Parshas Mishpatim 5757 - 1997

Outline #  22

Chodshei Hashanah Following the Weekly Parsha

by Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein

What Was Said At Mount Sinai?

The portion of Civil Laws begins: "And (Hebrew 'vav') these are the judgments you shall place before them." The Hebrew letter 'vav' is a conjunction, sometimes translated: "and". Why did the parsha begin with a connection to the previous parsha? Rashi explains, "Just as these (the ten expressions at the Giving of the Torah) were said at Mount Sinai, so were these (the civil laws) said at Mount Sinai."

The commentary Maor V'shamash questions: In parshas Behar, Rashi relates that all the Mitzvos, with all their details, were told at Mount Sinai. What is the importance of mentioning specifically that the Civil Laws were said at Mount Sinai? (This question can be found in many commentaries, for example, see the Ba'alei Tosfos and Ohr Hachayim.)

Rashi was not comparing the place where the laws were given, but the manner in which they were received... At Mount Sinai, the Torah was received with fear and trembling; so too, intricate monetary laws should be studied with the same fear and awe. Certainly, Torah study is beneficial to the students; to study in order to derive honor, title or self-aggrandizement, however, is no different than studying any other scholastic subject. Our Torah, however, was entirely given at Mount Sinai -- the complex laws of damage and legal suit were heard with the same fire, the same fear and trembling at Mount Sinai, as the ten expressions themselves.

See the Maor V'shamash at length: Torah must be studied with purity, after introspection and reflection on one's actions. Then the Torah can be studied with excitement and fervor. One can say novel interpretations for the glory and honor of it -- this is not "with fear and awe"! The reason that monetary laws had to be specifically mentioned regarding Mount Sinai is that it is less likely to study them "with fear and awe"...

There Are Mitzvos and Mitzvos...

The Maharal, in Gur Aryeh, asked the same question. All the Mitzvos were said at Mount Sinai. What is special about the Civil Laws? The Maharal answers: "All the Mitzvos were said at Mount Sinai," that is to say, the Torah is one complete entity. However, distinctions must be made between mitzvos and mitzvos. Not all the mitzvos were said -- initially -- before all Israel. The ten expressions, of course, were said in everyone's presence, but many of the mitzvos were received by Moshe, alone, on the mountain. The Civil Laws were also heard by everyone...

The Chizkuni also proved this point from another Rashi. A man can be sold by the court into servitude for stealing, if hasn't the money to pay. He can also sell himself, if he is destitute. He can only serve a maximum of six years, however. If, after six years, he still does not want to go free, his ear is pierced -- symbolically -- to the door. He then serves until the Yoveil ("Jubilee"). Why is the ear pierced? Rashi quotes the Talmud: The ear heard at Mount Sinai, "Don't steal!" and still the man stole -- that ear shall be pierced! If he sold himself -- the ear that heard at Mount Sinai, "The children of Israel are my servants," and still the man sold himself into servitude -- that ear shall be pierced!

Where was the verse, "The children of Israel are my servants," heard at Mount Sinai by all the people? The verse is in Vayikra (Leviticus 25)! It is clear that these laws were presented to the people at Mount Sinai...

The monetary laws were heard with the same fear and trembling at Mount Sinai as the ten expressions themselves...

The Zohar in our parsha (122b), explains the verse: lo sochal al ha dum "Do not eat over the blood": The judges shall not eat before judging a case. Imagine Congress or Parliament telling judges not to eat before coming to work... the judges would have a few things to say! (In Mishnah Torah of the Rambam (Sanhedrin 13:4), the law is decided that the judges may not eat the entire day on which the defendant is executed. See Talmud, Sanhedrin 63a.)

To be a judge, a master of Torah, one has to be willing to execute justice before eating. It must be taken to heart... "Torah must not be habitual, but he should break his heart over his deeds when he stands to daven or learn." (Maor V'shamash)

Chodshei Hashanah (Part Eleven)

Two Months of Adar

This Friday and Shabbos are the two days of Rosh Chodesh -- the month of Adar Rishon.

In order to align the lunar year with the solar year, every few years an entire month is added. In the Jewish "leap year," there are thirteen months. The extra month is always added to the end. The first month is Nissan at Pesach time; the last month is Adar at Purim time. In a "leap year," such as this year, there are two Adars -- Adar Rishon and

Adar Sheni. This subject abounds with questions, difficulties and debates.

Bar Mitzvos and Yahrzeits

If a birth or death occurred during the month of Adar on a normal year, when will it be commemorated during a "leap year?" On the first Adar, or the second Adar?


Many have the custom to fast on the Yahrzeit of mother or father. Kaddish is recited, there is a special order of learning, and a candle (neir neshamah) is lit.

1. The Maharil brought precedent that the first Adar is the main one. So holds Taz -- one should fast the first Adar -- because a mitzva should not be passed over.

2. The author of the Shulchan Oruch, however, indicates that the second Adar is generally the important one. (Purim, after all, is celebrated on the Second Adar.) Chasom Sofer agrees -- the fast should be the second Adar.

3. Ramah (glosses to the Shulchan Oruch) mentions the custom to commemorate both the first Adar and the second.

4. The Vilna Gaon is said to have ruled that keeping both days is not a stringency due to doubt, but a requirement. He apparently held that, in a "leap year," there are actually two months of Adar.

If one is able, the suggestion is made to fast both times. Kaddish can be said both times, as well, but if the custom is only to allow one person to say Kaddish, and there are other mourners, the others may take precedent. Similarly, for the candle and the learning -- they can be performed on both months. See further: Rav Yoel Schwartz, Adar Upurim, also: Kol Bo Al Aveilus.

In general, the second Adar is considered the primary one. (Shulcan Oruch, Chasom Sofer, Yechave Daas).

Moshe Our Teacher passed away on the seventh of Adar. As follows from the above discussion, there are various customs as to whether to observe the Yahrzeit on the first Adar, or second. The general custom is to observe the Yahrzeit on the second Adar, based on the writings of Rav Yaakov Emden.

Next week, the discussion continues with Bar Mitzvah and Purim Katan...

("Haaros" are only meant to provide general information; any actual question must be addressed specifically to an appropriate authority...)

Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein
PC Kollel
1 Babbin Court
Spring Valley, NY 10977
Phone: 914-425-3565
Fax: 914-425-4296
E-mail: [email protected]

Good Shabbos!

Text Copyright © 1997 Rabbi Yaakov Bernstein and Project Genesis, Inc.