Thursday, February 11, 2010

214 - Mishpatim

The Parsha begins with "When you acquire a Jewish slave . . ." (Shemos 21,2). Rashi tells us that these pesukim are discussing a thief who was caught and does not have the financial ability to pay back what he stole, andwas therefore sold as a slave by beis din. Rav Wolbe (Shiurei Chumash) quotes Rav Itzele Peterburger who points out, that in the eyes of the Torah even a thief has to be dealt with in a respectable manner. If he has themoney to pay back his theft, all he must do is give back the stolen goods and no one has to know what occurred. It is only in a situation where he does not havethe ability to make restitution that he must be sold, and even then, it is notas a punishment but as a means of repaying his debts. This differs greatly fromthe way that thieves are dealt with in this day and age. As soon as someone is caught, his crime is publicized and often his life is ruined.

Later in the parsha, the Torah tells us, "If you should see the donkey of someone you hate collapsing under its load . . . you shall surely help him" (ibid. 23, 5). The Gemara (Bava Metzia 21b) explains that "someone you hate" is referring to a person who has transgressed an aveirah that permits another to hate him. Nevertheless, we are commanded to help out the transgressor, "to subdue our yetzer hara." Tosfos (Pesachim 1138) asks the obvious question: If one is permitted by the law of the Torah to hate the sinner, why does the Torah command us to overcome those feelings and assist him? He explains that when a person hates his friend, automatically the friend will sense it and reciprocate the hatred, thereby causing "a complete hatred between the two of them." In other words, the hatred will have turned into a personal quarrel not ordained by the Torah; hence, he is commanded to overcome that hatred and help out the transgressor.

Rav Wolbe comments that we see how careful one must be when hating those that flagrantly transgress Torah prohibitions. One must despise the evil actions; not the evil person. A Jew who sins is always a Jew and we must love him, while at the very same time we must hate his actions. Rav Yeruchom Levovitz would say that only very great people have the ability to separate the actions from the perpetrator to be able to hate someone in such a fashion.

There are those we might look down upon because they don't conform to our level of religiosity. The Torah tells us that even a thief or a flagrant transgressor must be helped and loved, for it is only his actions that must be despised. Let us take a minute to think about someone who rubs us the wrong way, and see if we have an adequate reason to dislike him. The answer will most probably be no. So this year let's send him Mishloach Manos for Purim and increase ahavas Yisroel among Yidden!

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