Parshas Yisro 5776
Candle Lighting Time: 5:06 pm
February 5, 2016
Volume 12 Issue 15
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Dvar Torah


Six and Seven

  By Rabbi Yosef Prupas

While the struggle over civil rights rage around us, this week's Parsha behooves one to examine the question of slavery from Torah standpoint. At one time, preachers from the South would orate about the "biblical" obligation to enslave. This gave free reign to the slave owners to be extremely cruel to their "property," with the effects of that era still resonating today. However, a simple examination of the verses dealing with slavery reveals a different reality. One example is the Chinuch's explanation as to why a slave owner receives capital punishment for beating his non- Jewish slave to death.  He explains that it is G-d's will that extreme cruelty should be eradicated from His people. To allow oneself to be possessed by anger to the point of murder, is not to be tolerated.
Another area that stands out, is the unique laws that direct the Jewish People how to treat the Jewish thief. Rabbi Samson Rephael Hirsch points out that nowhere do we find prison as an option for punishment. The Jewish thief is sold to a Jewish family, who are commanded to treat him in a certain manner in order not to crush his spirit. Furthermore he is only sold if he can't pay back the value of the object, not for the accompanying fine. Rabbi Hirsch asks, why is it that only stealing requires being sold into slavery. Why isn't slavery an option for all other scenarios that might make one obligated monetarily to his fellow Jew?
Rabbi Hirsch proposes that it is the lack of respect for another's possessions that is behind this course of action. An individual's property is part of his greater spiritual reality. When an individual commits robbery, he is a displaying a total disregard and lack of respect to that which belongs to another. Being incubated in slavery, removed from self-worth, gives one time to reflect on the realities of life.
In fact the idea of being sold for six years and freed on the seventh reflects this concept. This slave had fallen into the world of "six," which represents the physical, and ignored the world of "seven," the world of the hidden spiritual. He ignored a higher purpose to life. The six year period of slavery, says Rabbi Hirsch, is an opportunity to subordinate his infatuation with physicality, and elevate himself to an appreciation of the "seventh," the spiritual.
The Nesivos Shalom asks, if the reason why a slave who chooses to remain in servitude gets his ear drilled is his lack of desire to be a direct servant of G-d, why doesn't this ceremony occur as soon as he sold? It was his negative actions and not being attentive to G-d's will that brought him to this sorry state!?
The Nesivos Shalom answers that there are different cycles of six and seven. Each represents a Jew on a certain level. Shabbos occurring each week happens in the home of a Jew who understands the purpose of life. However, there are those for whom Shabbos occurs only after six years. The verse that gives us the command to toil the land for six years and let it rest on the seventh, characterizes the individual who is attached to the land i.e. the physical. For a person in slavery, six years is a chance to learn to learn how to bring in Shabbos/spiritual and make Shabbos a weekly occurrence. If even after his initial time in slavery he cannot appreciate the rigors of a Jewish life, he needs a more intense process of 6 times 6, and 7 times 7 to fully realize a higher purpose.  This is why the Jewish slave doesn't have his ear drilled immediately. G-d gave the thief  the chance to reflect upon his sorry state, with the goal of Shabbos/the spiritual at the end. Failure   to appreciate this process, demands that his ear be drilled, for now he is deliberately  refusing to let the go of the physical. May we never tire or be disenchanted with our learning, thus meriting Moshiach speedily in our day.
Dvar Halacha
Laws of Tzeddaka   
Part 4
  By  Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi
When giving charity each individual has the right to choose to whom he would like to give to. However, Chazal established an order of precedence as a means to guide people where it is more preferable to give ones tzedakah .  Thus, although this system is not obligatory, it is preferable to do so.
The Torah [Devarim 15:7] says, "If there is a poor person amongst you, any of your brothers in any of your gates in your land that Hashem your G-d gave to you, do not harden your heart and close your hand from your poor brother."  Chazal understood from here that "your brother" [i.e. relatives] come first for your charity funds (Shulchan Aruch YD 251).
The order of priority is : Parents, grandparents [paternal come before maternal], adult children, grandchildren, siblings, other relatives, spouse's relatives, divorced spouse, if there is no mikvah in community [Rav Moshe Feinstein, zt"l, explains, if there is no mikvah in the community, there is a concern that people will not go at all, therefore, it takes precedence over giving to Torah institutions (Shu"T Igros Moshe YD 2:115)], a Torah scholar of stature [Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l,   writes, such a person is "one in a thousand" (Shu"T Igros Moshe YD 3:94)], supporting Jewish schools, new mikvah , Torah scholars and people who have medical expenses, building a shul , non-relative who you have a relationship with (e.g. friends), neighbors [since one usually has a relationship with them more than other people], poor people from your city [who have lived there at least for one month], poor people who live in Yerushalyim , poor people that live in other cities of Eretz Yisroel and poor people that live outside of Eretz Yisroel (see Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser pg. 54- 57 for sources).
As a general rule, supporting needy women comes before men (Shulchan Aruch YD 251:8).   Additionally, it is important to note, this order is only if everything is equal.  However, there are some situations when even someone who normally would be later on list would come first.   Exceptions include, if a person's life is in danger (Shulchan Aruch YD 252:1).  Furthermore, if one person has a more pressing need than someone else, the pressing need comes first [e.g. a lack of food is considered more pressing than lack of clothing] (Shulchan Aruch YD 251:7), unless it is a Talmid Chacham of noted stature who has the lesser need (Rama YD 251:9).
There is a dispute if a person can give more than half of his tzedakah funds to relatives.  The reason being, Chazal were afraid that if people only gave to their family, poor people who do not have family will not receive anything (Aruch Hashulchan YD 251:4).  An additional reason given is that it appears he does not want to help other people and only cares about his own family.  This can lead to desecration of God's Name, for it may cause other people not to give either (Igros Moshe YD 1:144).  However, in a few situations, everyone holds it is permitted to can give more than half, for instance if one's parents are in need (Shu"T Chasam Sofer YD 229), or if a relative is in great distress (Derech Emunah 7:ftnt. 104 quoting Chazon Ish).
One should keep in mind, when it comes to giving to others, the Rambam [Avos 3:15] teaches, if a person wants to train himself to become a more giving and charitable person, he should give smaller increments many times.  For example, if one has $1000 to give to tzedakah , giving $1 one thousand times, will have a greater effect on his character than if he would give a one-time donation of $1000.  At the same time, some Poskim recommend, if one has the means to give considerably, one should not exclusively give minimal donations, since it does not really help the poor person out of his dire situation (Bach OC 695:s.v. v'tozrech).  Therefore, it is recommended that someone identifies several poor people to receive a larger donation which will make a significant difference to them and give smaller donations to as many other poor people as possible (Laws of Tzedakah and Maaser pg. 64 quoting this as the advice of many modern-day Poskim ).

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