Mishpatim 5772

February 12, 2012

6 min read


Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )

GOOD MORNING! When do we stop blaming others for our failures and start taking responsibility for our own lives?

My friend, Sunny Goldstein, told me the story of a young man he met who was wearing the head covering and clothing of an Eastern religion. He asked for his name and the young man responded with a 15 letter Sanskrit name.

Sunny asked if he were married and the young man replied, "No, but they will pick a wife for me soon." Then Sunny asked where he was from, what his parents did and what was his previous name. The young man was from a small town in Pennsylvania, his parents were tailors and his previous name was obviously Jewish.

Sunny inquired further, "Why did go away from your own heritage and how did you become involved in your present lifestyle?" The young man replied, "My father forced me to go synagogue, to wear a yarmulka; my parents were always working and never home; I affiliated with the group while studying at University."

Then Sunny asked, "If your father told you to marry somebody Jewish you would have objected that he is controlling your life, yet you let them pick a wife for you? You objected to your father telling you to wear a yarmulka, yet you let your new religion choose your head covering and clothing? You're angry at your parents for not being home for you, yet you had no objection that they worked 14 hours a day so that you could go to university? So, tell me this -- why didn't you go to your parent's tailor shop after school to help out so that they wouldn't have to work 14 hours a day and could come home earlier?"

At some point in life we must stop blaming our parents, our teachers, our society and take responsibility for our own lives. It is sad to see a 15 year old blaming his parents, schools and society for his own lack of success; it is pathetic to listen to a 35 year old harping on the same old story. One has to be aware of what he is doing ... and then make a decision to change.

A good way to stop blaming is to start thanking those who have helped you in your life -- teachers, friends, relatives. I know one person who always calls his mother every year on his birthday to thank her. I highly recommend 365 Thank Yous: The Year a Simple Act of Daily Gratitude Changed My Life by John Kralik. You'll be glad you read it!

Dr. Howie Liebowitz, an alumnus of our Aish HaTorah College of Jewish Studies in Jerusalem, told me this story:

"I was working in the emergency room when a 'Code' was called in the cafeteria. A woman was visiting her husband at the hospital when she was struck with a massive heart attack. She was "flatlined" -- no heartbeat. We were working frantically on her. Every moment was an eternity.

"After 15 minutes there was still no heartbeat. My fellow doctors began to move away, having given up hope. I continued to try. A life is precious. Finally, at about a half-hour I got a blip -- her heart started to work! We rushed her into the emergency room and managed to stabilize her.

"Six hours later, at the end of my shift, I decided to check on her. She was sitting up in bed talking with her husband. As I walked into the room, her husband says, 'Dear, this is Dr. Leibowitz. He is the one who saved your life!'

"The woman looked at me ... and said, 'I don't know what to say. 'Thank you' is what you say to someone who holds the door for you. Doctor, I want you to know that every time I hold my grandchild, every time I go for a walk with my husband, every time I see a sunset, I am thanking you."

Not every thank you is of this magnitude, but imagine not only what a different world it would be if we focused on gratitude to others for what they have done for us -- but what a different person you would be!


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Torah Portion of the Week

One of the most mitzvah-filled Torah portions, containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments. Included are laws regarding: the Hebrew manservant and maidservant, manslaughter, murder, injuring a parent, kidnapping, cursing a parent, personal injury, penalty for killing a slave, personal damages, injury to slaves, categories of damages and compensatory restitution, culpability for personal property damage, seduction, occult practices, idolatry, oppression of widows, children and orphans.

The portion continues with the laws of: lending money, not cursing judges or leaders, tithes, first-born sons, justice, returning strayed animals, assisting the unloading of an animal fallen under its load, Sabbatical year, Shabbat, the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot & Succot).

Mishpatim concludes with the promise from the Almighty to lead us into the land of Israel, safeguard our journey, ensure the demise of our enemies and guarantee our safety in the land -- if we uphold the Torah and do the mitzvot. Moses makes preparations for himself and for the people and then ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"You shall not wrong a convert to Judaism; neither shall you oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Ex. 22:20).

The Torah commands us not to insult a convert or hurt his feelings. The Chasam Sofer states on this verse that someone might think that a convert has not yet fully accepted upon himself a wholehearted relationship with the Almighty. Therefore, he might say something that is a put-down to this convert.

We need to realize that a person who sincerely accepts upon himself to change has the ability to change in an extremely short time. This is exemplified in the story of the great sage Resh Lakish. Originally, he was the head of a gang of robbers. When he resolved to study Torah, an immediate change took place within him.

For this reason, the Torah reminds us in this verse that "you were strangers in the land of Egypt." Though there were Israelites who reached very low spiritual levels in Egypt, soon after they were liberated they entered into a covenant with the Almighty and were entirely changed. When someone is sincere in his acceptance of Torah values, we must be very careful not to imply that he has not really changed.


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Jerusalem 4:51
Guatemala 5:49 - Hong Kong 6:03 - Honolulu 6:12
J'Burg 6:31 - London 5:01 - Los Angeles 5:20
Melbourne 7:58 - Mexico City 6:15 - Miami 5:58
New York 5:15 - Singapore 7:01 - Toronto 5:32


Experience is what you get
when you don't get what you want


With Deep Appreciation to

Ron & June Daniels

Des Moines, Iowa


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