Parashas Mishpatim

In this week’s parashah it is written (Shemos 22:24-27):
When you lend money to My people, to the poor person who is with you, do not act toward him as a pursuing creditor; do not lay interest upon him. If you take your fellow’s garment as a pledge, you must return it to him before sunset, for that is his only covering, it is his garment for his skin – in what will he sleep? And it will come to pass, when he cries out to Me, that I will hear, for I am gracious. You shall not revile God, and you shall not curse a leader among your people.
The Midrash expounds (Shemos Rabbah 31:8):
What does the law of returning a garment taken as a pledge have to do with the command not to curse leaders? Our teachers said: “Let us relate an episode about a person’s dealings with a judge. Once he had a case before the judge and got a ruling in his favor. He then praised the judge, saying: ‘There is none like him in the whole world.’ A while later, he was before the same judge in another case, and the judge ruled against him. On leaving the courthouse, he exclaimed: ‘There is no judge more idiotic than this one!’ People said to him: ‘Before he was praiseworthy, and now he is an idiot?’” Therefore the Torah admonishes: “You shall not revile God, and you shall not curse a leader among your people.”
The Maggid explains that the Midrash is discussing the following situation, in which a judge seemingly issues opposite rulings in the very same dispute.  Someone loaned money to a poor person. The borrower was unable to pay. The lender took the borrower to court, and the judge ordered a sheriff sent to the borrower’s home to take a suitable item as a pledge and bring it to the lender. The sheriff took some clothes as the pledge, and brought them to the lender as the judge ordered. Later that same day, as evening approached, the borrower went before the judge and pleaded for his clothes back, and the judge ordered a sheriff sent to the lender’s home to take the clothes and bring them back to the borrower. The lender might be tempted to curse the judge and call him an erratic idiot. The Torah therefore admonishes: “You shall not revile God, and you shall not curse a leader among your people.” Even though the law of pledges lays down a seemingly peculiar rule calling for a pledge to be passed back and forth between a lender and a borrower, we must recognize that Hashem in His Divine wisdom legislated this rule, and we must accept it with equanimity.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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