Easing the Burden!

(Torah Portion Mishpatim) Easing the Burden!

G-d dispatched Moshe to lead the Jews from Egypt. Moshe went to the Pharoh, and in the name of G-d, asked for their release.

Pharoh not only refused, but he made matters worse for the Jews, decreeing that they work harder and produce more than they had done before.

Pharoh planned to enforce this by appointing Jewish foremen to oversee and make sure the quotas were met. Pharoh expected the Jewish foremen to ensure the quotas were met through physical force. However, this was not the case. The Torah relates that the foremen had pity on their brethren, and when the quotas were not met, the foremen were beaten by their Egyptian superiors.

Because the foremen ‘took the bullet’ for their brethren, G-d rewarded all seventy of them by appointing them to the prestigious position of Sanhedrin – Supreme Court judges. They also perceived a more intense prophetic revelation at Mount Sinai.

Commentators point out that G-d gifted these foremen with special intelligence and spiritual acumen to fill this position.

From this our Sages point out that those who ease the burden of a fellow Jew are greatly rewarded by G-d, and merit leadership qualities and abilities.

The function of the Sanhedrin is to rule through the understanding of the Torah’s law. The duty of Sanhedrin is in line with what the seventy foremen did to ease the burden of their fellows. The judges bring out the clarity and truth of the Torah law which in essence eases the weight off the shoulders of those being judged; for they can be confident beyond a shadow of a doubt that true justice was reached.

This week’s portion is host to many interpersonal laws. A common thread that weaves through many of the laws is the sensitivity the Torah demands of us how we are to deal and relate to our fellow. The Torah demands this from us even in situations when one has a personal grievance against another.

For example, if one sees someone who he is not particularly fond of, standing next to his stalled animal on the side of the road, he has the obligation to stop and help him out.

If one follows the Torah’s dictates it will override feelings of personal issues.

A particular story about my uncle, Mr. Israel Lefkowitz o.b.m., a person who personified these ideals comes to mind.

My uncle, was a unique visionary, motivator and philanthropist. He always viewed his financial resources as a G-d given opportunity to help and assist others.

He once planned on a large business expansion project and invested heavily in it. However, he met resistance to this project and in fact someone made an unsubstantiated claim against it.

He took a tremendous financial loss and it caused him personal anguish. However, he was a person with tremendous belief in the Almighty and he forged on.

Many years later a person who sided with those who were against the project, called my uncle to ask him if he was willing to help out a certain charitable cause.

Instead of hanging up the phone on the person, my uncle agreed to have a meeting!

At the meeting, my uncle casually brought up the past incident and in his inimitable style of leadership, offered a life lesson saying as follows, “As for the financial loss that I incurred and the personal anguish I suffered, I believe that G-d planned it for me and I would have suffered regardless. ‘But you should know that before jumping in and agreeing to side with one particular group, you should look at both sides and weigh them carefully. Had you personally looked into the fears and claims, you would have seen that they were totally off the mark.”

The man apologized and my uncle helped out his cause very generously!

Wishing you a most enjoyable and uplifting Shabbat!

Rabbi Dovid and Malki Saks and family