Thursday, February 16, 2012

Thursday's Parsha Tidbits - Parshas Mishpatim

The following is a brief summary of a thought said over by R' Frand on the parsha this evening. I have attempted to reproduce this vort to the best of my ability. Any perceived inconsistency is the result of my efforts to transcribe the shiur and should not be attributed to R' Frand.

Parshas Mishpatim begins with a discussion of Eved Ivri - a Jew who sells himself into slavery to another Jew because he is unable to pay off a debt incurred because he stole.

The Torah states that the slave may only stay in servitude for six years and should go free in the seventh year. However, if the slave wishes to stay in servitude, he may inform his master of his request. The master then takes the slave to the door and pierces the slave's ear by nailing it to the door post.

Rashi on Shemos 21:6 quotes R' Yochanan Ben Zakkai who explains that the reason that the ear is pierced is that this Jew heard at Mount Sinai that he should not steal. Rather than follow Hashem's way, the eved stole and now the ear which heard Hashem's commandment is being punished.

R' Frand quoted the Sfas Emes who asked - this ear did not do anything wrong. It did not steal. More importantly, the ear does not make decisions - that would be the heart or mind. If we were to punish the wrongdoer, we should pierce the heart or the mind. So why do we pierce the ear?

The Sfas Emes answers - the reason why the ear is pierced is that the ear heard Hashem's commandment, but the words only stayed in the ear. They did not travel to the brain or heart or soul.

R' Frand mentioned our most meaningful prayer - Shema Yisrael. That a Jew must hear and understand Hashem's role as the one true G-d. That hearing must lead to understand.

The Sfas Emes connects this thought with last week's parsha. The parsha began Vayishma Yisro - Yisro heard. Yisro was a listener - he heard and understood what was right. The Medrash writes that three advisers knew about Pharaoh's designs for the Jews - Yisro, Bilaam and Job. Job kept quiet and was punished with suffering in silence. Bilaam counseled for the oppression so he was killed. Yisro could not stomach the plan and ran away from his position of power in Egypt. Why? Because Yisro heard and understood the gravity of Pharaoh's plan.

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