Chassidut: Parshat Mishpatim – Hashem’s Emblem of Truth

11 02 2010

Chassidut: Parshat Mishpatim – Hashem’s Emblem of Truth
Based on a shiur on Chassidut by Rabbi Hershel Reichman

Parshat Mishpatim: G-d's Emblem of Truth

In Netivot Shalom, the Slonimer Rebbe discusses why Parshat Mishpatim comes after Parshat Yitro.  Rashi says that mishpatim, the code of civil and criminal law, completed the Sinai experience. What is the function of the mishpatim in terms of the original giving of the Torah?

In Tehilim we read, “Magid dvarav l’Yaakov u’mishpatav l’Yisrael. The Almighty related his word and bylaws to Israel (but did not do so to the other nations of the world).” One of the seven mitzvot bnei Noach is dinim, to establish a code of civil law. How may we understand this verse?

King David meant that a Jew has a different imperative for keeping the same laws as the non-Jews. The Jewish judicial system is ordained by Hashem, while the non-Jewish code of law is up to each nation’s discretion. The Gemara says that a Jewish judge who adjudicates a case truthfully becomes a partner with the Almighty in the creation of the world.  Hashem looked into the Torah to form the world. Jewish judges seek to apply the ideals of Torah correctly. When three judges adjudicate honestly, Hashem lowers himself to join them. The judges in the courts of Jewish law are messengers of Hashem. They enforce the laws of the Torah. In contrast, the non Jewish courts merely impose man-made mandates.

The Gemara writes that a Jewish court is “dan din emet l’amito,” judges the truth of the truth, the real truth. What does this mean? The Netivot Shalom relates an intriguing story about the Baal Shem Tov. His student was once framed, and forced by a beit din to pay the claimant a sum of money he had never taken. The student came to the Baal Shem Tov and asked him, If Hashem sits with the judges in the beit din, how could this beit din ruled unjustly? The Baal Shem Tov answered that the real truth had come out. In a previous lifetime, the student owed the litigant money which he never repaid. Now, in this reincarnation, he framed the student and got his money back. A Jewish court might commit what appears as a mistake, but in reality, there are always Divine reasons behind it.  Any judgment adjudicated with truth and sincerity becomes a part of the Torah. Indeed, many volumes of Halachic literature are accounts of judgments and decisions made by great Jewish judges over the course of centuries. Sheilot u’teshuvot comprise a significant body of the Oral Torah. This is how Parshat Mishpatim relates to the Sinai experience.

Chassidut teaches that Hashem created the world because He desired to rest His presence in the lower spheres, where He could express himself. The Jewish court of truth provides a home for Hashem.  Falsehood banishes Him. This is the secret of the power of mishpatim. Falsehood must not flourish. Truth is so essential that its message is positioned next to one of the most critical events in Jewish history, the giving of the Torah.

We cannot and dare not ignore our responsibilities to our fellow man, especially in regards to honesty in monetary matters. Our Sages would go to great lengths to clear any financial claims against them even if it meant paying back people who were themselves thieves and charlatans. In this way they sanctified Hashem’s name. It is crucial for parents to show children that their monetary obligations are sacred. Conducting ourselves with honesty brings the Shechina into our homes.

The Netivot Shalom quotes the Maharal that one must keep the Torah honestly between man and Hashem, man and man, and man and himself. This includes avoiding self deception, and being  true with oneself regarding ones potential, abilities, flaws, and power to change. By dedicating ourselves to live a life of emet, truth, we will merit to walk hand in hand with Hashem, whose essence is truth.




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