Thursday, September 11, 2008

Ki Seitzei: honesty

Parshat Ki Seitzei

In 25:15 it is talking about keep honest weights and scales. The passuk says "So that you will extend your days on the land that I have given you".

Why does your fair scales and weights affect the life in Eretz Yisrael? What is the connection between the two? Yes, the next passuk calls it an abomination, but the Torah does not punish us with being thrown out of Eretz Yisrael for transgressing other sins called abomination? Why this? Why not just say it is an abomination so don't do it?

The warning, as it is given, shows us how serious the issue of honesty and fairness is. Whether you keep honest scales or not is something nobody else will ever know. It is something you have to have your own integrity about.

If you set out to deceive others by keeping dishonest scales, and they will never know about it, you are undermining the foundation of society. For that, for living lives of dishonesty, where we make others think we are being honest (which makes it much worse), we lose our right to live in Eretz Yisrael.

Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Shoftim: pointless killing

Parshat Shoftim

In Perek 21, it discusses the concept of Egla Arufa - a person was found dead outside a city and the elders have to bring a calf to the nahal, kill it by breaking its neck and say they did not spill the blood of the man.
What does killing a calf have to do with this mans death? We find killing for a korban, killing for food, killing for punishment - but since when do we kill something, specifically in a way it cannot then be eaten, for no specific reason?

Whenever you take a life, whenever you kill (let's talk about killing an animal not a person), it affects you in some way. True, the killing is allowed, and even required, but it still affects you to spill the blood and take a living being and kill it. Perhaps it makes you consider the fraily of life, perhaps it makes you consider the necessity to repent (as it should when bringing a korban), perhaps other thoughts would be aroused. But it somehow affects you.

When you kill this calf, it has to affect you. Even more so because there is no direct reason this calf is being killed - it is not being eaten, it is not being punished for something it did wrong, it is not being offered as a korban. The elders will be affected by the killing of this calf.

And that is the desired goal. They will see the killing of this calf and consider what a waste of a life. They will regard the useless, pointless loss and take it to heart. They will compare it to the loss of the person's life, that it too was useless and pointless, and only happened simply because they did not treat him properly (escorting him, as chazal say).

They will learn the lesson, by "pointlessly" killing this calf, that people need to be treated with some base level of respect.

Re'aih: a blessing for nothing special

Parshat Re'aih

In 15:18 it says that when you release the servant, it should not be difficult for you... and Hashem will bless all that you do".

Why? Why should you be blessed for letting him go? You bought him for 6 years and the 6 years is up. He is a free man. Why do you deserve a blessing for this?

Some meforshim say, including Rav Hirsch, that this blessing is not referring to this passuk, rather to the previous passuk of drilling his ear, that you will get the blessing...

Not to argue with the meforshim, but to take it more along the actual pshat - the passuk says the blessing on the verse of not feeling bad about letting him go. I think the Torah is telling us an important lesson - that even though it is not up to us, even though it is something we have to do, we still might not want to do it.

It is very natural that the owner will feel bad - he has gotten close to the servan perhaps, he has gotten used to having a sevrant take care of his needs, etc. Even though he has to let him go, he might feel bad about it. He might even try to prevent it, or convince the servant to sign on for more time, or maybe not at all but still feel bad abou tit.

The Torah is giving the blessing to the owner for, despite the natural feelings, not doing anything to prevent the slave from leaving.

Eikev: one way or the other

Parshat Eikev

In Perek 9, Moshe tells the nation that they should not think it is because they are so worthy that is the cause of Hashem choosing them and to place them in Eretz Yisrael. He then goes on to remind them of all the bad things they have done and all the ways they have upset Hashem.

I think the lesson being given here is an important one. It is similar to the way Moshiach can come. The passuk says "Be'ito Achishena" and chazal explain that as indicating their are two ways moshiach can coem - either because we are so worthy and then his arrival will be hastened or despite our not being worthy, and then he will come at a certain time and we will experience certain trials and tribulations.

The same thing here. Moshe is telling them don't let it get to your head. Don't think this validates your behavior until now. There are two ways this can go down. Either you can be good, and then your migration into Israel will be smooth and simple, or you can be pains in the neck and then your migration will be difficult.

It is going to happen anyway. You might as well get on the train and make the trip smoothly rather than difficult..
Time to catch up with posts I never posted... sorry for the delays...