Parshas Mishpatim 5779
Candle Lighting Time: 5:01 pm
February 1, 2019
Volume 15 Issue 13
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Dvar Torah

Making 6=7
By Rabbi Yosef Prupas
 
February is Black History Month. While the struggle over civil rights continues, this week's Parsha behooves us to examine slavery from a Torah standpoint. At one time, White preachers from the South spoke of the "biblical" obligation to enslave. This seemingly gave slave owners' license to be extremely cruel to their "property." The effects of that era still resonate today. 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 to eradicate extreme cruelty from His people. To be possessed by anger to the point of murder, is not tolerable.
Another area that stands out are 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. Further, he is only sold if he can't pay back the value of the object and not for the additional fine. Rabbi Hirsch asks, why is it that only stealing requires being sold into slavery? Why isn't slavery a punishment 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. An individual's property is part of his greater spiritual reality. When an individual commits robbery, he displays a total disregard and lack of respect for another's property. 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 ignores the world of seven, the world of the hidden spiritual. The thief 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 about the slave who chooses to remain in servitude and gets his ear drilled as a result. His lack of desire to be a direct servant of G-d is the reason for this punishment. Why, then, doesn't this ceremony occur as soon as he sold?
The Nesivos Shalom answers that there are different cycles of six and seven. Each represents a Jew on a certain level. Shabbos happens each week 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 (the 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 six times six, and seven times seven to fully realize a higher purpose. This is why the Jewish slave doesn't have his ear drilled immediately. G-d gives 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 go of the physical. May we never forget that G-d is Keili, our personal G-d (as described in the prayer Adon Olam), that we all have the potential for a personal connection with Him. Maintaining that awareness is the key to spiritual liberty and not physical enslavement.



 
Dvar Halacha
Sechorah B'Devarim Assurim: 
Pet Food, Lettuce & Franchises

Based on the Sunday morning Halacha Shiur 
given by Rabbi Y. Biberfeld, Rosh Kollel
Written by: Ovadia Gowar

Before continuing onto some more involved topics within the prohibition of doing business with non-kosher food, let's explore three interesting questions that have modern-day applications.
 
1)    We've seen from the language of the Shulchan Aruch that the prohibition is applicable to anything that is "meyuchad l'maachal" (meant for food). Someone once asked R' Moshe if it was permissible for them to buy pet food for their pets. R' Moshe said that it was permissible. Why should that be? Pet food is food and it is obviously non-kosher!? R' Moshe's answer was that the gezeirah only applied to food that is used for human consumption. Since people don't eat this type of food, it receives the same status as animals that are used for work, such as donkeys and horses. We've seen previously that this was one of the four main leniencies within the prohibition.
 
2)    All observant Jews are acutely aware of the issue of eating bugs, as well as the necessity to spend time cleaning and checking the produce we eat to ensure it is bug-free. But this is only a problem for the kosher consumer. Would it be permissible to sell unchecked produce to non-Jewish consumers?
 
The Acharonim argue on this topic. The Be'er Heitiv, who writes in the name of the Beis Hillel, says that lechatchilah it is forbidden to buy produce that has insects for the purpose of selling it. The Pri Chodosh disagrees with him. A third opinion, the Pri Megadim, maintains that is should not be permitted but says that the minhag is to be lenient.
 
What is the reasoning to be lenient? There are three main lines of thought:
(a) The Jew is involved in the business of buying and selling produce, and only produce. He is not selling the bugs, nor is he charging more for the produce that has bugs. The fact that the produce contains bugs is just incidental, in the same way that the produce might incidentally contain some dirt or pesticides. Therefore, you can ignore their existence.
 
(b) The Torah only forbade involvement in business with something that is actually forbidden to eat, such as basar b'chalav or non-kosher meat. Here, the produce itself is not forbidden to eat; it just happens to be that a Jew would not be able to eat it while the bugs are still on it. If he got rid of the bugs, then he would be able to eat it. So buying and selling produce is involvement with something that is permissible to eat and therefore doesn't fall under the prohibition of sechorah b'devarim assurim.
 
(c) One of the four main leniencies we've seen before is that of nizdamnu lo, which means that the Jew acquired the forbidden item unintentionally. If he acquired it unintentionally, then he is allowed to sell it. Here you can argue that when the Jew orders a new supply, his intention is to buy produce. Bugs happen to come along as well. So the leniency of nizdamnu lo allows the Jew to acquire the bugs and to sell them together with the produce.
 
In summary, there are a number of leniencies that allow one to sell unchecked produce to non-Jewish consumers.
 
3)    The third application is as follows: We've already learned that a Jew cannot directly buy and sell non-kosher food items. But what if a Jew owns real estate, such as a mall, that he rents out to other businesses. Can he have tenants that sell non-kosher food on his premises, such as McDonalds or Dominos Pizza? Here the poskim say that it is permissible because his business is in real estate, not in forbidden foods.
 
Next week we will explore the question of whether or not it is permissible to buy non-kosher food to feed your non-Jewish workers.

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