Skip to main content

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.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

Thought for the Day: Battling the Evil Inclination on all Fronts

Yom Kippur.  When I was growing up, there were three annual events that marked the Jewish calendar: eating matzos on Passover, lighting candles on Chanuka, and  fasting on Yom Kippur.  Major news organizations around the world report on the "surreal" and "eerie" quiet of the streets in even the most secular neighborhoods of Israel.  Yom Kippur.

As you know, I am observant of Jewish law.  Some have even called me "ultra orthodox" (not in a kind way).  Given that, I have a question.  How likely do you think that I would be tempted to eat on Yom Kippur, that most holy day of the year?  Let's make the scale zero to ten, where zero is "as likely as driving through McDonald's on Shabbos and ordering a Big Mac with extra cheese." and ten is "as likely as breathing regularly".  Take your time.  If you answered "zero"; thank you, but -- sadly and penitently -- no.  The answer is more like nine; I'd like to say lower, but i…

Thought for the Day: Coming Into This World for Torah, Avodah, and Acts of Loving Kindness

This TftD is so self-serving that I should be embarrassed.  But I am not... talking about grandchildren is always off budget.  I have, bli ayin hara, a beautiful new grandson; born at 6:11 PM CDT last Friday night.  The secular (aka -- by me, anyway -- slave) date is October 20, 2017 CE.  The Hebrew (aka Real) date is certainly Rosh Chodesh חשון/Cheshvan and certainly in the year 5778 since Creation.  The date, you ask... good question!

Sundown on Friday night was 6:01 PM CDT, which means he was born either at the end of the last day of תשרי or the beginning of the first day of Cheshvan; a period know as בין השמשות/twilight.  What's the big deal, you ask... I am so glad you asked.  We all deal quite handily with בין השמשות every week and every holiday; we're just stringent.  We start Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov before בין השמשות; that is, before sundown.  Likewise, we end Shabbos and the first day of Yom Tov after בין השמשות; some 42, 50, 60, or 72 minutes after sundo…

Thought for the Day: Prayer II -- How?

Now that we know that the obligation to pray is nothing more (nor less!) than a divine decree, we are going to also need instructions from heaven on how to implement that decree.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to have instruction from heaven how to implement heavenly decrees.  One only needs to look at the shambles that one modern ism has made of the very important Torah principle of תיקון עולם/improving and fixing the world.  They have taken words out of context and used them to support their own nefarious schemes.  (To the point that Google Translate actually translates -- not transliterates -- תיקון עולם as Tikkun Olam.  Amelia Bedelia would be proud; we are not amused.

The Torah teaches us how to pray in two complementary fashions.  One is the way in which the concept is presented as an obligation, the other is by giving us examples of how to practically implement those instructions.

The obligation is introduced in the second paragraph of "sh'ma" -- וּלְ…