Dvar Torah for Parshat Mishpatim


Based on Likutey Halakhot, Dayanim 4

"In every case of dishonesty, whether it involves an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment or anything else that was allegedly lost, and witnesses testify that it was seen, both parties' claims must be brought to court...."

Exodus 22:8

Reb Noson writes that in this verse the Torah is revealing to us that everything in the world–everything–is kept in existence by the Divine spark it contains, which it receives through the Torah. What happens if, God forbid, people sever a thing's connection from the Torah? In Likutey Moharan I, Lesson #280 Rebbe Nachman teaches:

'Know when a person is compelled to seek a ruling before judges in a court of Torah law, he is being punished - the Torah is taking revenge against him. This is because in fact all business activity is Torah. For example, the law Ôone who barters a cow for a donkey' is Torah, and it is certainly all the more so Torah when one actually performs the act itself, (as is related in the name of the Baal Shem Tov, of blessed memory).

"Therefore, when a person engages in business, he must bind his thoughts only to the Torah and the laws embodied there. Someone who severs his business activities from the Torah and descends into the give-and-take of business itself, not binding his thoughts to the Torah embodied there–his punishment is that he is afterwards compelled to seek a ruling in a court of Torah law...."

Reb Noson explains that the judges exact this punishment from the litigants by asking them detailed questions about the transaction.
What were you thinking?
What did you say?
Why did you do that?
Was that before or after the other party said/did what she did?

By inquiring thoroughly into the matter the judges show the litigants that it was not as they thought, that Torah is one thing and business is something else. No! Everything is Torah - what you think, what you say, what you do. If you don't connect it the first time around, you'll be forced to make the connection later.

In adjudicating the case the judges are working at correcting the mistakes of the litigants. Since the litigants made mistakes in three areas - thought, speech/faith, action - it is necessary to have three judges. Although one certainly has to pay attention to what he does, one's machshavah p'nimit (inner thought, focus, concentration) has to be the Torah that his action embodies.

The hallmark of an erlikher Yid (loosely translated as 'a fine, upstanding JewÓ) is his honesty in business: A Jew must keep his word; a Jew must keep his end of the deal. (This is not mere ethics. See Rabbi Nachman's Wisdom #116.)

Finally, the consummation of the transaction brings the item(s) transferred closer to their ultimate tikun (rectification). How fully they are rectified depends on how much faith and honesty was invested in the words spoken in brokering the deal. That faith itself is only as strong as the thought bonding it to the Torah.

This is why the giving of the Torah (in last week's parsha, Yitro) appears between the appointment of judges (also parshat Yitro) and parshat Mishpatim, which contains the bulk of the monetary law contained in the Torah–everything comes from the Torah, everything has to be connected to the Torah, everything can be made Torah. Judges have the ability to make something Torah even if those who did business didn't.

Sometimes we learn Torah when we read from the Chumash (Pentateuch), sometimes when we study Talmud or halakha (Jewish law). We also study Torah when we show up at the job on time and put in a honest day's work!

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!

(How important it is to show up on time for work can be gauged from the following halakha. If one is running late and realizes that if he prays the full Shacharit [morning prayer] he will arrive late for work, he is permitted to omit certain portions of korbanot and pesukei d'zimrah, the first two sections of Shacharit. So, get up early enough to pray fully and get to work on time!)