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Mishpatim 5764

Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!   A father of a teenager I knew had a beautiful 1965 Ford Galaxy convertible - yellow with a black top. One day he asked his father why he owned a Galaxy while the other person who vied with him for the number one spot in the company drove a Thunderbird. His father replied, "People don't want to see that you make too much money off them." Two years later his father bought a '67 Thunderbird. He asked him why he decided to buy a Thunderbird. His father replied, "People like to see that you are successful."

The brain is a powerful instrument. Ask it for 10 reasons to rob a bank and it will give them to you:

  1. It will be exciting.

  2. Think of all the good I can do with the money.
  3. They're insured ...

Ask your brain for 10 reasons not to rob a bank and it will
give them to you:

  1. It's wrong.

  2. You'll probably be caught.
  3. Your next girlfriend's name will be Jerome...

Knowing that the brain can justify almost any action, you must ask it "What is the right thing to do?" And often, it is still very worthwhile to ask a friend who doesn't have the same vested interests as you for his opinion. It helps to keep you objective.

We can use our brains to better our situation or make it worse. We all know people who can grab misery out of the jaws of joy. A waiter once told me that sometimes he feels like asking the diners after their meal, "So, was anything OK?" We have the ability to look at the glass as half full or half empty - although that often depends on whether you are pouring or drinking. We must use our brains to focus on the positive.

As part of my community's Bikur Cholim Society (a group of volunteers who visit and help the Jewish sick), I visit the sick usually in the Rehab Unit where people are recovering from hip and knee replacements. Often they are in great pain. It is painful to see their pain.

I tell the patient: I wish I could take away your pain, but I can't. Besides praying for your full and speed recovery, I could -if you are interested - teach you how to minimize the intensity of your pain. Nine out of ten patients are fascinated and anxious to learn; one out of ten thanks me for my visit and asks me to leave.

I then continue: There are two types of pain - meaningful pain and meaningless pain. If one takes a beating, it is painful; if one takes a beating to protect his child or instead of his child being hit, it is less painful. Why? Making a choice to receive the pain rather than have your child receive the pain gives meaning to the suffering.

Pain after an operation is meaningful. It means that you are alive. It means that your body works and hopefully is healing. There is a syndrome where a child is born without the ability to feel pain. Unfortunately, these children do not usually live long because they don't know when they are bleeding, if they are too close to a fire or are injured.

There are other benefits of pain. Pain can be a wake-up call from the Almighty to look into your deeds and your life. Is there anything that you should change or could do better? There is a Torah concept that the Almighty deals with us "mida k'neged mida" measure for measure. If one stubs his toe, he should not only think about the advisability of wearing shoes, but also on a metaphysical level "Who have I been kicking around?" Even if you don't figure out the reason, you can benefit from the introspection and improve your character and actions.

On a spiritual level, pain also serves as an atonement. When I am in pain, I ask the Almighty, "Please, accept this pain as an atonement for anything I have done wrong." One is certainly better off accepting the pain with love and appreciation rather than with anger and resentment.

If the Almighty gives a person pain as a wake-up call or as an atonement and the person ignores it, he has taken something that is meaningful and could benefit him and relegates it to the level of randomness and meaninglessness - which is not only sad, but more painful.

If you know someone in pain, perhaps you can help him by sharing some of these ideas.

Torah Portion of the Week

One of the longest Torah portions, containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative precepts. 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

Before Moses ascended Mt. Sinai to receive the stone Tablets, he and seventy elders were at the foot of the mountain. There:

"They saw a vision of the God of Israel, and under His feet was something like a sapphire brick, like the essence of a clear sky." (Exodus 24:10)

What can we learn from their vision?

Rashi comments that the brick was in the presence of the Almighty during the time the Israelites were enslaved in Egypt to remind Him of their suffering since they were forced to build with bricks in their slavery. "The essence of a clear sky" is a reminder that once they were liberated there was light and joy before the Almighty.

Rabbi Yeruchem Levovitz comments that whenever the Torah tells us about the attributes of the Almighty, the purpose is to teach us how we should strive to emulate Him. When someone else suffers, it is not sufficient for us just to try to feel his suffering in the abstract, we should try to ease his suffering if we can. We should also do some concrete action that will clearly remind us of the person's suffering - rather than just forgetting it and continuing on with our lives.

Even at the time of redemption and joy, it is important to recall the previous suffering that one experienced. This adds an entire dimension to the joy. Many people would just like to forget all their suffering when it is over. The proper attitude is to remember it, and this will give a person an even greater appreciation for the good that he experiences.

CANDLE LIGHTING - February 20:
(or Go to

Jerusalem  4:54
Guatemala 5:49  Hong Kong 6:04  Honolulu 6:12
J'Burg 6:29  London 5:04  Los Angeles 5:22
Melbourne 6:51  Miami 5:58  Moscow 5:26

New York 5:18  Singapore  7:04


Pain comes from the Almighty;
suffering is man-made.

In Honor of the 26th Anniversary of
Kalman & Shoshana
With Love,
Ray & Dorothy Packouz

1 2 3 2,901

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