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Mishpatim 5776


Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  I remember my grandfather, of blessed memory, joking about how he reached 50 years of marital bliss, "We always held hands ... if we ever let go -- we'd kill each other!" Not every marriage is blessed with longevity, nor necessarily with happiness. However, there are some things that we can do to minimize arguments and unnecessary hurt in a marriage.

Recently, a person sought my advice on his marital situation. "We argue all the time. There is so much anger. I can't take it." I shared the first rule of marital happiness, "It takes two to fight. If you don't argue back, if you answer in a soft voice ('A gentle answer turns away anger' --Proverbs 15:1), then you won't have fights."

"Impossible! One can't be on the receiving end of such invectives without responding!" So, I gave a few strategies to minimize fights and minimize the impact of the "slings of barbs and arrows."


1) AGREE! If the person insulting you is right, agree. You can't argue with someone who agrees with you.

2) TAKE IT TO THE BANK! Why do we respond to negative remarks from a spouse (or from anyone)? We feel that the insult diminishes us, cuts us down, makes us less. Piece by piece we are reduced to a pile of rubble -- so we respond in defense of our existence, often with anger and our own accusations. What if someone would give you 10,000 dollars every time you were insulted? Imagine a thick stack of 100 dollar bills with a rubber band around them being placed into your safety deposit box with every insult. It certainly would take the sting out of the insults!

3) INSANITY! We marry someone because we love them, because we want to stay married to them, because we want to build a life together. Who should be the last person you insult on this earth? Your spouse! To insult your spouse is insane. Don't be insane!

Now, let's take it to the next level. You are walking down the street past an Insane Asylum. Out walks a fellow in a patient's garb. He comes up to you and says, "You are the most inconsiderate, insensitive, self-centered human being God ever placed on this planet!" How do you feel? The normal reaction would be, "Gee. I hope he's not violent. Poor fellow. I wonder what he got committed for?" If one's spouse lets loose a verbal barrage either s/he has a good point (then softly admit that you're wrong) or you are the recipient of an insane outburst. View your spouse as insane (but don't share this with your spouse!) and you won't feel the pain or be drawn into a verbal brawl that you will regret.

I know that there are those who will be incensed by the suggestion to view one's spouse as insane even if s/he goes off on a verbal tirade and even if it is to avoid a fight. I know that there are those who are getting ready to write me, fax me, email me or call me.

No problem. If you have a good point that I haven't considered, I'll agree. If you are really abusive, I'll think of the money I'm stacking up in my safety deposit box. And ... as a last resort, I'll just tell myself, "Too bad, what can I do? There is so much insanity out there!"


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Torah Portion of the week

Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1 - 24:18

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:

"If a person steals an ox or a sheep and slaughters it or sells it, he must pay five oxen for an ox and four sheep for the sheep" (Exodus 21:37).

Why is the fine for stealing a sheep less than the fine for stealing an ox? What lesson can we learn from this for our lives?

Rashi, the great 13th century commentator, cites the Sages of the Talmud that the reason the thief pays less for a sheep is because he has to carry it on his shoulders to run away faster when stealing it. Running with a sheep on one's shoulders in public is embarrassing and this embarrassment is a partial punishment in itself.

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm comments that if even a coarse thief experiences a slight embarrassment which lightens the punishment, then all the more so if one suffers embarrassment or humiliation while doing a good deed, the action is elevated and the reward will be very great!

Our lesson: According to the pain and difficulty of performing a mitzvah is the reward. If others mock or denigrate your efforts to do a mitzvah, then focus not on the temporal pain but the greatness and the eternity of the reward!


Candle Lighting Times

February 5
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:41
Guatemala 5:45 - Hong Kong 5:56 - Honolulu 6:06
J'Burg 6:40 - London 4:38 - Los Angeles 5:09
Melbourne 8:12 - Mexico City 6:13 - Miami 5:49
New York 5:00 - Singapore 7:03 - Toronto 5:15

Quote of the Week

The trouble with letting off steam is...
it only gets you into more hot water



With Deep Appreciation to

Mr. Lee Sandau


With Special Thanks to

Mr. Alan L. Goldberg


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