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Perashat Mishpatim 5779

Home > Rabbi's Weekly Message > Perashat Mishpatim 5779

Perashat Mishpatim 5779

Friday, February 01, 2019 Author: Rabbi Shlomo Farhi

אִם־חָבֹ֥ל תַּחְבֹּ֖ל שַׂלְמַ֣ת רֵעֶ֑ךָ עַד־בֹּ֥א הַשֶּׁ֖מֶשׁ תְּשִׁיבֶ֥נּוּ לֽוֹ׃
כִּ֣י הִ֤וא כסותה לְבַדָּ֔הּ הִ֥וא שִׂמְלָת֖וֹ לְעֹר֑וֹ בַּמֶּ֣ה יִשְׁכָּ֔ב וְהָיָה֙ כִּֽי־יִצְעַ֣ק אֵלַ֔י וְשָׁמַעְתִּ֖י כִּֽי־חַנּ֥וּן אָֽנִי׃ 
If you take your neighbor's night garment as collateral you must return it to him before evening. It is his only clothing, the sole covering for his skin. In what else shall he sleep? Therefore, if he cries out to Me, I will pay heed, for I am compassionate.
Part of the Jewish outlook has always been to look out for and take care of those less fortunate than ourselves. However, the Torah seems to mandate even more than that. If someone is so poor that the collateral they offer you to get a loan is their pajamas or blanket, we are obligated to return those nighttime objects each night so he can sleep with them. Can you imagine the hassle? 
It seems that Hashem is saying that He will hear the poor man's cry because He is compassionate. The question is why His compassion results in the lender being punished? The lender is doing exactly what he is supposed to do! He loans money based on the value of the collateral. When he doesn't get paid the whole point is that he takes the collateral until the borrower pays up. That's what collateral is! If you give it back to him each night when he needs it, why would he ever pay you back?
Rashi adds a piercing insight:

 אָמַר הַקָּבָּ"ה כַּמָּה אַתָּה חַיָּב לִי, וַהֲרֵי נַפְשְׁךָ עוֹלָה אֶצְלִי כָּל אֶמֶשׁ וָאֶמֶשׁ וְנוֹתֶנֶת דִּין וּמִתְחַיֶּבֶת לְפָנַי וַאֲנִי מַחֲזִירָהּ לְךָ, אַף אַתָּה טֹל וְהָשֵׁב טֹל וְהָשֵׁב:
Hashem says How much do you owe ME? Does your soul not rise to me each night as you sleep for judgement? It fails to pass and yet each day I return your soul to you when you wake up! You too, should return his objects each night and come back for them in the day. 
Perhaps what Rashi is adding is that when Hashem says He will listen "for I am compassionate", he isn't referring to His mercy for the poor man. Rather, Hashem is saying to each of us, I will hear the poor man's cry, even though it is undeserving, because when YOU need me to have compassion for YOU each and every day, I do. I would therefore expect you to do the same for the destitute, to find it in your heart to be merciful even though you don't have to be.

Go out of your way for others. Someone has gone out of their way for you! Or at least SomeONE. The symmetry is beautiful. Make sure that he gets to sleep, so that you will wake up!

Ultimately when we give to others, the biggest beneficiary is ourselves!
Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Shlomo Farhi

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