Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Mishpatim
To dedicate this lesson



Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Shvat 28 5777
Having listed the 10 Commandments, the Torah is now ready for the "nuts and bolts" of everyday Jewish life. No less than 53 Mitzvot are found in our Sedra, covering a wide range of topics that instruct us as to how to act in a
holy, elevated fashion vis a vis both G-d and Man.

Each Mitzva should be carefully scrutinized and studied for its teachings. Sometimes, even a single word in that one Mitzva can have a world of meaning and impact.

Let’s take just one example: The pasuk says, "Im Kesef Talveh et Ami." The accepted meaning of this is, "When you lend money to one of My people (do not charge him interest). Although the word, "Im" usually means "if," the assumption is that this is not really a choice, but a strict requirement commanded to us - we must lend a fellow Jew the funds he desperately needs, if we can.

But there is also a case to be made for sticking to the usual translation of "Im" as "if." Because many of us, as soon as we see a poor person approaching, already start mentally preparing the ifs, ands or buts as to why we
shouldn’t give. "IF I was wealthier, I’d surely give!" "IF everyone else gives, then maybe I will, too." "IF he was Zionist/Charedi/Secular (pick one) then I’d give to him!"

The story is told about the rich but stingy man who rarely opened his wallet, always finding an excuse not to give. One day he was approached by someone collecting for a poor chatan and kalla in town. But he shook his head, "I
don’t approve of the shidduch!" he proclaimed.

There are a million and one reasons not to give. And so the Torah says, "IM kesef talveh" – WITH all your "IM’s," your "ifs" you still have to give, because I, Hashem, say so.

And here I must repeat one of my favorite "vortlach" that I heard from Rav B.Z. Kaganoff z"l. For some people, life is about the "if" within the word L-if-e. They look back with regret and say, "IF only I had made that investment; IF only I had taken that job, IF only I’d married that other person, then things would have been so much better."

But for a Jew, life is "Chayim," and within the word "Chayim" is the double Yud, standing for Hashem. If we try to live a G-dly life, if Hashem is central in our lives, then whatever happens to us, we never lose faith, we never give up hope, because we know Hashem is with us, guiding us to where we need to go. IF that is your outlook, your life will always be rich and rewarding – no ifs, ands or buts about it.

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