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Thought for the Day: Halacha/Mussar/Medrash -- All for One and One for All

D'varim 6:18 states, "You shall do what is fair and good in the eyes of HaShem".  Seems to be a very straightforward mussar vort, no?  That is, nothing actionable, just good advice.  It's in the same parsha as the (repitition of) the Aseras haDibros and the famous watchword of our faith, "Sh'ma Yisrael; HaShem Elokeinu, HaShem Echad".  So the advice in 6:18 fits quite nicely in context, thank you.

I am pretty sure this won't shock you, but Chazal don't explain it that way.  Of course it certainly is good advice, but it is also hard hitting, you can take this to the bank and even take property from another Jew, halacha.  Also, of course, Chazal are simply relaying to us what the Author (aka, HaShem, HaKadosh, Baruch Hu) intended.

So here's the deal.  Yaakov sells his field to Yehuda for X thousand dollars.  Shimon, however, owns a field that borders said field, making Shimon a "bar metzra" (hebrew: ben ha'meitzar; a bordering owner).  Shimon can, according to the gemara in Bava Metzia, 108a, give X thousand dollars to Yehuda and take ownership of the field.  Neither Yehuda nor Yaakov have anything to say about it; Shimon is simply exercising his Torah/G-d given rights.  How does the gemara know this halacha?  "You shall do what is fair and good in the eyes of HaShem" (D'varim 6:18).  Since Shimon is making his field bigger with the acquisition, the field is much more valuable to Shimon than it's sale price.  That's called just being fair, the Torah way.  And the halacha is coded in Shulchan Aruch Choshen Mishpat 175:6 and the Rambam, Hilchos Sh'cheinim 13:5.

One more step.  R' Shmuel Engel uses this halacha to explain the discussion that the m'lachim were having with Moshe Rabeinu regarding taking the Torah.  The m'lachim were claiming the rights of  bar metzra; the Torah is in shamayim, they are in shamayim, this Moshe Rabeinu is a "yilud isha" (physical being born of a woman).  Now it is understandable why Moshe Rabeinu was afraid to answer; even if he took the Torah, the m'lachim can take it back.

What was the answer?  We have a yeitzer hara; bara yeitzer hara, bara Torah tavlin -- there is only on cure of for the yeitzer hara, and that's Torah.  How does that help?  Hagaos Maimoni (s.k. 20) on the Rambam explains that when the owner of the bordering field just wants the extra land as a luxury, but the buyer needs the land to live (he is an orphan with no land, for example), then the halacha of bar metzra doesn't apply.  Why not?  Because, explains the Hagaos Maimoni, the whole halacha is built on doing what is fair and good in the eyes of HaShem, and this is more fair and good.

The medrash, then is teaching us an incredible lesson: we don't have the Torah (simply) because it's a nice thing; we have the Torah because our lives depend on it.


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