21:1) “V'Ayleh Ha'Mishpatim Asher Tasim Lifnaychem- These are the laws that you should set before them.”
Rashi explains that our Parsha begins with the word “and” in order to connect these laws to the Aseres Hadibros (The Ten Commandments). This teaches that all of the commandments were from Sinai. Even the seemingly mundane laws have the raw power and energy to transform and elevate the person, to bring him close to Hashem.
The first law dealt with is that of an Eved Ivri a Jewish manservant, who either hired himself out due to poverty, or stole something and was unable to pay it back. The posuk is discussing what happens when his six years of service ends and he is ready to go free. The Torah is telling us that it makes a difference if he was single at the time he was purchased by his owner. If he was married then his wife will go out with him. This would seem to be a law that does not apply to all men at all times. But on a deeper level the opposite is true. It applies to all Jewish men throughout history.
The Zohar writes that this posuk refers to Gilgulim, reincarnation. This phenomenon of reincarnation supports the principal of universal justice in a mystical sense for it means that certain events of a previous generation can be offset or corrected by events in a future generation. When a person has not accomplished in this life all that was needed to be accomplished, that neshamah often is returned to this world to complete or correct what it had failed to do in it's previous life. Therefore when we see a person in a particular situation such as a slave or even a rich person, we never can know if it is this way because of something that was in a past life. This is the meaning of “Ve'Ayleh Ha'Mishpatim- These are the judgements- Asher Tasim Lifnaychem- That were placed before you.” Meaning that Hashem has judged these things before you were even born.
This might not seem to be much of a comfort for a person. Because even though the difficulties he faces are not brought about by his misdeeds, he still is the one who must bear the brunt of it. This is perhaps why we say to someone going through difficulties “it should be a Kapora for you.” In order for us to bring about the final redemption all of the souls must go through whatever corrections are needed. Hashem never tests a person beyond his or her abilities. Therefore if a person is tested it is because Hashem knows he is capable of passing that test and by doing so he is fixing one more link in the chain leading to Moshiach. This could be why the words Ayleh Ha'Mishpatim equal Moshiach ben Dovid Avdecha.
However there is one mitzvah that cannot be rectified even through reincarnation. That is the classic mitzvah Chamura of Kibud Av V’ame, because when that soul is returned it may not have the same parents as it had in it’s previous life. Therefore it is imperative that one does this mitzvah when they can for you may never have a second chance.
In order for a man to marry his soul mate he must have certain merits. Sometimes he may have already married his soul mate, but having sinned in that lifetime he must return to rectify it. Then he will come back alone. This is what the posuk in our parsha is saying. (21:3) “If he came by himself.” If he has the merit, then even though she does not need to be reincarnated, his wife will come back with him. (21:3) “then she will go out with him.” The Arizal explains that when a man comes into this world for the first time, it is made easy for him to meet up with his soul mate. However if he sins in such a way as to necessitate a reincarnation, the next time around Heaven is not so favorable to him, and he may live a lifetime without his soul mate, though try as he might to find her. If he has certain merits, and only Heaven knows which ones those are, his soul mate will return on his behalf. Nevertheless, he won’t find his soul mate as easily as he did the first time around.
The Talmud points out in many places that we never really abandon the simple meaning of a posuk. This posuk is speaking about the laws of a manservant, laws that without a Temple cannot apply today. However, we certainly don’t abandon the Kabbalistic meaning as well, and on that level we are talking about something far deeper, far more profound, and something as relevant today as ever before.
(21:2) "L'chofshi Chinom-Free, for naught." The Posuk could have just said "Yetzu-he goes out"? Why the double expression of Chofshi Chinom? Rabbeinu Bachya writes that Chofshi means that he need not produce a document for his freedom. Chinom means he need not pay for any sick days he might have owed.
(21:3) "Im B'gapo Yovo-If he came by himself." The Torah tells us that if the man came by himself meaning he was never married, then the master may not provide him with a gentile wife. But if he had been married then he would be allowed to take a second wife who is a Cannanis. The reason for this is because every "first" is special. The Torah does not want him to have this special first attachment with a non- Jewish woman.
(21:10) "Im Acheres Yikach Lo-If he takes another wife." The Vilina Goan writes that for every year in history there is a corresponding verse in the Torah and if we look at the major Jewish events of the year we can find the source in the Torah. This verse is the 2085th verse in the Torah which makes it correspond to the year 2085. In that year we find the death of our first Matriarch Sarah. The verse refers to the taking of a second wife which requires the husband not to diminish any of his marital duties as with his first wife. This was perhaps Sarah's most outstanding Midah. Her self sacrifice towards the building of Klal Yisroel was so great that she was willing to have her husband Avraham take in her handmaid Hagar to be his wife. This we find hinted here at the completion of her life, for it was at that time that her life's mission had come full circle. For not only was that the year of her death but it was also the time that the Akeidah took place. So although the giving of Hagar to Avraham began with a miscarriage and then produced Yishmael, she still implanted into Klal Yisrael the DNA to be able to sacrifice for the Klal. Now after witnessing her life's work transfer to her only son, can we say this was her greatest achievement. (Nireh Li)
(21:26) “Ve'chi-Yakeh Eish es-Ayin Avdoh - Lachofshi Yishalchenu- If you strike the eye of a slave - He is sent out free.” The din by an Eved Ivri, who was hit by his master and loses a limb, is that he is reimbursed for the loss but he remains with his master. But by an Eved Kenani he goes out free if he loses a limb. Why should that be? And why is the first din about this?
The concept of slavery is the first din because it is essential to the Emunah that Benei Yisroel must now exhibit. An Eved Kenani who is hit no longer can remain with that master because he can no longer look at him in the same manner. He now feels a separation that he blames on his master. Whereas by an Eved Ivri he knows that every thing that happens to him is through the hands of Hashem. If something bad happens it is due to something that he deserves to have happen to him. Therefore he doesn't blame his master for the loss and he can remain with his master. This is essential for the Emunah of Benei Yisroel. That is why this is the first din mentioned in the parsha.
(22:14) "I'm Balov Imo-If the owner is with him." The Sefas Emes writes that if a person borrows an item and it breaks the borrower pays only if the owner is not with him. We have a physical body that is on loan from Hashem. If we keep Hashem with us then our sins are considered unintentional. But if we separate ourselves from our creator then we are held liable for those sins.
(22:24) “Im Kesef Talveh-When you lend money.” The implication of the Torah’s first commercial law is that property is a sacred trust, and is to be used to help others. The Midrash offers a much broader perspective, asserting that all Creation is based on the principal of giving and receiving. The first tree was a product of the ground, but from then on the earth received the seed to produce the new tree. The tree needs the earth and the earth also needs the tree so that it can be productive. It is through their union (symbolized by the masculine and the feminine elements of nature) that the fruit is produced. All of nature follows this course, receiving, and in turn giving. Thus the gifts and blessings of nature return enriched and purified. This harmonious order sets an example for human society. In the Divine law which governs relations within society, both rich and poor have an equal share. For it is the rich who give and the poor who receive, nevertheless, the rich by giving receive as well.
(23:19) “Lo Sivashel Gedy B’cheylev Imo-You shall not cook the meat of a deer in the milk of its mother.” In the Torah it is forbidden to mix meat with milk. We learned that when Moshe was a baby he refused to nurse from a woman who was not a Jew. Rashi says that the mouth that was destined to speak to Hashem could not nurse from a non-Jew. In the Shulchon Orach we find that the milk from a non-Jew is permitted just like that of a Jew, but you should not use this milk because the milk from a non-Jew covers over the heart. So in some form nursing from a non-Jew gives the child some of the others negative characteristics. The same is true of a Jewish woman who is nursing, she shouldn't eat traif because it affects the baby. And also in the case of a young child that is eating non kosher. You would not be required to stop him if he is under the age of chinuch, but the Shulchon Orach says you should stop him anyway because it will affect him when he gets older. So if Moshe would have nursed from the Mitzri he might not have been able to reach that level of Kedusha needed to speak with the Shechinah. But milk also has the ability to affect a person in a positive way.
There was once a case in the times of Rebbe and Antaninos, where Rebbe's mother switched babies with Antaninos. Being a non-Jewish baby she wanted to show that he wasn't circumcised. While Antaninos was there he was nursed by Rebbe's mother. That milk had an effect on him because later in his life, when he became a ruler, he was sympathetic to the Jews.
The prohibition of eating blood from an animal has to do with this too, because the milk comes from the blood. The essence of milk is blood. It is a process that transforms the blood into a higher level. The blood of an animal carries in it the nature of the animal and is therefore bad for a person to ingest and can bring about a cruel nature. The digestive system has the least affect on blood. This is the reason mixing meat with milk is prohibited. By mixing the two it is changing the milk back to its previous form. The milk is getting closer to its source. The closer it gets to its source the more it becomes strengthened. So mixing meat with milk is like drinking blood in that the effect can be detrimental.
(21:24) “Ayin Tachas Ayin-An eye for an eye” Rashi explains that this means the value of an eye not the actual eye itself. If you take the letters of the aleph beis and line each letter above on another, the letters that are tachas (after) the word ayin are phey, samach, chuf, which spell the word kesef-money.
Why does the Torah use Kesef as the term for money when Gold/Zahav is the monetary standard throughout most of the world? The Beis Yakov explains that the letters of the word Zahav decreases numerically (7,5,2), while the letters which spell Kesef increase (20,60,80).
The Torah is teaching us an important lesson. Im Kesef Talveh-If with Kesef you lend, meaning with interest free loans you might think will incur a loss, however your assets will increase.
(22:3) “Im Hemotze Timotze B’yado H'ganiv..Shenayim Y’shaleim-If the stolen object shall be found in his possession ..he shall pay double.” Why does a thief pay double? It is Midah Keneged Midah-Measure for measure. When a thief steals $100.00 his intention is to gain $100.00 at the expense of $100.00 to his victim. Therefore by paying double the thief ends up losing $100.00 and the victim gains $100.00. What is done to him is exactly opposite of what he planned to do to his fellow. (Pardes Yosef)
(22:23) "If you oppress the widow and orphan your wives and children will be widows and orphans." Why should they be punished?
Rabeinu Bechaya writes that a woman who is caused pain or anguish by another person is most likely seek the aid of her husband, and the child will run to his father. Trust in Hashem is not the first recourse for most people. However since widows and orphans no longer have husbands and fathers to help them, they must put their trust in Hashem.
The previous verse was in the plural while this is in the singular. This implies that if the community allows even a single one of its members to mistreat the helpless, Hashem will punish them all. (Ibn Ezra)
(22:24) “Im Kesef Talveh es Ami es H’oni Imach-When you lend money to my people, the poor among you.” The words “the poor among you” seems extra? The Alshich writes that this posuk is speaking about the sin of charging interest. The understanding is that the rich and poor alike do not deserve their station in life. Affluence and poverty are Hashem’s way of testing a person. The rich person’s money is placed in his custody to test him, to see if he will be blinded by his wealth. The poor person is tested as well to see if he will resort to illegal methods of obtaining financial gain.
This is implied in the words “es H’oni Imach-the poor man’s money is with you” When you extend him a loan you are granting him access to his money. Charging him interest on his money is adding insult to the suffering of the poor and is a grave sin.
(24:7) “Kol Asher Dibaer Hashem Naaseh V’Nishmah-Everything that Hashem has said we will do and we will obey.” In last weeks parsha we read (19:8) “Vayanu Kol H’am YachdovVayomeru Kol Asher Dibaer Hashem Naaseh-The entire people responded together and said” Everything that Hashem has said we will do.” Why is there no mention of “Nishma” - “obey” and why in our parsha is there no mention of the word “Yachdav”-“together”? It is impossible for every Jew to fulfill all 613 mitzvos by himself. Some mitzvos can only be performed by a Kohen while others can only be done by a King. But there are two ways to receive credit for all 613 mitzvos. 1) Through learning about the mitzvos, it is considered as if you performed them. 2) When Jews are united as one they are considered as one entity. Thus, through togetherness they can fulfill all the mitzvos. Therefore in our parsha the term “Nishma” is used to convey Torah study, where as the term “Yachdav”- “together is used to convey how it is possible to fulfill all of the commandments through the unity of Yisrael.
Rabbi Sima'i taught: At the moment the Jewish people answered "Na'aseh ve'nishma - We will fulfill and learn the Torah," 600,000 angels descended and crowned each Jew with two crowns, one for na'aseh and one for nishma. (Talmud - Shabbos 88a)
The commentaries have discussed at length the greatness the Jewish people exhibited by committing themselves to fulfill the Torah, even before asking to hear what it contained. We can appreciate the precious crown earned for the unconditional commitment to submit totally to Hashem's will with perfect faith. What, however, was the significance nishma – "we will learn"? Obviously, to be able to do, they had to know what was demanded. What is the true significance of this second crown and what does it teach us? Chazal tell us that the Ten Commandments were uttered by Hashem to each Jew with varying intensity, according to the capabilities and potential of each individual. Therefore each one was spoken to by Hashem on his level. Yet as each utterance went forth, the people were so overcome that their souls left them and Hashem had to resurrect them (Talmud - Shabbos 88b). If the commandments were in fact communicated on the level of each individual, why didn't each one hear at precisely the intensity he could take without his soul leaving him?
To resolve this seeming contradiction, we must understand what it means to speak about "the level" of a Jew. What the Midrash refers to as a Jew's true level is his or her ultimate potential with maximum effort. There is a vast difference between one's actual achievement and his true potential. The intensity of the voice was geared to the full potential, and it was precisely the revelation of that difference between what they were then and what they could be that caused their souls to depart. Our ancestors stood at Sinai and accepted the Torah totally and unconditionally. In order for this commitment to be meaningful, however, they had to be willing to grow and mature in Torah - to realize that they had taken just the first step. They had to recognize that a Jew must constantly improve his Torah observance. This was the declaration of the word Nishma - we will constantly be open to learn more in order to elevate ourselves, rung after rung, toward fulfillment of the ultimate Torah potential each of us possess.
The words Naseh V’nishma are found in chapter 24 verse 7. This would suggest that Torah is a full time responsibility 24/7. The Torah is above time. The numerical value of Naseh V’nishma is equal to 891 in gematria which is the same as the words Aiyn Kaitz L'Torah- the Torah has no limits. (Nire Li)
(24:10) “Vayiru es Elokai Yisroel V’Tachas Raglav K’Maser Livnas Hasapire U’Kietzem H’Shomayim L’Tohar- They saw the G-d of Israel and under his feet was that which had the form of Sapphire brick and was like the appearance of the heavens in purity.”Rashi comments that "it was in front of him at the time of the enslavement in order to remember the pain of Israel who were enslaved in the work of bricks. Once they were redeemed there was light and gladness before Him.” The question is if they were now standing ready to receive the Torah why would there still be a reminder of their suffering? Plus Rashi could have used many words to describe gladness. Why the choice of the word Chedva? The Tolner Rebbe explains that Hashem wanted them to understand that there is no light except that which shines forth out of darkness. It was only through the suffering and pain that they were able to fully comprehend where they now stood. There are many words used to describe Simcha. Gila, Rena, Ditza V’Chedva are the words we sing at a wedding. But the word Chedva best describes the joy of overcoming tremendous adversity. Hashem was not only with them but was now expressing the highest form of Simcha which is the light that shines out after the darkness.