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Mishpatim 5768


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 Galaxie convertible -- yellow with a black top. One day he asked his father why he owned a Galaxie while the other person who vied with him for the top salesman in the company drove a Thunderbird. His father replied, "People don't want to see that you make too much money off of 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 Bubba ... 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 times of joy. A waiter once told me that sometimes he feels like asking some 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 used to visit 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 speedy 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 them by sharing some of these ideas.

For more on "Pain... Making it Meaningful" go to!

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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 tells us of one's responsibility if he injures another person,

"... and he shall be healed" (Exodus 21:19)

-- meaning that the injurer must pay the doctor bills for the damaged person. The Talmud (Brochos 60a) teaches us that from this verse is derived the principle that a doctor is permitted to heal. Why does the Torah need to tell us that a doctor is permitted to heal?

The Chozeh of Lublin commented on this that a doctor only has permission to heal. He does not have a right to despair about a person's being healed. Even though a doctor might see that from his experience and from all that he was taught about people in similar situations to this patient's that they usually do not recover, the Almighty has the final say about the reality of any person's recovery! Never give up hope. There are plenty of people who have lived for many years after doctors have said that they would not get well.

While this is true regarding medical problems, it is also true regarding a person's behavior and emotions. One can never be certain that a person will change for the better nor that he will not change for the better. We should not expect miracles to happen. However, as long as someone is alive there is always hope for improvement -- if someone is motivated to make the effort to change.

(or go to

Jerusalem 4:33
Guatemala 5:43 - Hong Kong 5:54 - Honolulu 6:04
J'Burg 6:41 - London 4:31 - Los Angeles 5:05
Melbourne 8:15 - Mexico City 6:11 - Miami 5:47

New York 4:55 - Singapore 7:02 - Toronto 5:10


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

In Merit of a Complete and Speedy Healing for
Rabbi Noah Weinberg
Yisroel Noah ben Hinda

With love and appreciation,
his students

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