Perashat Mishpatim 5779
Perashat Mishpatim 5779Friday, February 01, 2019
כִּ֣י הִ֤וא כסותה לְבַדָּ֔הּ הִ֥וא שִׂמְלָת֖וֹ לְעֹר֑וֹ בַּמֶּ֣ה יִשְׁכָּ֔ב וְהָיָה֙ כִּֽי־יִצְעַ֣ק אֵלַ֔י וְשָׁמַעְתִּ֖י כִּֽי־חַנּ֥וּן אָֽנִי׃
Part of the Jewish outlook has always been to look out for and take care of those less fortunate than ourselves. However, the Torah seems to mandate even more than that. If someone is so poor that the collateral they offer you to get a loan is their pajamas or blanket, we are obligated to return those nighttime objects each night so he can sleep with them. Can you imagine the hassle?
It seems that Hashem is saying that He will hear the poor man's cry because He is compassionate. The question is why His compassion results in the lender being punished? The lender is doing exactly what he is supposed to do! He loans money based on the value of the collateral. When he doesn't get paid the whole point is that he takes the collateral until the borrower pays up. That's what collateral is! If you give it back to him each night when he needs it, why would he ever pay you back?
Rashi adds a piercing insight:
אָמַר הַקָּבָּ"ה כַּמָּה אַתָּה חַיָּב לִי, וַהֲרֵי נַפְשְׁךָ עוֹלָה אֶצְלִי כָּל אֶמֶשׁ וָאֶמֶשׁ וְנוֹתֶנֶת דִּין וּמִתְחַיֶּבֶת לְפָנַי וַאֲנִי מַחֲזִירָהּ לְךָ, אַף אַתָּה טֹל וְהָשֵׁב טֹל וְהָשֵׁב:
Perhaps what Rashi is adding is that when Hashem says He will listen "for I am compassionate", he isn't referring to His mercy for the poor man. Rather, Hashem is saying to each of us, I will hear the poor man's cry, even though it is undeserving, because when YOU need me to have compassion for YOU each and every day, I do. I would therefore expect you to do the same for the destitute, to find it in your heart to be merciful even though you don't have to be.
Go out of your way for others. Someone has gone out of their way for you! Or at least SomeONE. The symmetry is beautiful. Make sure that he gets to sleep, so that you will wake up!
Ultimately when we give to others, the biggest beneficiary is ourselves!
Rabbi Shlomo Farhi
Feb 23 2019
Adar I 18 5779