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Mishpatim(Exodus 21-24)

Mishpatim 5760

GOOD MORNING!  I was suspect that the Beauty Tips were not really from Audrey Hepburn. Fortunately, a reader wrote in with the following news: "The first 3 paragraphs of "Beauty Tips" were written, not by Audrey Hepburn, but by the late humorist Sam Levenson. They can be found in his book, In One Era & Out the Other, on pages 176 and 190 of the hardcover edition." It seems that Audrey Hepburn actually quoted Sam Levenson ... and then Sam Levenson evidently got edited out in the editions being sent around the internet ...

As long as Sam Levenson is being attributed, I'd like to share with you his classic:


AN ANSWER TO AN ANTI-SEMITE

"It's a free world. You don't have to like Jews, but if you don't, I suggest that you boycott certain Jewish products like:

  • insulin, discovered by Dr. Minkoski;
  • the vaccine for hepatitis, discovered by Baruch Blumberg;
  • chlorhydrate for convulsions, discovered by Dr. J. Von Liebig;
  • the Wassermann test for syphilis;
  • streptomycin, discovered by Dr. Selman Abraham Waxman;
  • the polio pill by Dr. Albert Sabin; and
  • the polio vaccine by Dr. Jonas Salk."

"Good! Boycott! But humanitarianism requires that my people offer all these gifts to all the people of the world. Fanaticism requires that all bigots accept diabetes, hepatitis, convulsions, syphilis, infectious diseases and infantile paralysis."

"You want to be mad? Be mad! But I’m telling you, you ain't going to feel so good."


And speaking of anti-Semitism, here is a fascinating observation from Professor Michael Curtis of Rutgers University:

"Everybody has a people that they hate; a group you don't like, that are threatening you. But the uniqueness of anti-Semitism lies in the fact that no other people in the world have been charged simultaneously with alienation from society and with cosmopolitanism; with being capitalist exploiters and also revolutionary communists; with having a materialistic mentality or being a people of the book. We are accused of being both militant aggressors and cowardly pacifists; adherents to a superstitious religion and agents of modernism. We uphold a rigid law and are also morally decadent. We have a chosen people mentality and an inferior human nature; we are both arrogant and timid; individualist and communally adherent; we are guilty of both the crucifixion of Jesus to Christians and to others we are held to account for the invention of Christianity. Everything and its opposite becomes an explanation for anti-Semitism."

NEXT WEEK: The "Why" of Anti-Semitism!


Torah Portion of the Week
Mishpatim

One of the longest Torah portions, containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative precepts. Included are laws regarding: the Hebrew manservant and maidservant, manslaughter, murder, injuring a parent, kidnapping, cursing a parent, personal injury, penalty for killing a slave, personal damages, injury to slaves, categories of damages and compensatory restitution, culpability for personal property damage, seduction, occult practices, idolatry, oppression of widows, children and orphans.

The portion continues with the laws of: lending money, not cursing judges or leaders, tithes, first-born sons, justice, returning strayed animals, assisting the unloading of an animal fallen under its load, Sabbatical year, Shabbat, the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot & Succot).

Mishpatim concludes with the promise from the Almighty to lead us into the land of Israel, safeguard our journey, ensure the demise of our enemies and guarantee our safety in the land -- if we uphold the Torah and do the mitzvot. Moses makes preparations for himself and for the people and then ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

 

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states, "If a person steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay five oxen for an ox and four sheep for the sheep" (Exodus 21:37). Why is the fine for stealing a sheep less than the fine for stealing an ox? What lesson can we learn from this for our lives?

Rashi, the great 13th century commentator, cites the Sages of the Talmud that the reason the thief pays less for a sheep is because he has to carry it on his shoulders to run away faster when stealing it. Running with a sheep on one's shoulders in public is embarrassing, and this embarrassment is a partial punishment in itself.

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm comments that if even a coarse thief experiences a slight embarrassment which lightens the punishment, then all the more so if one suffers embarrassment or humiliation while doing a good deed, the action is elevated and the reward will be very great!

Our lesson: According to the pain and difficulty of performing a mitzvah is the reward. If others mock or denigrate your efforts to do a mitzvah, then focus not on the temporal pain but the greatness and the eternity of the reward!

Published: January 30, 2000

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