Rabbeinu Yonah z"l (12th century Spain) writes that there are
three types of mitzvot: those which must be done (e.g. prayer),
those which must be done if the opportunity presents itself (e.g.
circumcision), and those which are optional, but may only be done
according to a certain procedure (e.g. marrying a prisoner-of-war
or taking an egg from a bird's nest). These last two examples
are both found in this week's parashah, and each introduces a
separate line of cause and effect which follows from a person's
deeds. These two lines can be traced through the various topics
discussed in this parashah:
Chazal say that if one marries a prisoner-of-war, even
permissibly, he will likely end-up hating her and her offspring.
The son he has from her may end-up stealing from his parents, and
thus incur the penalty of a ben sorrer u'moreh / a rebellious
son. Such a boy is executed, not for what he has done, Chazal
say, but so that he may die relatively righteous. Should he
live, his future is bleak indeed.
In contrast, Chazal say that if one performs the mitzvah of
sending away a mother bird, he will be rewarded with prosperity
and will build a house. This mitzvah is therefore followed by
the commandment to build a railing around a roof. Also, he will
merit to have new clothes, so he is commanded not to wear
sha'atnez / the forbidden combination of wool and linen and to
make tzitzit. The mitzvah of tzitzit is among the cheapest and
easiest of the mitzvot to perform, but its reward is great, for
it reminds a person to keep all of the other mitzvot, and thus
brings merit to the entire body. (Derashot U'perushei R' Yonah
"Do not observe the donkey of your brother or his ox falling
and ignore it; you shall surely help it up." (22:4)
In Parashat Mishpatim, this same mitzvah is given, but there
the Torah refers to the animal of "your enemy." Why this
With regard to the verse in Mishpatim, the Gemara asks: How
does one have an enemy? Is it then permitted to hate another
Jew? The Gemara explains that "your enemy" refers to one whom
you have witnessed sinning. If he refuses too repent, you are
obligated to hate him.
However, writes R'Meir Simcha Hakohen z"l (rabbi of Dvinsk,
Latvia; died 1926), that was only before the sin of the Golden
Calf (which is found in the Torah after Parashat Mishpatim).
Before that sin, all Jews were on such an exalted level that they
were able to hate someone merely because he had sinned. But
today, who can make such a claim?! Rather, we are all brothers.
"When there will be a fight between people, and they
approach the court . . ." (25:1)
Rashi comments: "[If people fight,] they will inevitably end up
in court. Learn from here that peace never comes from animosity.
What caused Lot to separate himself from the tzaddik [Avraham]?
It was a fight."
R' Moshe Sternbuch shlita asks: Does Rashi really need to tell
us that "peace never comes from animosity"? This seems obvious!
Furthermore, what is Rashi proving by mentioning Lot?
R' Sternbuch explains: Often, when people fight, the animosity
spreads to the friends and relatives of the respective sides.
Even when the fight is over, and peace has been made, a certain
bitter taste remains with all of the people who intervened on
either side. Rashi is telling us: Nothing good can come of
fighting. Rashi is not referring to the underlying dispute, but
rather to the dispute between those who have taken sides. The
proof is the story of Lot. Avraham and Lot had no fight between
them; the fight was between their respective shepherds. Yet,
what was the outcome? That Lot himself could no longer live with
"You shall not see the ox of your brother or his sheep cast
off [i.e., lost] and turn yourself away from them; you shall
surely return them to your brother." (22:4)
R' Yaakov Yosef Hakohen z"l (One of the primary students of the
Ba'al Shem Tov) interprets this homiletically: "You shall not see
the ox of your brother cast off"--it is better not to see your
brother in a state of spiritual decline (becoming like an ox).
Rather: "[T]urn yourself away."
But if you do see, "[Y]ou shall surely return [him]."
(Toldot Yaakov Yosef)
"Remember what Hashem Elokim did to Miriam.." (24:9)
"Remember what Amalek did to you . . ." (25:17)
R' Yitzchak Luria z"l (the Arizal; 1534-1572) taught that when
reciting the berachah before Kri'at Shma, upon reaching the
phrase, "You, our King, drew us close," one should think of the
giving of the Torah (Hashem drew us close to Him at Har Sinai).
Upon reading the words, "To Your great name," one should think
of destroying Amalek (the existence of Amalek impinges on the
"wholeness" of Hashem's name [Rashi, Shmot 17:16]). Finally,
when reciting, "To praise you," one should think of Miriam's
speaking lashon hara against her brother (Hashem created our
mouths so that we may praise Him, not to speak lashon hara).
R' Chaim Yosef David Azulai z"l ("Chida"; 1724-1806) observes
that these three remembrances - the giving of the Torah, Amalek,
and Miriam's lashon hara - are related. The Zohar Chadash
teaches that the final redemption will come in the merit of Moshe
Rabbeinu, who always fought for the honor of the Torah. What
causes our present exile? Needless hatred. In contrast to our
present state, Bnei Yisrael were "as one person with one heart"
when the Torah was given (Rashi, Shmot 19:2). Remembering the
giving of the Torah will help us overcome our tendency to repeat
Miriam's sin, and will thus bring about the redemption. That, in
turn, will cause the ultimate sanctification of Hashem's name and
the end of Amalek.
(Midbar Kedemot, Ma'arechet Chet, No. 18)
R' Eliezer Azkari z"l
R' Eliezer was born to a family of Spanish exiles in
Constantinople (now Istanbul), Turkey, in 1533. He was a
disciple of R' Yosef Sagis. Eventually, R' Eliezer emigrated to
Tzefat, and joined the circle of kabbalists there. In Tzfat, R'
Eliezer lived as a hidden tzaddik, but he earned the respect of
the Arizal even before his (R' Eliezer's) admirable qualities
were known to others. The following story is told in this vein:
One Lag Ba'omer, the Jewish community of Tzefat traveled to
nearby Meron to celebrate at the tomb of the second-century sage,
R' Shimon bar Yochai, as was (and still is) the custom. No one
paid attention to R' Eliezer and the unknown, but venerable, old
man with whom he was dancing, until, suddenly, the Arizal joined
them. When the festivities ended, the Arizal's students asked
him, "Why do you lower yourself to dance with an ordinary Jew
such as R' Eliezer?"
"The Tanna / sage of the Mishnah R' Shimon bar Yochai saw fit
to dance with R' Eliezer," responded the Arizal, "and I should
R' Eliezer is best known for his work Sefer Chareidim, a
compilation of the mitzvot which apply today, when the Bet
Hamikdash is not standing. This work stresses not only the
halachic aspects of the mitzvot, but their ethical lessons as
well. He also composed the hymn Yedid Nefesh which is sung by
many people before Kabbalat Shabbat and/or at the third Shabbat
meal. Other works by R' Eliezer are quoted in various sources,
but are otherwise unknown. R' Eliezer died in 1600.