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כ״ז בשבט ה׳תש״ע (February 11, 2010)


“That you shall Place Before Them”

Mishpatim 5770

On the verse, “These are the ordinances that you shall place before them” (Shemot 21:1), Chazal comment: “before them – and not before non-Jews.” (Gittin 88b) We learn from this the prohibition to adjudicate before secular courts. Thus, the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch (26:1) rule vehemently: “It prohibited to litigate before non-Jewish judges and in their courts even in a case that they rule the same as Jewish law. Even if the two litigants agreed to adjudicate before them – it is prohibited. Anyone who comes to litigate before them is wicked, and it is as if he cursed and blasphemed and raised his hand against the Torah of Moshe Rabbeinu a”h.”

What is the reason for the severity of this issue? The source of the Rambam is from the Midrash (Tanchuma Mishpatim #3):

Anyone who leaves Jewish judges and goes before non-Jews, first denied G-d, and afterwards denied the Torah, as it says, “For not like our Rock is their rock – yet our enemies judge us.” (Devarim 32:31) What is this comparable to? To a sick person that the doctor came to visit … The one who will live, I told him, “Do not eat this food,” so that his illness should not worsen. Similarly … to Israel I gave mitzvot and laws that are good, as it says, “You shall observe My decrees and My laws, which man shall carry out and by which he shall live.” (Vayikra 18:5)

The judicial system is the system by which society lives. In addition to the specifics of the laws themselves, the judicial system is nourished by, and also shapes the culture and value system of the society. G-d was concerned to give Am Yisrael good laws and ordinances, and was particular that they should not change them with others, so that they should live by them. Therefore, one who abandons these laws and adopts another system is like on who denies the Torah.

Based on this we understand that the prohibition is not only non-Jewish judges, but also a Jewish judicial system that is not in accordance with Torah law. Thus, the Chazon Ish (Sanhedrin 15:4) writes that there is no difference between a non-Jewish judge and a Jewish judge who rules according to made-up laws. “It is even more indecent, that they exchanged the laws of the Torah for meaningless laws.” Therefore, also in Eretz Yisrael there is a prohibition of arkaot in going before the State civil courts. Instead, one should go before a Beis Din also for monetary matters.

About this we pray three times a day, “Hashiva shofeteinu k’varishona … u’meloch aleinu atah Hashem levadecha – Restore our judges as at first … and rule over us You Hashem alone.”

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ט״ז בשבט ה׳תש״ע (January 31, 2010)


“Stand Fast and See the Salvation of Hashem”

Parashat Beshalach 5760

After the Exodus from Egypt with miracles and wonders, when Bnei Yisrael are leaving “with an upraised arm” (Shemot 14:8), it seems to them that their world is about to collapse. Pharaoh again recanted and is chasing after them, overtaking them at the Sea. Bnei Yisrael are very frightened, but Moshe encourages them: “Do not fear! Stand fast and see the salvation of Hashem that He will perform for you today; for as you have seen Egypt today, you shall not see them ever again! Hashem shall make war for you, and you shall remain silent.” (14:13-14)


ו׳ בשבט ה׳תש״ע (January 21, 2010)


“For all Bnei Yisrael there was Light in their Dwelling”

Parashat Bo, 5770

Chazal comment on the verse in the beginning of Parshat Beshalach, “Bnei Yisrael were chamushim when they went up from the land of Egypt” (Shemot 13:18), that only one of five Jews exited Egypt, whereas the rest died during the plague of darkness.  According to this, the period of darkness was a most difficult period for Israel, and millions of Jewish people died! In a certain sense, it was even more severe than the plague of the first born of the Egyptians.

Chazal further taught (Yalkut Shimoni I:238) that Bnei Yisrael were judged at the splitting of the Red Sea, and the angels were wondering, “People who worship idols are walking on dry land?” Thus, even the fifth that survived the plague of darkness were idol-worshippers. Rav Yaakov Kamenetsky zt”l asks in his sefer, Emet L’Yaakov: If so, how did the few that were saved differ from the large majority that died, since those who left also worshipped idols!

Rav Kamenetsky zt”l answers that the great majority of Am Yisrael didn’t want to leave, and even wanted to prevent the others were leaving. They thought that the time of redemption did not yet arrive, because they had a tradition that the exile would last 400 years. They were afraid that if they would leave before the destined time, they would suffer the same fate as the descendents of Ephraim, who left early and were killed by the people of Gat. (Rashi Shemot 15:14) They did not believe Moshe’s words that G-d calculated the destined time and hastened it in the merit of the patriarchs.

In contrast, the rest of the people were ready to leave the exile to redemption. Even though they were like idol worshippers in the eyes of the angels, G-d foresaw that in seven weeks they would be ready to stand at Mt. Sinai and say, “We will do and we will listen.” Thus, it was not their wickedness and spiritual decline that caused them to die in Egypt, because this can be corrected, but rather their refusal to believe that the time had come for the promised redemption.

Rav Kamenetsky adds: Let us imagine the feelings of the Jewish people at this difficult time. They certainly wondered, “What has G-d done to us?” However, we can draw solace from this for our nation after the Holocaust, when we also wonder about G-d’s guidance of Am Yisrael – but this indicates that we are close to redemption. Even though it seems that darkness rules – for all of Bnei Yisrael there was light!

“ולכל בני ישראל היה אור במושבותם” (בא תש”ע)

חז”ל דרשו על הפסוק בתחילת פרשת בשלח, “וַחֲמֻשִׁים עָלוּ בְנֵי יִשְׂרָאֵל מֵאֶרֶץ מִצְרָיִם” (שמות יג, יח), שרק אחד מחמשה יצאו ממצרים, והשאר מתו במכת חשך (רש”י שם). לפי זה יוצא שמכת חושך היתה תקופה קשה ביותר לישראל, חמורה יותר אפילו ממכת בכורות למצרים, ומתו בו מיליוני אנשים מישראל!

עוד דרשו חז”ל (ילקוט שמעוני ח”א, רלח), שבני ישראל היו נתונים בדין בשעת קריעת ים סוף, והיו מלאכי השרת תמהים: בני אדם עובדי עבודה זרה הולכים ביבשה? הרי שגם אותו חומש ששרד במכת חושך היו עובדי עבודה זרה. שואל הרב יעקב קמנצקי זצ”ל בספרו “אמת ליעקב” (שמות י, כב), אם כאן מה נשתנו אלו המיעוט שניצלו מרוב רובם שמתו, כיון שגם אלו שיצאו היו עובדי עבודה זרה?

עונה הרב קמנצקי זצ”ל, שהרוב הגדול של עם ישראל לא רצו לצאת, ואף רצו לעכב בידיהם של האחרים מלצאת. הם סברו שזמן הגאולה עדיין לא הגיעה, שהיה בידם קבלה שהגלות תארך ארבע מאות שנה. הם פחדו שאם יצאו קודם זמן הקץ יארע להם מה שאירע לבני אפרים, שיצאו מוקדם והרגום אנשי גת (עי’ רש”י שמות טו, יד). הם לא האמינו לדברי משה שחישב ה’ ומיהר את הקץ בזכות האבות.

לעומת זה, שאר העם היו מוכנים לצאת מגלות לגאולה. אף על פי שהיו בעיני המלאכים כעובדי עבודה זרה, הקב”ה ראה מרחוק שבעוד שבעה שבועות יהיו מוכנים לעמוד בהר סיני ולומר “נעשה ונשמע”. לפי זה, לא רשעתם וירידתם הרוחנית היא זו שגרמה למותם במצרים – כי לזה יש תקנה, אלא סירובם להאמין בבוא קץ הגאולה המובטחת.

מוסיף הרב קמנצקי זצ”ל, נתאר לעצמנו את תחושתם הקשה של ישראל בימים אלו. בוודאי היו תמהים, מה זו עשה ה’ לנו?!  אך מזה נחמה למצב עמנו אחרי השואה, שמתרעמים כביכול על הנהגת ה’ את כלל ישראל – אך מזה משמע שאנו קרובים לגאולה. על אף החושך השורר לכאורה – לכל בני ישראל היה אור!



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