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Mishpatim 5761
Feb 18-24, 2001-by Reb Yosef

God Tells Us How to Treat Others 

In this Parashah, God begins to spell out the Laws that we are to live by.  It is said later that to embarrass someone is so serious that it can be compared to causing a physical wound or worse.  In other words, it is like getting into a fight, hitting another child, and causing a black eye except even worse than that.  Do you know why?  Because the black eye will heal and go away.  When we are made to feel embarrassed, sometimes that feeling never goes away. 

This week, God tells us about this for the first time and He is very clear about what He means:

The Torah says (Perek Chav-Bet - Chapter 22):

21. You shall not cause pain to any widow or orphan:

22. If you [dare to] cause him pain ... ! -- for if he shall cry out to Me, I shall surely hear his outcry:

23. My wrath shall blaze and I shall kill you by the sword, and your wives will be widows and your children orphans:

Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch, who I believe was a wonderful teacher, translates and interprets pasuk chav-aleph (verse 21) differently:

21. You shall not let any widow or orphan feel their dependent position.

In other words, God is saying that we should not ever let them feel as if they are less because they do not have what the rest of us have.

In learning Torah, you are going to find that words are very exact - and for a good reason.  Because God is very exact.  The Stone Edition Chumash uses the word "cause" but Rav Hirsch uses the word "let".  What is the difference and which is more correct?  Cause means to do something that would make the widow or orphan feel pain.  Let is very different and means a lot more.  It means that we have to go out of our way to make sure that we don't do anything that might cause the widow or orphan to "feel their dependent position," that they are different. 

Spend a little time thinking about these two words and ask yourself, which one do you think God meant?

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Translations in Torah Portions of the week are partially taken from the ArtScroll Stone Edition Chumash and from Rav Samson Raphael Hirsch Chumash

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