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Parshat Mishpatim (5766)

This week's section begins with G-d telling Moses 'These are the laws (Mishpatim) you should put before them (Lifnayhem)'.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that 'Mishpatim' are the type of Torah laws that make practical sense (like the damage cases mentioned in our section). They aren't like the Torah laws called 'Aydut' that make only religious sense (like Tefillin or Mezuza) or 'Chukim' which are totally illogical (like not cooking meat and milk together). And the word 'Lifnayhem' also means 'inside of them'

So G-d is telling Moses here (and the leaders of every generation after him) to put these logical Mishpatim/laws 'inside' of each Jew.

What does this mean? And why specifically these laws, why not the Aydut or Chukim? And why only the leaders of each generation?

To understand this here is a story. (Sichat HaShavua #998)

Until the holocaust, Chassidic Judaism flourished in Poland and the Ukraine. Despite the fact that the Poles and Ukrainians were fanatic Catholics and rabid anti-semites there was a huge Jewish population that lived only on miracles. And sometimes something happened to make everyone remember how precarious their existance was.

Such a case occured some one hundred years ago in the city of Kominsk. A young Torah Scholar, who we will call Zalman, for some reason got angry at one of his teachers in Yeshiva (the Torah academy) and spitefully decided to stop going. It wasn't long before boredom took him to the streets, he removed his beard, payos, long black coat, began enjoying gentile night life, found himself a girlfriend and, within one year, decided to leave Judaism completely. He would and jump into the ocean of Catholicism surrounding him.

In the past his parents had tried to convince him to change his ways with no success. He was familiar with the Torah and deftly countered all their arguments. The Torah was restrictive, he claimed, now he felt free, joyous and alive. What more was there to life! But they thought it was just a whim and soon he would return to the ways of his fathers.

But now they were desperate. They made an urgent meeting with the elders of the town and they concluded the only way to save Zalman was to somehow get him to the Tzadik, Rabbi Yissacher Ber of Redoshiz.

But how? To convince him would be impossible and to force him would be suicide if word got out. There was hardly a worse crime than dissuading a convert to the Church. But they had to do something.

In desperation they decided to turn to the Feirman brothers.

These two husky religious Jews were a good head taller, fifty pounds heavier and twice as strong as anyone in the area. Even the gentiles kept their distance. And after some convincing they agreed to risk their lives and do the job.

They dressed in simple garb, went to Zalman's home with a bottle of vodka and, pretending to be interested in following his path to the gentile world, said they wanted to stroll outside of the town where they could talk freely. They looked really interested as Zalman was explaining his new philosophy. He was in the middle of a sentence when suddenly they grabbed, gagged and bound him and carried him to a carriage and driver that were camouflaged behind some bushes and sped off to Redoshiz.

Zalman's screams through his gag attracted attention whenever their carriage slowed to go through a town. But the brothers thought fast and when people began to get too close they yelled out to beware; it was their poor brother possessed by a 'dibuk', an evil spirit and everyone fled in fear.

Finally they arrived in Redoshiz, to the Synagogue of the Rebbe. They pulled up as close as possible to the door and whisked their thrashing captive in as efficiently as possible, slamming the door behind them.

But Rebbe's secretary was startled and flatly refused them entrance to the Rebbe's room. "You want to get us all killed!" He whispered when he heard what they wanted, "Get him out of here!"

But they pushed their way in and closed the door to the Rebbe's room behind them and, with Zalman still squirming and yelling through his gag, stood silently before the holy man.

The Rebbe seated behind his desk looked up quietly as though he was expecting them. "What is this?" He asked.

He listened as they explained the whole story, then looked silently at the bound Zalman for a few seconds and finally said.

"Very good that you brought him here. You acted wisely. Tell me, what is his name and his mother's name?"

Meanwhile seeing the Rebbe seemed to have a calming effect on Zalman. Although his eyes flitted about like a trapped animal and every few minutes he squirmed forcefully to get free, he was silent. As though he was waiting to see what would happen.

The Rebbe got up, walked to the door and opened it to the large Synagogue room. The three visitors craned their heads to see what was happening. They watched as he walked slowly to the huge wide gleaming mahogany Aron HaKodesh (Ark that holds the Scrolls) that stood some fifteen feet high at the front of the Synagogue and took out what looked like a small pocket knife.

He began carving something into the smooth wood of the Ark! After a few minutes They made it out. It was Zalman's name etched clearly in the brown wood.

The Rebbe looked at his work for a second, returned to his room and told the brothers that they could free their prisoner. They could tell the elders of the community that Zalman would never even think of leaving the Torah again.

On the long journey home Zalman sat quietly sunken in deep thought and several weeks later, after they returned, he resumed his studies a different man. He eventually married and established a home based on the firm foundations of Torah.

This story was told by a Rabbi Noah Gad Vinetroub of Jerusalem who said he heard it from one of the brothers Feirman when he was a child. Today the great grandchildren of 'Zalman' are G-d fearing Jews living in Israel.

This answers our question.

Although the Torah is called the book of Jewish wisdom and understanding (Deut.4:6) nevertheless the essence of the Torah is that it is ABOVE understanding; it is the wisdom of the Infinite Creator of the universe.

Through the Torah the Jews reveal their unity with G-d; that they are the 'sons' and 'servants' of HaShem.

This is why Jews have given their lives for the Torah since it was given over 3,300 years ago; because G-d's Torah is not just a religion book. Rather it is carved into the heart of every Jew, whether they know it or not, something like the letters of the Ten Commandments were carved into the Tablets or how the Rebbe in our story carved Zalman's name into the ark.

But only a Rebbe, a leader of Jews like Moses, can really reveal this. Others can teach the Torah and inspire Jews to follow it... but only a Rebbe can arouse Jewish hearts to this inner, G-dly, above-normal connection.

And this is exactly what Moshiach will do. He will reveal the living connection of all the Jews to the Torah; above all logic and understanding. Even the logical laws of the Torah will feel G-dly.

And eventually will do the same for the gentiles as well: All mankind will observe the Seven Noahide Commandments not because they are wise and practical (which they are) but because they appear in G-d's Torah.

Now we are in the age of Moshiach. All that is missing is for us to, in the language of the Lubavitcher Rebbe, open our eyes and do all we can in the most joyous, pleasant and optimistic way possible to bring....

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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