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Parshas Mishpatim & Shekalim 5759

Outline Vol. 3, # 13

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

Last week, we mentioned that the Torah wanted each person to be a judge over his own actions. The idea came from Rav Yerucham Halevi. The same idea is quoted in Shimusha Shel Torah in the name of Rav Yisrael Salanter.

The story is told there of a student who needed to leave his studies in order to pursue an occupation. His Rebbe told him something startling -- it is much easier to remain in Yeshiva than to enter the business world. It is necessary to know the entire Shulchan Aruch in order to avoid harming another person.

The "real world" requires honing one's studies. Rav Yerucham Halevi knew a Rabbi who had studied the legal codes, but, when asked a question, could never find an answer in the Shulchan Aruch. How does such a situation occur? The study was not thorough enough to be applicable, but was utterly external.

So, too, we find students who do not see the Torah discussing human dignity. How can this be, cried Rav Yerucham. "Kavod habrios docheh lo sa'asei she'b'torah" -- honor of fellow man pushes aside a prohibition. "Meis Mitzva docheh afilu kum asei" -- The mitzva of burying an unattended corpse overrides an obligation. Now, this is talking about a dead body. If we have to be so concerned for the contempt of a dead body, how much more so for the living!

The learning of such students is external -- they have missed the point. The entire Torah is Musar -- ethical conduct. (See Da'as Torah, Parshas Mishpatim)

Rav Shachna Zohn, shlita, notes that people have a fundamental misunderstanding regarding the concept of an Adom Gadol (a person great in Torah knowledge). Many think that someone who has mastered many books, and can argue brilliant constructions, is the great authority to approach. This, however, is far from the truth. The Adom Gadol is the Torah Scholar who has mastered human character. (Kuntres Kavod Torah, Chelek 1)

Experience bears this out. The Gadolim are the people of refined spirit, whose pure character leads them towards the truth. Brilliant scholars may say beautiful commentaries and expositions -- but without the refined character, the underlying veracity of their statements remains questionable.

The verse states (Shmos 23:5) "When you see a donkey which belongs to someone whom you hate, struggling beneath its burden... you shall surely help him." The Talmud in Pesachim (113b) queries: How can we be dealing with "someone you hate?" The Torah has not permitted hatred! It must be dealing with a case when you saw the person perform a perverse, illegal act (but cannot testify against him, because the Torah requires two witnesses). In such a case, the hatred is legitimate.

The commentary Tosafos questions further: In tractate Baba Metzia (32b) we are taught that helping the animal of your enemy takes precedence over your friend's animal -- "in order for you to overcome your natural inclination." If, however, you have a legitimate reason to hate him, what is the "overcoming of your natural inclination?"

Tosafos concludes that one's hatred naturally draws other people to share this hatred. Therefore, the Torah has warned us to overcome the natural inclination. The fact that you know something improper about another person, does not allow you to needlessly spread ill-will. You must rush to help the person whom you legitimately dislike.

Chasom Sofer quotes an interesting explanation. Rebbi Yochanan said that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of needless hatred. Elsewhere, however, the same Rebbi Yochanan said that the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because they did not extend themselves beyond the strict letter of the law.

The solution is provided by yet another quote of the same teacher, Rebbi Yochanan. There was a well-know incident concerning two enemies (the story of Kamtza and Bar Kamtza). The Rabbis who were present at the time of the dispute, did nothing to intervene (in order to prevent the embarrassment of one of the parties).

We surmise they did not intervene because they figured that there was a legitimate reason for the hatred between the two men. However, Tosafos has taught that, even though there is a legitimate reason for hatred, nonetheless, one may not hold back from performing a public kindness to the one hated.

Thus, the Beis Hamikdash was destroyed because of needless hatred. Although it was legitimate, had the Rabbis acted beyond the letter of the law, they would have done as Tosafos prescribed, and insisted that the two parties act in a civil manner.

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
11 Kiryas Radin
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: (914) 362-5156

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © '98 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.



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