Illuminations #109, Shvat 5777, Parshat Mishpatim

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Illuminations #109, Shvat 5777, Parshat Mishpatim

Torah Gems

Most of the mitzvot related in our parshah are between man and his fellow – bein adam lachaveiro. Here is a story that illustrates thoughtfulness and concern for others that we can incorporate into our lives: A disciple of Rav Yisrael Salanter, zt”l, wanted to honor his Rebbe as a Shabbat guest. Before Rav Yisrael agreed, he told him that he only accepts invitations after he knows some details of how they conduct their Shabbat seudot. His disciple started explaining how his home is run meticulously according to halachah, he uses only a shochet who has yiras shamayim, the cook is a modest, righteous woman, the widow of a big talmid chacham, his wife supervises all the details of the kitchen and how at the Shabbat table, they study Torah and sing zemirot. As a result, their beautiful Shabbos seudah continues on for a very long time. Rav Yisrael replied that he would be willing to come on the condition that the Shabbat meal be guaranteed to be shorter than two hours. The disappointed host agreed. That Shabbat, he did as promised, and the meal was rushed, with only a few zemirot and divrei Torah. They were ready for mayim acharonim and bentshing after only an hour. At that point, the host turned to Rav Yisrael and asked, “Rebbe, what fault have you found in the conduct of our table?” Instead of answering, Rav Yisrael asked that the cook come in. When she came, Rav Yisrael apologized and said, “Please forgive me for tiring you this evening and causing you to hurry and serve the courses so quickly.” The cook replied, “May the Rebbe be blessed; halevai the Rebbe should come every week! The meal usually lasts many hours and I am so tired I can hardly stand on my feet. Thanks to you, I can already go home and rest.” Rav Yisrael then turned to his disciple and said. “It is true, the way you run your meals is beautiful and praiseworthy; but not at the expense of others!” May we all emulate his sacred ways.

Parsha Pearls

Rav Gamliel Rabinovitch, shlita, makes a penetrating observation: The most stringent of the death sentences beit din gave was sekilah – stoning (Sanhedrin 49b), and the most lenient one was chenek – strangulation. In our parshah the Torah tells us that the punishment for hitting and inflicting a wound upon one’s parent is chenek (21:15, Rashi), yet the punishment for cursing one’s parent is sekilah (21:17, Rashi). Moreover, according to the Arizal, someone who transgresses an aveirah that is punishable by sekilah has a direct negative effect upon the first yud of Hashem’s Name, whereas for chenek, the effect is on the last hei of Hashem’s Name. This shows us the severity of cursing one’s parents as opposed to wounding them. We see from here, Rav Gamliel, shlita, continues, just how powerful is the power of speech.Its repercussions are even greater than hitting. The effects of good are always five hundred times greater than punishment (Tosefta – Sotah 4:1). If so, just imagine how much good we can do by using our speech properly: how much we can rectify in the upper worlds, and how much reward we will receive for doing so.

Glimpses of Greatness

The sefarim hakedoshim write about the greatness of these Shabbasos of the Arba Parshiyot. The great Rav Pinchas of Koritz, zy”a, mentions that, in his own experience, on these auspicious Shabbasos he had clearer revelations of ruach hakodesh than during the rest of the year.

The question of course is: why? What is so special about these Shabbatot?

The Nesivot Shalom explains by laying down the following principle: The tachlit of all the Torah and its mitzvot is to bring every Jew to deveikut – being connected with Hashem. This is especially so, he continues, with regard to these four parshiyot, which contain within them four of the essential concepts that bring Jews to this tachlit of deveikut. Although in our days we cannot yet fulfill these mitzvos in their physical form, the penimi’ut, the “soul” of these mitzvot, are everlasting, and that part we can fulfill and internalize.

Halacha Weekly

Q: Is it permitted to take a picture of a person  using a camera? (I-5-185)

A: Ritbah (AZ 83a) writes that it is prohibited to make the figure of a man that is made from ink and paint, that is in a form that is projecting.  Divrei Malkiel (v. 3 simon 58, R. Malkiel Tannenbaum, Z”L)  stated that one should be stringent not to make a form with a photograph. According to the Ritbah it is completely prohibited,  and additionally according to the teaching of kabbalah there is a reason to be stringent about this.  

However, the Ben Ish Chai (Shanah 2 Perush Rashi Masai 9a) writes: ‘That which is made with colors and it appears as if it is projecting is prohibited, but …  today we take picture of peoples like this through a machine that is made in Europe  that is called a photograph (and this is better than colors on  the paper, that there is not in this projection of any  form at all)… and also  there is in this matter a midat chassidut [a pious action that] even so [only] if there is great need in the matter [that one must take a photograph]  that [one] take the form of the face alone without hands and legs. If there is  also an important person involved [in the photograph, however, there]  is no concern about this.’


Refuah Shlaima 

to Mrs. Amy Elfersy, שתח”י

by Dovid and Devorah Kapenstein