In this week's parsha the Torah teaches the law of "eved ivri". The Torah states that a person who becomes a slave because he cannot repay an item he stole, may stay as a slave for up to seven years. If after seven years the man still wants to stay as a slave, his master takes him to a doorpost and pierces his ear. Rashi quotes the Mechilta who explains that the reason that the ear is pierced is that the slave had just heard the ten commandments wherein G-d said do not steal and he stole anyway.
A famous question that is asked about this law is - why do they wait all these years before the ear is pierced? The man stole years ago, so why do we only pierce the ear after six years when the man says that he wants to stay!
R' Frand answered by quoting the sefer Anfei Erez by R' Aryeh Leib Gurwitz of Gateshead Yeshiva (a relative of Mrs KB!). He quoted a pasuk which states that in the future, Hashem will flatten the mountains and raise the valleys. The Yalkut Shimoni explains that the pasuk is metaphorical. In the future, Bnei Yisrael will want to do teshuva. A person has peaks and valleys in his avodah and sometimes falls into the valley. The person will say to Hashem, I am reminded by these places where I have done wrong and I am embarrassed Hashem responds - don't worry about the valleys - I will remove the places and incidents that you are embarrassed about. The man will respond - there are still witnesses that I have done wrong! Hashem said, I will remove them as well.
R' Frand explained that the true meaning of the pasuk is that a person wants to do teshuva is pained by his past acts. Hashem responds to the person - I will wipe out the reminders of your past bad acts.
R' Gurwitz explains that the person who stole was not a thief by nature. Instead, the man stole in a moment of weakness because he needed the money. When this person stole, we could not pierce his ear as he was not a career thief. But now six years later, the man has become accompanied to his lifestyle as a slave. His whole life and family reminds him that he is a thief. But still in all, he does not mind that he is being called a thief because he is comfortable in his current life. This teaches us that the man does not regret his prior bad acts. Since we now see that he is OK with his label as a thief, then he should have a permanent reminder that he did not listen.
R' Frand then made reference to the Haftorah of Parshas Mishpatim (which is read when the parsha does not coincide with Shekalim). This Haftorah comes from Yirmiyahu and contains a pasuk where Hashem tells the Jews when they are leaving Egypt that a slave must go free after seven years.
R' Frand asked - was this the most important topic that needed to be taught on the day that the Jews left Egypt? R' Frand answered yes - it was important to learn this now because of the principle - strike while the iron is hot. The Jews were leaving Egypt and slavery and they remember what is like to be slaves. Now is the time that they should learn that the slave should not stay more than seven years.
R' Frand closed the vort by quoting a story from the Volozhin Yeshiva. There was a boy who was sitting and eating when another student came over and asked him a question which he could not answer. Another boy who was present said - how do you not know the answer - its a Tosafos in Gittin. The boy was embarrassed and he got up and went back to the study hall and swore to himself that for the next seven years he would sit and learn day and night. And so he did. For the next seven years the boy sat and learned day and night, stopping only to sleep and eat.
There was only one problem - the boy did not bench before he got up and made his commitment to learn.
They asked R' Chaim Volozhin - did the boy do the right thing by going to learn for seven years, but not benching before he started to learn? R' Chaim answered no, the boy should have benched first. But if he would have done something before he got up to make the committment, he would not have sat learned for the next seven years.