Parashas Mishpatim

In the Midrash on parashas Mishpatim (Shemos Rabbah 30:1, expounding on Tehillim 99:4), it is written: “You established uprightness for Your beloved ones – through the laws that You gave them, they enter into disputes with one another, and go to have them adjudicated, and [thereby] they make peace.” I present below a few interpretations that the Maggid offers on this Midrash: the first three from Ohel Yaakov, parashas Mishpatim, and the fourth from Kol Yaakov on Esther 3:8-11.
A. The first two interpretations relate to the system of Jewish law courts. The Gemara (Makkos 7a) states that we must set up a beis din in every city. The Maggid notes that even very small communities have their own beis din. The Maggid asks why it is necessary for the Jewish People, a nation of righteous people, to have so many law courts for adjudicating disputes. He gives two answers.
1. The Jews are exacting in their moral standards, and hence pay regard even to subtle offenses. This, for example, the Gemara in Bava Metzia 58b states that embarrassing someone publicly is tantamount to murder, and one who calls his fellow-man by a derogatory nickname has no share in the World to Come. The Jews’ high level of moral sensitivity leads them to raise a plethora of legal issues, which creates a need for many courts.
2. In monetary and property matters, parties who are on amicable terms and would be willing to compromise often seek adjudication anyway, in order to ensure a just outcome. Each side wants to avoid taking what is not rightfully his. This practice also creates the need for many courts.
B. The primary purpose of the Torah’s civil laws is not, as might first appear, to prevent physical or monetary harm or to provide redress for such harms. Rather, it is to prevent people from harming their own souls by thoughtless or wicked behavior. Out of love for the Jewish People, Hashem established a system of civil laws, so that their souls may remain pure.
C. The concept of ownership is designed specifically to bring us merit. Ownership is specific to the human realm; neither the heavenly realm nor the animal kingdom is subject to ownership laws. Out of love for us, Hashem established for us a concept of ownership, with an associated system of monetary and property laws, and statutes about using our assets to care for the poor, so that we may gain merit by following His directives in these areas.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

1 Comment

  1. North Jerusalem Maggid of Dubno Project » Blog Archive » Parashas Shoftim:

    […] Mishpatim, the Maggid presents several interpretations of this Midrash, which we summarized in a previous d’var Torah. Here we present an additional interpretation, taken, as indicated above, from the Maggid’s […]

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