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Posted on February 8, 2024 (5784) By Rabbi Yissocher Frand | Series: | Level:

These divrei Torah were adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissocher Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Tapes on the weekly portion: #1282 Treating Ebola Patients; The Har Nof Massacre and Kidney Donations. Good Shabbos!

Parshas Mishpatim introduces the prohibition against being an oppressive lender, and of taking or charging interest on loans: “Im (usually translated as “If”) you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act toward him as a creditor; do not lay interest upon him.” (Shemos 22:24). The pasuk, as formulated, seems rather strange because there is a positive mitzvah to lend money to a fellow Jew in need. Yet the pasuk begins with the expression “Im kesef talveh…” which implies that if someone decides to lend money, then the following halachos apply. The Torah does not use this (apparently) optional word Im in connection with the mitzvah of tefillin or matzah or any other positive mitzvah. We would expect the Torah to state emphatically “You should lend money to (the needy in) your nation” and then go on to specify the halachos inherent in lender-borrower transactions.

The Mechilta already makes note of this question. The Tanna Rav Yishmael there says that the word Im here does not mean if, but rather it means when – when you lend money. But the Ohr Hachaim Hakadosh wonders, why in fact did the Torah express the mitzvah to lend money in such a fashion?

The Ohr Hachaim explains it very interestingly. The “If” of “Im kesef talveh…” means If you see that you have more money than you need for yourself personally and you are wondering why it is that you have all this money and your needy friend does not have all that money, then you should realize that IT IS NOT YOUR MONEY! The surplus money you have is money that by right should go to the poor man, and it really belongs to he’ani EEMACH (It is really the poor person’s money that happens to be deposited WITH YOU). In such a case, you should not be to him like a NOSHE (from the expression nesius) – don’t lord it over him. It has nothing to do with your brains or your good luck. It is his money deposited by you, so you have no reason to lord it over him.

The Chassidishe Rebbe, Rav Yakov Yosef m’Polna cites a Gemara in Bava Basra (131b): If a person writes in his will that he is giving all his money to one son, that son is merely the executor of the estate (apotropus) for the other sons. Why on earth would a person give all his money to one of his sons, knowing full well that this will cause irreparable damage to the relationships between these brothers for the rest of their lives? So too, Rav Yakov Yosef explains, Hashem gave a considerable amount of money to certain of his children, but not so that they should consider all of that money to be theirs. They should view themselves as executors for distribution of the money to Hashem’s “other children.”

The Malach Ensured That Esther Was Only Modeh B’miktzas” to Achashverosh’s Question

The parsha contains halachos of shomrim (watchers): “If a man shall give money or vessels to his fellow to safeguard, and they are stolen from the house of the man, if the thief is found, he shall pay double. If the thief is not found, then the householder shall approach the court that he had not laid his hand upon his fellow’s property. For every item of liability – whether an ox, a donkey, a sheep, or a garment – regarding any lost item about which he says, ki hu zeh! (‘this is it!‘), to the court shall come both their claims. Whoever the court finds guilty shall pay double to his fellow.” (Shemos 22:6-8)

When a person asks someone to watch something for him and it is stolen, any item about which the watchman says “ki hu zeh” triggers a requirement for the watchman to swear to the owner. Rashi here brings the p’shuto shel mikra (simple interpretation of the pesukim), but then brings the drasha of Chazal on the words “ki hu zeh“: Namely, that an oath is not imposed on a person unless he admits part of the obligation.

The Gemara derives from these words the halachic requirement of “modeh b’miktzas” – admitting part of a financial obligation. This applies classically to a loan situation. Reuven claims that he lent Shimon $200 and he has not yet been repaid. If Shimon denies the loan ever took place, or he claims he already fully paid back the loan (“kofer hakol“), he does not need to pay and he does not even need to swear on a Biblical level (unless Reuven has some type of proof to back up his claim). However, where there is a partial admission of debt, Shimon must take an oath to support his claim of partial payment. This is derived exegetically from this pasuk of “…Asher yomar ‘ki hu zeh…‘”.

The sefer Toldos Yitzchak explains how this expression teaches the halacha of “modeh b’miktzas“. In order to appreciate the Toldos Yitzchak, we need to understand a little bit about Hebrew grammar. The word “hu” (he) is what is known as lashon nistar. It is “third person” (like he, she, them and that) and refers to someone out there, as opposed to someone in front of me. On the other hand, the word “zeh” (this) is what is known as lashon nochach. It is “second person” (like you and this) and refers to someone or something in front of me. The complete denial of debt is lashon nistar (“hu“) because it is third person or distant from me. The admission of debt is lashon nochach (“zeh“) because it is second person or right in front of me. The combination of “zeh” and “hu” indicates something that is both right here and not right here – a partial admission (“modeh b’miktzas“).

With this principle, the Toldos Yitzchak gives a beautiful interpretation of a pasuk in Shmuel. The Ribono shel Olam told Shmuel to anoint one of the sons of Yishai as the next king of Israel. Yishai presented his oldest son, Elihu, and Hashem told Shmuel that he was rejected. Yishai presented his sons to Shmuel one by one and each one was rejected, until he came to Dovid, who the pasuk describes as “reddish in complexion with beautiful eyes.” (Shmuel I 16:12) At that point, Hashem told Shmuel: “Arise, anoint him, ki zeh hu (for he is the one).”

The Gemara says that Shmuel was hesitant to anoint this youngest son of Yishai. Shmuel could not believe that this was going to be the future king of Israel because he was reddish in complexion. Shmuel took this reddish complexion to indicate that Dovid was a murderer. (Red like blood.) The Almighty says, yes, his complexion is red like blood but he is “yefeh aynayim” – when he kills, he only kills with the authorization of Beis Din.

Eisav was also reddish in complexion. He was in fact a killer. However, while Dovid was a warrior, he fought with the authorization of the Almighty. Hashem said “Ki zeh hu” – the ZEH (what is in front of you) is in fact red, but what is hidden (nistar) in that the ZEH is a HU, a melech Yisrael who will only kill with the permission of the Sanhedrin.

Rav Meir Shapiro once similarly interpreted a pasuk in Megilas Esther. The Megila writes that when Esther invited Haman and Achashverosh to her meal and told the king about the plot to kill her people, Achashverosh asked: Mi hu zeh, v’eizeh hu? (Who is this and which one is he?) (Esther 7:5) Esther responds, “It is…this wicked Haman…” (Esther 7:6)

Rav Meir Shapiro explains beautifully: Achashverosh hated the Jews just as much as Haman, so when he asks Esther “Mi hu ZEH, v’eizeh HU?” his question is “Who are you referring to? Are you referring to ZEH – the Haman that you KNOW wants to kill the Jews, as is obvious in front of you – or are you referring to the HU – the person who is also trying to kill the Jews but in a way that is not so obvious – that is hidden (Achashverosh himself)? Achashverosh is trying to understand – does she really know the ‘score,’ that I hate the Jews as much as Haman does?

Esther knew the score. Esther knew that it was the ZEH (Haman) and she knew that it was also the HU (Achashverosh). She pointed her finger and said “Haman harah haZEH” (THIS wicked Haman). The Gemara says she was really pointing at Achashverosh but a malach (an angel) came and pushed her finger away in the direction of Haman, so that she would not reveal to the king what she really understood about him.

Transcribed by David Twersky; Jerusalem [email protected]

Edited by Dovid Hoffman; Baltimore, MD [email protected]

This week’s write-up is adapted from the hashkafa portion of Rabbi Yissochar Frand’s Commuter Chavrusah Series on the weekly Torah portion. A listing of the halachic portions for Parshas Mishpatim is provided below:

  • # 043 Malpractice
  • # 086 Withholding Medical Treatment
  • # 134 Hashovas Aveida: Returning Lost Objects
  • # 181 Medicine, Shabbos, and the Non-Jew
  • # 227 Taking Medication on Shabbos
  • # 271 Experimental Medical Treatment
  • # 317 Wrecking a Borrowed Car
  • # 361 Bankruptcy
  • # 405 Litigating in Secular Courts
  • # 449 Is Gambling Permitted
  • # 493 Bitul B’rov
  • # 537 Losing Your Coat at a Coat Check
  • # 581 Lending Without Witnesses
  • # 625 The Kesuba
  • # 669 Rabbinical Contracts
  • # 713 Adam Hamazik & Liability Insurance
  • # 757 Midvar Sheker Tirchak: True or False?
  • # 801 Oy! My Wallet Went Over Niagara Falls
  • # 845 Is Hunting a Jewish Sport?
  • # 889 The Neighbor Who Forgot To Turn Off The Fire
  • # 933 The Mitzvah of Lending Money
  • # 976 Will Any Doctor Do?
  • # 1020 The Potato Baked in a Fleishig Pan – With Butter or Margarine?
  • # 1064 The Doctor That Erred
  • # 1107 5772 or 2012 What Should It Be?
  • # 1150 Taking State Farm To Beis Din
  • # 1193 “Dayan, If You Know What’s Good For You, Rule In My Favor”
  • # 1237 The Case of the Sefer That Was Borrowed and Never Returned
  • # 1282 Treating Ebola Patients; The Har Nof Massacre and Kidney Donations
  • # 1325 Finding a $20 Bill in Shul / Finding A Comb in a Mikvah: Can You Keep It?
  • # 1369 Lending Money Without Receiving an IOU Slip – Is It Mutar?
  • # 1413 Reinstituting the Sanhedrin in Our Day and Age?
  • # 1457 Milchig Bread and the Bimbo Bakery Controversy
  • # 1501 My Neighbor’s Son Threw a Ball Through My Front Window – Who Pays?
  • 1544 Must I Buy From A Jewish Merchant or Can I Buy From Amazon?

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