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Mishpatim 5770


Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! Last week's edition regarding the value of a life and my effort to encourage readers to help save the life of Martin Grossman ( brought a number of responses. All responses are appreciated and welcomed. There are a number of comments and issues that need to be clarified. I will place the questions or comments in quotations and then respond.

"Why is Grossman's life worth more than Margaret Park's life?" His life is not worth more than Margaret Park's life. He should not have murdered her. My heart goes out to her family. I can only imagine how I would feel in their place. I do not know if they wish to see him dead or if they feel that his death serves no purpose and won't bring her back.

"You quote from the Torah, but doesn't the Torah call for 'an eye for an eye'? Shouldn't he be executed?" This is one of the verses most misused from the Torah. The verse refers to monetary compensation as can be seen by the context of the verses before and after it. Why does the Torah use the language of 'an eye for an eye'? One should not think that the monetary compensation is enough; he should feel the pain of his actions as if it were done to his own eye. Further support for this understanding comes from the Torah teaching us, "Do not take revenge and do not bear a grudge ... " (Lev. 19:18).

"I found this request (to ask for a stay in execution) most offensive, inappropriate and naive. On the contrary, there are many instances in the Torah where murder is carried out." It is important to be careful and exact with translations - the Torah does not condone nor advocate murder. In the Decalogue, The Ten Commandments, it states, "Thou shall not murder" (Ex. 20:13). It is often mistranslated as "Thou shall not kill." There are times when we are commanded to kill - such as in war or carrying out a court's judgment. "Murder" is killing without authorization.

"Grossman is a cold-blooded murderer and by the laws of the State of Florida should die. As I recall, the Almighty smote many for transgressions not involving murder." Grossman murdered Margaret Parks. This is a heinous crime. I do not condone what he did. However, he did not set out to murder Margaret Parks. He was in a drug-induced state and had diminished capacity because of the drugs and his IQ. There are complexities to his case, appeals to the Supreme Court of Florida that warrant stopping the execution. What is the hurry to execute him now after 25 years on death row?

One of the reasons it is so difficult to convict a person to receive a death penalty in a Torah court (which, by the way, there hasn't been a Torah court with the authority to convict a murderer for 2,000 years) is the understanding that the Almighty runs the world; ultimate justice will be done. We have our obligations to ensure justice and order in our society, but we know that the Almighty is just and that each of us will receive our just deserts from the Heavenly Court.

Writes one reader, "My sympathies are with Martin Grossman's victims – the woman he killed and all those who mourn and miss her – not with the murderer. He sounds like he was a very dangerous person to have on the streets 25 years ago – mentally and psychologically diminished, drug-addicted. It was a horrific crime that happened quite spontaneously. The law has and will punish him. Taking his life will not bring her life back." Justice is not always served best through execution.

Another reader asks, "How can the soul of Martin Grossman plead his
case before the heavenly court, if he isn't punished in this world?
His soul will be freed to move on and not suffer if he pays his dues
on earth." Martin has been punished by being in jail for over 25
years. Perhaps his soul is "best served" through the punishment he is
receiving by being in prison - and having to live with the regret and
remorse for his impetuous actions (which his rabbi of long standing
attests to). If you wish to help try to keep him from being executed,
you may go to

For more on "Value of Life" 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 and 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 that 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!

(or go to

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What lies behind us and what lies before us
are tiny matters compared to what lies with in us.
--  Ralph Waldo Emerson


Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Kalman Packouz

Click here for Rabbi Packouz's bio
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