16 Feb 2023 Parshas Mishpatim: Mi ki’Amcha Yisrael
In this week’s sedra, Mishpatim, we are introduced to many, many mitzvos that govern the daily life of a Jew and Jewish society. In the aftermath of Matan Torah, and the great Revelation at Sinai, the Torah now teaches us how to live in the every day, the ‘non-inspiring’, ‘non-revelation’ times in life.
The mitzvos include (and are not limited to!): The laws of an eved Ivri and eved Canaani. Work for six days and rest on the seventh. Work for six years and allow the fields to lay fallow in the seventh. One may not curse, nor hit, his father or mother. A doctor has permission to heal. The laws of a goring ox. The compassionate and kind treatment of a convert, widow and orphan, and others destitute in society. Details of the shalosh regalim. The prohibition of not accepting a meritless, slanderous report. One must stay far away from falsehood. Do not mix milk and meat. Do not eat otherwise kosher meat from an animal that has been torn in the field. Do not offer sacrifices to gods of others. Do not charge interest when lending money. Be a nation of holiness. Do not accept bribes, for bribery blinds the eyes of the seeing and makes the righteous crooked. Do not pervert the judgement of a destitute person in his dispute. Bring bikkurim (the first fruits) up to the Beis Ha’Mikdash (Shemos, chapters 21,22, 23).
An overwhelming number of mitzvos in the sedra deal with interpersonal relationships, and guide us as to how to treat others with care and compassion.
The pasuk tells us:
כִּי–תִרְאֶה חֲמוֹר שֹׂנַאֲךָ, רֹבֵץ תַּחַת מַשָּׂאוֹ, וְחָדַלְתָּ, מֵעֲזֹב לוֹ—עָזֹב תַּעֲזֹב, עִמּוֹ – If you shall see the donkey of someone you hate lying under its burden, will you refrain from helping him? You shall surely help along with him (23:5).
How much gadlus the Torah demands of man, that he is commanded to help his enemy when the donkey of his enemy is struggling under his burden! Onkelos fascinatingly explains:
אֲרֵי תֶחֱזֵי חֲמָרָא דְסָנְאָךְ רְבִיעַ תְּחוֹת טוֹעֲנֵיהּ וְתִתִּמְנַע מִלְמִשְׁבַּק לֵהּ מִשְׁבַּק תִּשְׁבּוֹק מָא דִבְלִבָּךְ עֲלוֹהִי וּתְפָרֵק עִמֵהּ – when you see the donkey of your enemy crouching under its burden, will you refrain from helping him? You shall remove what is in your heart against him, and unload with him.
How is it possible to help your enemy? Only if you remove the animosity in your heart against him, will you truly be able to assist another Jew.
See how much Hashem desires our achdus (unity), ahavas Yisrael (love of fellow Jew), areivus zeh la’zeh (sweetness towards one another), and to be literally (in the case of the struggling donkey) nosei b’ol im chaveiro (carry the burden of our fellow along with him, thereby easing his burden).
I was reminded of this week’s sedra, the strong focus on mitzvos bein adam la’chavairo, and this specific pasuk and Onkelos’ important teaching earlier this week. My husband spent this past Monday evening in Manhattan, at a hospital doing the mitzvah of bikkur cholim. He left late at night and on the drive home, while on the highway, a tire blew. Baruch Hashem he was able to make it off the highway to a side road. 10:00pm at night. Alone. Dark. With a completely flat tire. He called me and said he put in a call to insurance (who provides roadside assistance) and they replied that it would be 60-75 minutes before someone would arrive… Right away, I suggested “What about calling Shomrim?” After a moment of thinking, he said, “It’s not Shomrim, it’s Chaveirim!” “Right,” I said, “Chaveirim!” He said, “I’m too far away from them.” I said, “Maybe they have a Queens division. You have to try.” He said, “Okay, I’ll try and call them.”
At 10:17pm, my husband messaged on our immediate family chat, “I called insurance company and Chaveirim. We’ll see who comes first.” At 10:20pm (three minutes later), he messaged, “Chaveirim just called. Can be here in about 5 minutes.” At 10:31pm, he wrote “He’s here:)” At 10:51pm, my husband posted (on our family chat only) a selfie and wrote, “Meet Avraham (name has been changed), who left his home at 10:30 to help another Jew he doesn’t know and didn’t even want to be in the picture. He wouldn’t take any money but said we can donate to Chaveirim. And now he has to run to another flat tire.”
Anochi Hashem Elokecha, I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out of the land of Egypt from the house of slavery (20:2). The Anochi of the RS”O encapsulates our entire existence as ovdei Hashem; every thought, word and action we do and take must be guided by Torah, mitzvos and ratzon Hashem.
But the definition of an eved Hashem is not only one who can keep the first half of the dibros (bein adam la’Makom), it is one who understands that the second half of the dibros (bein adam la’chavairo) are just as integral, important and holy as the first half. There cannot be one without the other (hence, when Moshe came down and saw the nation sinning at the Golden Calf, he threw down BOTH halves of the luchos).
We must strive to remove any animosity in our hearts towards our fellow Jews, so we can always be there for each other in our times of needs (and times of rejoicing!). And when we remove any animosity and replace it with ahavas Yisrael, there will be room in our hearts to learn the lessons of bikur cholim, chaveirim and beyond.
As my children replied to my husband’s messages: “Unbelievable. Mi k’amcha Yisrael. Truly.” “It’s amazing” “tell me one other religion this would happen in wow bh get home safe abba” And as I replied, “Wow what a great lesson and chizuk for us all. How amazing is our nation. #TYH”
בברכת בשורות טובות ושבת שלום,