and the two younger daughters passed away. The two older children are now fighting for their lives.


If the medical clinic had asked more questions there may have been a chance that the lives of the two little girls could have been saved.


If the exterminator had used materials that were not as toxic the children would not have been in this situation to begin with.


It is very easy for the clinic to say that the parents didn’t give them enough information and it is very easy for the exterminator to say that he told them that if it starts to smell then they should leave the apartment.


The bottom line is that the exterminator should not have put them in that situation to begin with.


We see from these deadly examples why the Torah warns us to be careful and watch out for negligence. Even someone who is on the ball 99% of the time can be negligent for the other 1% and that moment can cost someone their life.


Please pray for the two children who are now struggling for their lives.



Kidnapping Has Always Been a Crime Print E-mail
Tuesday, 05 February 2013
In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 21:16 we read: “Whoever steals (kidnaps) a man and sells him, if he is found in his hand, he shall be put to death.”


In Parshat Ki Tetze, Devarim 24:7 there is a similar pasuk: “If a man is found kidnapping a person of his brethren among B’nai Yisrael and he enslaves him and sells him, that kidnapper shall die and you shall remove the evil from your midst.”


Rashi asks why it is necessary to have two psukim about kidnappin.


His answer is that in the first pasuk it says “whoever steals” which teaches us that this law does not only apply to men. Women also would be prohibited from kidnapping.

In the second pasuk it says “if he steals a person” which teaches us that one is not allowed to kidnap a man or a woman.


We see from here that what one pasuk omits the other pasuk reveals.


Unfortunately there are too many kidnapping cases in the news on a daily basis.


One case just took place this past week where a 5 year old boy from Alabama was kidnapped and held hostage in an underground bunker for a week. The boy is now safe and the kidnapper is dead.


Etan Patz was kindnapped in New York City in 1979. His body was never found and the police still aren’t sure what exactly happened to him. His case was reopened this past year.


Once in a while we find out that a child who was kidnapped and thought to be dead is actually alive. In 2009, eighteen years after she was kidnapped, Jaycee Dugard was found alive in California hidden away in her kidnapper’s back yard.


We must do everything that we can to protect ourselves and our children from kidnappers who have been preying on innocent people since the days of the Torah.

Are We Obligated to Lend Money? Print E-mail
Friday, 17 February 2012
Dedicated in Memory of Rabbi Dr. Martin L. Menachem Gordon z"l


In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 22:24 we read: “Im Kesef Talve et Ami…”, “If (or when) you lend my people money, the poor man with you, you shall not behave towards him as a creditor, you shall not charge him interest.”


Does the word “im” mean “if” or “when”? Is it an obligation to lend money or is it a nice thing to do?


Rambam’s opinion is that lending money to the poor is one of the 613 mitzvot and that it is more important than giving charity since the suffering of the one who is reduced to the humiliation of openly begging is not to be compared with the one who is too proud to do so but waits for a helping hand.


Rashi quotes a parable from Sifra to show that lending is a better way to help those in need than giving charity: “Don’t let him fall so that it will be difficult to raise him up again, but lend him a helping hand, just when his means begin to fail him. To what may this be compared? It can be compared to a burden on a donkey’s back. While it is still on the donkey, one person can grab it and fix it, but once it falls to the ground, even five people can’t lift it back again.”


Rambam and Rashi both imply that “im’ means “when”.


Ibn Ezra and Sefer Hasidim say that “im” means “if”- in certain circumstances we may not be obligated to lend money:


Ibn Ezra explains that it is only an obligation for those who have the money to lend.


Sefer Hasidim explains situations where the duty of lending does not apply:

If you are dealing with a rogue who never pays his debts or one who has plenty of money but pretends to be poor; or one who has no money but has food. But he would rather do business and keep his children short of food. Or one who drinks but leaves his children without food…In such case better to give him the food and not lend him even if you put him to shame by providing him food as charity every week. Since he is dishonest he deserves to be shamed. If you lend or give money to such a type of person he will squander it and it will never be used to keep the home going. He should give directly to his wife and children if they are decent people.


We see from here that in both lending money and giving Tzedaka we have to use our judgment.


Walking down the streets of Jerusalem one often sees people begging for money. We don’t really know who is poor and who is not. What we do know is that if we see that the person is smoking (which is often the case) then it would be better to give them food rather than money since if we give them food we know that they will have something to eat while if we give them money, they may just use it to buy more cigarettes.


Unfortunately, dishonest people can ruin future loans for other people who really need them. If a person accepts money, even though he doesn’t need it for basic food and clothing and the lender finds out, he may not be in a rush to lend to another person who may really need it. Before lending, it pays for us to do our research and see if the person needs the money for necessities or if they need it to cover their cable TV and cell phone bills.


Let’s hope that the day will come where the economy will turn around and people won’t have to rely on loans or charity but will earn enough to feed and clothe their families respectfully.

Keep Far Away from Falsehood Print E-mail
Friday, 28 January 2011

In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 23:7 we are told: “Keep far away from falsehood.”


Nechama Leibowitz points out that this pasuk implies not only the negative avoidance of actual falsehood, but also meticulous care in refraining from anything which might conceivably savour of untruth, even though it was not obviously dishonest.


Yet we have seen examples in the Torah where the principle of peace is more important than telling the whole truth.


The best example is when God changes Sarah’s words when he speaks to Avraham.


In Breisheet 18:12 we read: “And Sarah laughed within herself, saying: ‘After I have withered shall I again have delicate skin? And my husband is old!’”


God reported what Sarah said differently in the next pasuk: “Why is it that Sarah laughed saying: ‘Shall I in truth bear a child, though I have aged?’”


God left out the part about Avraham being old in order not to insult him which could have caused an unnecessary rift between Avraham and Sarah.


We learn in Masechet Yevamot 65b that it is permissible to deviate from telling the whole truth in the interests of peace, Shalom Bayit.


This does not hold true in the case of court proceedings where we can not compromise.


In Masechet Shavuot 30b we learn: From where does the judge who knows that the case is crooked (he sees that the witnesses are not acting in good faith but he cannot prove it) know that he should not say: Since the witnesses have testified I shall give the verdict accordingly and let the witnesses bear the blame? From the words: “Keep far away from falsehood.”


We learn from here that we must do our best to stay away from anything that even borders on falsehood and to distance ourselves from anyone who is deceitful.


We also see that for the sake of Shalom Bayit, certain things are better off being left unsaid.

Shkalim Print E-mail
Sunday, 14 February 2010

This week we read the Parsha of Shkalim, the first of the four special Haftarot that are read between Rosh Chodesh Adar and Pesach.


The Haftorah of Shkalim, found in Melachim Bet, Kings II, discusses the reign of the youngest King of Yehuda, Yoash who was only 7 years old at the time that he ascended the throne. The Haftorah focuses on Yoash's love for the Beit HaMikdash (Temple).


Yoash noticed that the Beit HaMikdash had not been kept up to its original beauty and splendor so he made the repairs the top priority. In Kings II 12:5-6 we read about how Joash told the Kohanim, “All the money for holy purposes that is brought to the Temple of Hashem -whether the money of ‘those who pass through' or any man's money for his personal valuation or any money that a man's heart may move him to bring to the house of God. Let the Kohanim take it, each man from his acquaintance, and let them repair the deterioration of the House, wherever deterioration will be found.”


The term “those who pass through” is also seen in the Maftir reading,Shemot 30:13-14, where we learn of how the census of Bnei Yisrael is completed: "This shall they give- everyone who passes through the census, from twenty years of age and up, shall give the portion to God. Everyone who passes through the census, from twenty years of age and up, shall give the portion to Hashem." 


Radak questions if Yoash is now taking the Half Shekel that is supposed to be used for the purchase of communal Korbanot and is using it for the repair and maintenance of the Beit HaMikdash, how are the Korbanot now being funded?


Abarbanel comments that the shortfall in funding was made up by people making additional donations of money and animals.


As Purim approaches Torat Reva Yerushalayim is busy preparing Mishloach Manot/Matanot L’Evyonim packages for the neglected elderly of Jerusalem. Last year the response to our appeal for this project was tremendous and we delivered close to 80 packages.


The packages that Torat Reva Yerushalayim delivered last year to Jerusalem's elderly residents were the ONLY gift packages that these individuals received!


We ask all those who have made contributions for this or any other prior project to consider helping to fill the gap and celebrate in this Mitzvah, just as Abarbanel suggests my making an additional donation.


Information can be found below with packages at $18 a piece, or $180 for a whole floor of a nursing home.


Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov from Yerushalayim!

Sharona Margolin Halickman


Send Mishloach Manot/ Matanot L'Evyonim (Gifts for Purim and Gifts for the Poor) to Jerusalem ’s Impoverished Elderly!

According to the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah: “gifts for the poor deserve more attention than the seudah (festive meal) and mishloach  manot (gifts for friends) because there is no greater, richer  happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans,  widows and proselytes.”

Torat Reva Yerushalayim will again be delivering Mishloach Manot/Matanot L'Evyonim packages to elderly residents in Jerusalem ’s nursing  homes on Shushan Purim (the day that Purim is celebrated in  Jerusalem ). The packages will include healthy snacks, gifts and Purim  treats.

Our goal is to provide packages for residents of two full nursing  homes in Jerusalem who study Torah with Torat Reva Yerushalayim. A donation of $18 covers one package, $180 covers packages for an  entire floor of a nursing home.


Please click on the following link to donate on line
Or mail a check payable to Torat Reva Yerushalayim to:
In the US
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 75 Berkeley Avenue, Yonkers NY 10705
In Israel
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 12 Israel  Eldad #19, Jerusalem 93399

All Jewish Women Have Equal Rights Print E-mail
Thursday, 19 February 2009

Parsha Points- Mishpatim


All Jewish Women Have Equal Rights


In Parshat Mishpatim (Shmot 21:9-10) we read about a man’s obligation to provide for his wife: “If he (the master) has designated her (the maidservant) as a wife for his son, he must grant her exactly the same rights as daughters. If he takes for himself another wife, sheara, her sustenance, ksuta, her clothing and onah, her conjugal rights must not diminish”.


According to Rabbi Getsel Ellinson, We see from this pasuk that even when polygamy was allowed, the former maidservant was on par with those of higher status.


No matter how many women he would marry, the husband was obligated to provide the same level of sustenance, clothing and conjugal rights for each.


Rabbi Shimshon Raphael Hirsch points out that the Torah mentions a woman at the very bottom of the social scale: the daughter of a beggar who has already sold his shirt to save himself and his daughter from hunger. Now, having sold her as a maidservant and her master having refused to marry her, she was given in marriage to her master’s son. The Torah, comparing this woman to the free and well to do states: “Let not the law regarding this woman be any lighter in your eyes than that regarding this other one”: The verse “sets out to teach one thing but another is actually learned”- the principle of “the manner of daughters” is spelled out here in a special case, but extends to all Jewish girls.


Ramban (Shmot 21:10) states: If the husband takes another wife, he should not deprive this one of direct physical contact, bedding or appropriate timing (for intimacy)…this means that the other wife should not have a fine bed while this one is like a concubine that sleeps on the ground…

 Rabbeinu Gershom ben Yehuda (965 - 1040 C.E.), the head of the Talmudic Academy in Mainz, Germany, in the 11th Century, one of the first important leaders of the Ashkenazi community became famous not only on account of his teachings and writings, but particularly for certain regulations (Takanot), which were accepted as binding on all Ashkenazi Jews they included:
1) not being able to marry more than one wife (though the Torah permits it)
2) not being able to divorce one's wife against her will (though the Torah permits it)
3) not being allowed to read someone else's mail

Since Rabbeinu Gershom’s time we have not had an issue (in the Ashkenasic community) about which wife is to be treated better, yet the Torah’s message still stands, all Jewish women should have equal rights.


Opportunity to Send Mishloach Manot/ Matanot L'Evyonim to Jerusalem ’s Impoverished Elderly

According to the Rambam in his Mishneh Torah: “gifts for the poor deserve more attention than the seudah (festive meal) and mishloach manot (gifts for friends) because there is no greater, richer happiness than bringing joy to the hearts of needy people, orphans, widows and proselytes.”

Torat Reva Yerushalayim will be delivering mishloach manot/ matanot laevyonim packages to elderly residents in Jerusalem ’s nursing homes on Shushan Purim (the day that Purim is celebrated in Jerusalem ). The packages will include healthy snacks and Purim treats.

Our goal is to provide packages for residents of two full nursing homes in Jerusalem who study Torah with Torat Reva Yerushalayim.  

A donation of $18 covers one package, $180 covers packages for an entire floor of a nursing home.

Please click on the following link to donate on line


Or mail a check payable to Torat Reva Yerushalayim to:
In the US
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 75 Berkeley Avenue, Yonkers NY 10705
In Israel
Torat Reva Yerushalayim, 12 Israel  Eldad #19, Jerusalem 93399
Shmitta is Always on My Mind Print E-mail
Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Parshat Mishpatim briefly discusses the laws of Shmitta (the Sabbatical year) in Shmot 23:10-11: “Six years you shall sow your land and gather in its produce. And in the seventh, you shall leave it untended and unharvested, and the destitute of your people shall eat, and the wildlife of the field shall you eat what is left; so shall you do to your vineyard and your olive grove”.

Living in Israel during a Shmitta year is unlike any experience that you can imagine. Shmitta is not just a concept that we study from the Torah, Shmitta becomes part of our daily lives.

Every time I need to buy fruits and vegetables the question is where do I shop?

1. Do I shop at the closest and most convenient supermarket which will only sell vegetables which are grown by non-Jews either in Israel or abroad?

2. Do I shop in the regular supermarkets which sell “heter mechira”, a compromise where land is temporarily sold for the Shmitta year to a non-Jew (Druze) and then the vegetables are technically considered not grown on Jewish land, but the Jewish farmers are still being supported (kind of like selling your chametz for the week of Pesach)?

3. Do I buy at a fruit store which is a little bit out of my way which sells:

A.Otzar Beit Din, “holy vegetables” which were planted during the sixth year and picked during the seventh year- The court takes ownership of these fruits and vegetables and they have the holiness of the seventh year, 

B. Vegetables raised in hot-houses detached from the soil?

Whenever possible, I prefer choice #3. In this way I am supporting Jewish farmers as well as observing the mitzvah of eating the fruits of the seventh year.

Once I get my produce home, my Shmitta worries are still not over! Every time I eat one of those “holy vegetables”, I have to make sure that whatever peels, seeds etc. that I am not eating don’t go into a regular garbage, but rather go into a Shmitta garbage (double-wrapped plastic bag).

Although Shmitta may make my life a little bit more complicated, it is an honor and a privilege to be able to live in Israel and observe these mitzvoth. Anyway, my worries of where to shop are nothing compared to the worries of someone who owns a farm or even a garden and has to figure out how to/not to tend to their fruits and vegetables during the Shmitta year!




We Were All Strangers Print E-mail
Thursday, 15 February 2007

In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 22:20, we find the following words which are actually reiterated over thirty-six times throughout the Torah: "You must not abuse or oppress a Ger (stranger) for you were Gerim (strangers) in the land of Egypt".

Rashi explains that we may not abuse Gerim verbally and may not oppress them by robbing them of their money. According to Rashi, wherever the term Ger is used it applies to a person not born in that country who came from another land to reside there.

The Torah reminds us that we too were Gerim in Egypt to point out the fact that none of us should feel that we have the monopoly on being better than anyone else. At one point we were strangers as well.

Today we see a similar phenomenon. The State of Israel is a very young State, not even 59 years old. However, many Israelis feel that because they are already living in Israel they can treat new olim (immigrants) inappropriately or simply not associate with them. They forget that they too (or their parents or grandparents) were strangers in the land not so long ago.

This phenomenon unfortunately alienates many people who would like to make aliya but choose not to because they feel that they will never feel fully welcome or accepted.

It is often the newer olim who are most helpful and welcoming to the newest olim. However, in terms of fully integrating into Israeli society, I believe that it is unhealthy for recent olim to solely associate with other recent olim whether it be in a social or a professional setting.

In order to help increase the amount of people who make aliya and remain in Israel, all those currently living in Israel should take upon themselves the mitzvah of loving the Ger. Each of us should try to make an effort to make Israel a welcoming place and make newcomers feel fully accepted.

The Protective Angel Print E-mail
Wednesday, 22 February 2006

In Parshat Mishpatim, Shmot 23:20 we read: "Behold, I send an angel before you, to protect you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared (Beit HaMikdash, Temple)."

Ramban, basing himself on a midrash in Shmot Raba 32:9 comments: God said to Moshe: The one who guarded the fathers will guard the children.

When Avraham sent his servant Eliezer to find a wife for Yitzchak he used the words "The Lord God of heaven, who took me from my father's house and from the land of my kindered and who spoke to me, and swore to me saying, to your seed I will give this land, He will send his angel before you. (Breisheet 24:7)"

When blessing his grandchildren, Yaakov used the words "The angel who has redeemed me from all evil, bless the children.(Breisheet 48:16)" Yaakov was saved from his brother Esav who wanted to kill him, as well as from his father in law, Lavan and from the many years of famine.

God said to Moshe, Now too, the one who guarded the fathers will guard the children. Whenever the angel appears, the Shechina, Divine presence appears. As it says in Shmot 3:2: "And the angel of God appeared to him in a flame of fire out of the midst of the bush." Immediately after, we read in Shmot 3:4 "God called out to him out of the midst of the bush."

The midrash continues, When the Jewish people call out before this angel, the redemption will come. As we saw when B'nai Yisrael were enslaved in Egypt the angel told Moshe, Shmot 3:9 "Behold the cry of B'nai Yisrael has come to me." Soon after, the exodus from Egypt began.

We read about the final geula, redemption in Malachi 3:1 "Behold, I will send my messenger and he shall clear the way before me, and God who you seek shall suddenly come to his Heical (Temple)."

Let's hope and pray that the final redemption will soon be upon us.