This week we are privileged to read the portion of Mishpotim. The portion begins with the laws pertaining to someone who purchased a Jewish slave. The maximum term of work is six years, and if he is married, his master must make sure that his family is supported as well. The Talmud in tractate Kidushin teaches us that one who purchased a Jewish slave, in essence, purchased a master. The way one must treat the slave is fascinating. He cannot sleep with two pillows and his slave with one, he cannot overwork him and many other details that are designed to teach us respect for each other.
The Torah portion continues discussing physical harm, which one may have caused to someone and the proper restitution. Further the Torah discusses the four different types of damages which one’s animal or property causes to his fellow man or to his property. Later we learn about the stringency of mistreating a widow or an orphan. We also learn about the importance of assisting one another with loans when needed. As Rashi states, when you are approached for a loan you should view it as if you were the one in need (imoch). The portion concludes with Details that transpired during kabolas haTorah.
The majority of this portion are issues that apply bein odom lichaveiro - between man and man. This is the first portion after kabolas haTorah, and it also ends with the details of mamad Har Sinai (events at Mt Sinai). To be a Torah Jew means to be stringent not only in mitzvohs between man and G-d but it begins with mitzvohs between man and man. Perhaps one more example of this concept is the mitzvah ozov tazov imo - one who see his enemy’s donkey lying under a heavy load, one must assist him. The Talmud states that if one has an enemy who needs assistance loading and a Friend who needs assistance unloading he should rather assist the enemy, in order to overcome his bad tendencies of revenge (see Bava Metzia 32). Although normally it would seem more important to unload to lighten the burden from the animal as well, yet, the Torah stresses how important it is for us to change and refine our character.
The portion begins with “the laws which you shall place before them” and rashi explains that the Torah should be placed before them like a fully prepared table from which one can immediately eat. A chosid once complained to the Chidushei Horim, that he was forgetting the Torah he learned. The Chidushei Harim replied, why is it that when it comes to eating, you don’t seem to have forgotten ? Did you ever put your spoon in the soup and then instead of putting it into your mouth, put it into your ear ? Why is it that the Torah doesn’t become ingrained in us at least as much as the mundane things we do ?
May we merit to learn Torah and be wholesome in both, bein odom laMokom and bein odom lchaveiro, thereby absorbing the Torah as part of us.