Thursday, November 10, 2011

Bikur Cholim sometimes means "Do not Visit"

The medrash in Vayera states that Hashem visited Avraham on the third day after Bris Milah when he was "sitting in the doorway of the tent in the heat of the day"

א. וַיֵּרָא אֵלָיו יְ־הֹוָ־ה בְּאֵלֹנֵי מַמְרֵא וְהוּא יֹשֵׁב פֶּתַח הָאֹהֶל כְּחֹם הַיּוֹם:
The obvious question is why the third day and not earlier. This is the basic source of the mitzva of Bikur Cholim. One of the explanations, quoted by Rashi, says that this was on the third day because that is the day that the pain is worst and the real healing starts. However, this still does not explain why Hashem waited until then and did not pay the visit earlier. One possibility is based on the fact that this was the day that Avraham actually was able to sit "in the doorway of the tent" and receive visitors. Even though the pain was not as bad earlier, he was still suffering the trauma of the surgery and was recovering from the shock. That is why a person is placed in a recovery room after surgery and requires a certain amount of time before visitors are allowed.

Only when he was able to go to "the door of the tent" was he able to receive visitors. Thus, it is improper for someone to actually visit a sick person when it would be more debilitating for them to receive visitors. Notice also that Hashem does not speak to Avraham or tell him anything. It is up to the sick person to decide how much he wants to talk and what he wants to talk about. It is only when Avraham actually gets up and addresses the "messengers" that interaction is initiated.

We should learn from this how to behave when visiting a sick person, just as we learn a similar lesson in how to behave when paying a shiva call.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Breishis - Creationism and Evolutionism

In fact, the arguments between the "Evolutionists" and the "Creationists" that have been occurring in the modern world (and especially in politics and the internet) imply that neither side understands what the issues involved might be. The "Evolutionists" assume that as long as the "science" seems to indicate that evolution is a valid process, then that disproves creation. One of the logical flaws that this leads to is the fact that no matter how far back one goes, the Evolutionist doctrine requires a prior source. The "Creationists" assume that there can be no physical evidence for the existence of the universe before whatever arbitrary time is assumed for the creation. Isaac Asimov once wrote an article discussing the "Big Bang". In it he came up with an explanation of the Big bang that involved the collision of two proto-universes. He then follows the analysis back to what "created" the proto-universes and what "created" whatever he called that previous "creation". He then waves his hand and says that "proves" that creation is not true.

One point that this ignores is that the definition of "creation" implies that the universe could have been created at any point in its development with all the evidence that the Evolutionists rely on. This is the main flaw in the Creationist argument as well. Just as the Torah states that the trees were created bearing ripe fruit, animals must have been created with appropriate age distribution in the herds, passenger pigeons require massive flocks to survive, mushrooms require dead trees on which to grow ... That is, the unstated assumption of the Evolutionist is that creation must occur with everything in a beginning state. An example of this is the assumption that Adam could not have seen the stars because the light would not have had the time to reach the Earth and be visible in the night sky. In fact, once one assumes creation, one cannot prove that the universe was not created with this post on your computer screen while you are in the middle of reading it. The universe could have been created 5 seconds, 5,732 years, or 15 billion years ago and we would be unable to tell the difference.

As can be seen this is the same logical flaw that disproves the pagan definition of "gods" (small g deliberate) as it leads to an infinitely recursive definition set. In the various myths of the various pagan religions, the "gods" are always defined as the "children" of a "father god" and a "mother" with handwaving taking the place of the original "father" and "mother". Consider the Asgardian myths, the Greek myths, the Babylonian myths. They all have the "original" deities being the children of a pre-existing being of some sort which is just assumed to have been there. For example, consider The Norse Creation Myth which begins


The first world to exist was Muspell, a place of light and heat whose flames are so hot that those who are not native to that land cannot endure it. Surt sits at Muspell's border, guarding the land with a flaming sword. At the end of the world he will vanquish all the gods and burn the whole world with fire.

Ginnungagap and Niflheim

Beyond Muspell lay the great and yawning void named Ginnungagap, and beyond Ginnungagap lay the dark, cold realm of Niflheim. Ice, frost, wind, rain and heavy cold emanated from Niflheim, meeting in Ginnungagap the soft air, heat, light, and soft air from Muspell.


Where heat and cold met appeared thawing drops, and this running fluid grew into a giant frost ogre named Ymir.
 Later, there is a "creation" of a  a man named Buri who had a son named "Bor" who had a son name "Odin". There is no explanation of who Buri married. However, in the summary above, we see no explanation where Muspellheim, Surt, Ginnungagap, and Niflheim actually came from.

In any case, the monotheistic religions take the pagan idea and state that no matter how far back one must go, there must eventually be a "Prime Cause" because of the Turtles All The Way Down paradox. In this case, the idea of the monotheistic religions is that since the "gods" each require a creator, they are not worth worshiping and only the Primal Cause can be omniscient, omnipotent , or "outside the Universe". Thus only this Primal Cause is worth worshiping no matter how many levels of intermediaries there might be. The main monotheistic religions state that as a result of this, there is no point in assuming the levels of intermediaries since there is no evidence that they exist. As a result, the Primal Cause must have created the physical universe directly. It is only at that point that the physical evidence that the Evolutionists rely could have begun.

The main flaw in the Creationist argument is the assumption that there must be a flaw in the physical evidence. That is, they refuse to accept that the process of Evolution can be true at all or that the physical evidence can exist. It is as if they assume that if creation occurred 5,772 years ago, there can be no fossil evidence in the layers of the Earth. It is as if they assume that G0d would be lying to them if the physical evidence of the evolution appeared. It would be like the question that Clarence Darrow asked Williams Jennings Bryan at the Scopes trial "Did Adam have a navel?". It would be like claiming that trees could not have tree rings showing the apparent age or that Adam could not have seen the stars because the light would not have had the time to reach the Earth.

The result of this is that both the Evolutionists and the Creationists are arguing about different matters and from totally different assumptions. Thus, the argument in the modern world is actually meaningless.

Another interesting point is actually the quote from the Bible regarding the days of creation. Each day is given as a separate and unique creation.

One day.
A second day.
A third day.

It is only the final day that it says "the sixth day". That is only at the final end of creation does the "program" actually start running. Every other day is just an explicit building of another segment.

Why was Noach "forced" into the teivah?

I have always wondered why Noach being forced in to the teivah by the flood water should be counted a flaw. Why couldn't it be that he waited until the very last moment for the people to do teshuvah? Couldn't it be that he was like Avrohom praying for S'dom up until the final decree? This seems to be the reason why we say "forced by the flood waters". When Hashem told Avrohom "there are not 10 tzadikim", Avrohom stopped. He saw that S'dom had passed the point of no return and the judgement was final. Noach saw that the rain had already come, the "light rain" (from the medrash of hashem giving the last chance to people) had passed, the heavy rain had come, the flood waters had started rising, the last opportunity had passed. Yet he still waited until the flood waters had "forced" him into the taivah. This showed that he was not waiting because he wanted to hope that people would do teshuvah at the last minute.

The medrash states that the word for everything perishing (vayigva) implies being "put to sleep" rather than being left to drown as the flood waters rose. By the time Noach had been forced into the teivah, he would have seen his and known that there was no point in waiting.

Noach, "tmimus" and his worlds

I saw an interesting dvar Torah on Noach about "tamim haya bedorosav". The word "bdorosav" is plural meaning that he was "tamim" in all three of the types of situation that he lived in; before, during, and after the flood. That is, he reacted to each circumstance by trying to follow hashem. Before the flood, he reacted to the circumstance of having to live among reshaim and attempting to remain holy. During the flood, as the medrashim state, he was constantly busy maintaining and supporting the animals in the taivah and attempting to keep the remnants of the world alive through the transition. During the aftermath, he became an " ish sadeh", attempting to regenerate the world and restore civilization.

One of the points seems to be that he was unable to maintain the level of "tzidkus" without the full infrastructure that allowed him to be isolated from the rest of the world. In order to succeed at each of the tasks that faced him, he had to throw himself into the role required by that task, and be "tamim" in that role.

To survive in the world before the flood, he had to isolate himself and become a tzadik. This explains the argument as to whether he would have been greater in the time of Avraham or not. Was it a matter of his needing to be isolated in order to survive and reach the level that he did, and he would have been greater in the time of Avraham? Was it a matter of this was the best that he could do and he could not have reached a higher level, so that he would not have been able to reach a higher level in the time of Avraham.

The medrash that he did not sleep for the entire year of the flood, but was constantly busy feeding the animals, cleaning the teivah, etc also hints at this. The appropriate role for that time was one of constant effort. He threw himself into that effort. However, he could not be a "tzadik" in the same sense as he had been before because there was no one to interact with and no opportunity to do anything else.

After the flood, he became an "ish sadeh". Here too in this role he was "tamim". Unfortunately, this was actually a flaw. He was completely a "man of the field". He became so completely a part of this role that when the pressure eased up a little (after the harvest) he became drunk. Here, "tmimus" was actually a flaw. He should have been able to transcend his current role and been a "tzadik" even in that case.

This can also be a different explanation of the phrase "tamim haya bedorosav". He was only able to maintain himself as tamim during the generations (he was 600 at the time of the flood) that he lived among a society that could be considered a surrounding fence. Once the "pressure was off" he could not maintain the same level of behavior. This is similar to the way that many historians (such as Rabbi Berel Wein and Rabbi Dovid Katz) explain what happened after the ghettos were abolished or what happened in the United States.  Rabbi Wein has used the phrase "a mile wide and an inch thick". This could be another difference between Avrohom's generation and that of Noach. Avrohom had to fight the society around him and constantly reject the pressure around him to conform. Noach had no pressure whatsoever. He was alone in the world and whatever he did, he would still be the "best". It is like the story of the man who arranged for his daughter to marry the "best boy in the Yeshivah". They married and moved to the town  where the father-in-law supported them. After a while, the father-in-law noticed a slackening of the young man's efforts. When he spoke to the boy, he responded that he was learning more and with more intensity than anone in the town. The father-in-law answered that this was not what he had in mind when he said "best". Similaraly, the lack of the pressure that noach had used to keep himself a tzadik contributed to his downfall.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

False Prophet can sometimes tell the truth

There are several circumstances in which a False prophet can "tell the truth" ,still be liable for the death penalty, but be unable to be condemned by bais din (the court).. The reason is that he is saying something that cannot be proven to be false.
  1. He quotes something that was told to another prophet and pretends that he had been told it
  2. He declares that G0d told him to announce something true, but he was not commanded to announce it.
  3. He declares that G0d told him to announce something, which cannot be proven true or untrue, but he was not commanded to announce it.
  4. He refuses to announce something that he had been commanded to announce
An example of the first case is in Yirmiyah chapter 28, Hananiah ben Azur is called a "prophet" and not a "false prophet". The commentaries ask how a real prophet could have given a false prophecy. There are those who explain that he heard Yirmiyah giving a prophecy and that he then went elsewhere and announced it as if he had been told it himself. Others say that he heard Yirmiyah prophesy against Elam (49:35) and that he reasoned that since Elam who only helped the Chaldeans was to be punished, certainly the Babylonians themselves would be destroyed. While this could be a possible form valid logic, it was up to the prophet who had been given the prophecy (Yirmiyah) to declare this.

An example of the second case can be considered if someone declares (falsely) that G0d has commanded him to tell everyone to observe a mitzvah in the Torah (such as eating Kosher food). G0d did command us to do so and it is valid for someone to tell people to do so. However, the sin in this case is that a person is pretending to be a prophet. The last prophet (Micah) declared that there would be no further prophets until the final redemption. As a result, anyone who declared himself as a prophet during the second temple (for example) was lying. Indeed, that is how other "religions" arose after that time and why Jews have refused to accept them as valid.

An example of the third case can be found in Melachim Aleph (I Kings) chapter 13. A prophet (Iddo according to Rashi) was told to give a message to Yeravam (Jeroboam) and to return by a different road and not eat or drink along the way. As he was traveling back, an "old prophet" came to him and told him that he had been instructed by an angel that the command had been recinded and that Iddo was to come with him to eat and drink. This was a lie and Iddo was punished because he should have realized that the message would have come to him directly had it been true.

Abarbanel says that the "old prophet" thought that Iddo had given an excuse to avoid eating with Yeravam, but did not want to directly insult the king. However, Iddo should still have realized that he could not disobey his orignal command unless a malach came to him directly. When Abraham was about to sacrifice Yitzchak, he listened to the malach because the malach explained that Hashem had only wanted Yitzchak to be offered but not killed, and this had been done.

The fourth case is that of Yonah when he refused to go to Nineveh and attempted to commit suicide by going on a ship the Tarshish. He knew that he would be killed and asked the sailors to throw him overboard when he realized  that he would be condemning the innocent sailors to death with him. It was only when he had been inside the fish for three days that he realized that G0d was not going to kill him that he did teshuvah and prayed for forgiveness.

There are also cases in which bais din is required to kill the false prophet.
  1. A false prophet says that the people must keep the Torah in the name of an idol
  2. A flase prophet attempts to nullify a law of the Torah, even if it is in the name of G0d
  3. A false prophet declares a sign and it does not come true in every detail.
An example of the first case would be if someone declared that an idol (such as y'shu) had come to him and declared that Jews should obey the laws of the Torah.

An example of the second case occured when Paul pretended to receive a "prophesy" that people were no longer required to keep kosher.

An example of the third case would be if someone tried to declare that something specific would happen at a specific date. If it happens on the wrong date, it is a false prophecy. However, if it does not happen, but it was a prophecy of punishment, and the recipient did repent, then that does not prove it a false prophesy. An example of this is Yona at Nineveh. Since Nineveh repented, the prophesy of destruction was recinded.

Tuesday, August 09, 2011

If you shecht with a light saber, is the animal kosher?

If you shecht an animal with a light saber is it kosher? asked by Elder Of Ziyon actually has a legitimate answer.

Chaim Casper answers on Mail Jewish

A serious answer would be no. While on one hand the light saber
would have no p'gamim (nicks), on the other hand how would you
check the knife? B'dikah of the knife by running your hand down the blade is an integral part of the process.

Secondly, does the light saber burn/heat (i.e. cook) the flesh as it cuts
through the simanim (the majority of the esophogus and the trachea)? If it does, the meat would be traife as it is being cooked before it is

B'virkat Torah
Chaim Casper

The main point is that the "blade" has no "mamashus" [physical existence]. In
"real" terms, it would be like using a laser beam, rather than a blade, to
create the slice. The original question in the daf yomi of Fourth of July -
Chulin 8a (appropriate isn't it) was that if someone heats a blade to a white
heat and uses it, is it valid? The question is whether the blade cuts the flesh
before or after the heat causes the flesh to separate in front of it. Since Rav
Zeira rules that the blade is what starts the cut and the incision spreads as it
is cut, the burn of the the heat is not considered as if it was burning the
trachea and esophagus before the slaughter.

In the case of a laser (or light saber) the flesh is vaporized rather
than cut. Thus, it would be treated as if it was "burned" rather than
slaughtered, which would make it a neveilah.

Another point is that the wound is cauterized as it is made. For
example, when Luke Skywalker lost his hand to the strike of Darth
Vader's light saber, the wound was cauterized as it was made and did
not bleed. In the dapim for the beginning of Chapter two of Chullin
(27 - 29), we see that the blood must flow freely. In fact, Rebbi
Yehuda says in the mishna that even if he slaughters a bird correctly,
it is not kosher until he cuts the major blood vessels. We also see a
similar law involving chaya [non-domesticated animals] or kodshei
beheima [domesticated animals brought on the altar] in the discussion
in the gemoro.

This means that if the cut was cauterized as it was made so that the
blood could not flow, it might not be a valid shechita [slaughter].

The halacha of the flesh immediately at the place of the cut is
different. However, that would be a subject for a different post.
I would continue the logic of the heated blade from 8A as well. Since
the gemora does not mention the idea of "cooked before being
kashered", it seems that it does not consider that a problem.

The Daf Yomi for 27 Tammuz 5771 (29 July), Chulin 33A, actually deals with the
case of what happens if the wound is cauterized as the animal is
slaughtered. It says that in a non-sacred case, the animal is still kosher
even if the blood does not come out of the blood vessels. This means that
the case of the heated knife mentioned earlier (which is similar to the case
of the light saber or laser), which cauterizes the wound as it is cut, would
still be kosher.

An animal slaughtered for a sacrifice (kodshim) is different as the blood
must be received in a bowl for sprinkling on the altar. In the case of a
chaya (non-domestic animal) or bird, while the blood must be covered,
apparently it does not require the blood to spill out. A bird must have the
blood vessels severed, but as in the case of the superheated knife, it seems
that they can be cauterized shut as long as the cut is made by the blade.

Thus, it appears that the only reason the chullin (non-sacred) animal would
be non-kosher is that the "blade" cuts by burning or vaporizing what it "touches" rather than by cutting.

As I said above, the gemora states that it is because the blade actually cuts
rather than burns that a white hot knife is kosher.

Another point is that if you consider the "blade" as moving bits of plasma, it can be considered as if it is an infinitely "long" virtual "blade" that is always moving in one direction. As a result, the shochet would not have to move it at all by manipulating it like a knife. Similarly, shooting a laser beam would be similar to shechting by shooting an arrow with an infinitely long sharp blade, even though it appears stationary to the human eye. Each photon is a moving part of the "blade". Of course since the photon does not have mamashus, it is like a fire that burns rather than a blade that cuts and makes the animal a tereifah.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Korach was an example of a modern politician

One of the phony arguments used by Korach to attempt to trigger his revolt was to tell the "story" of a poor widow. This is actually like the story of the "poor children" who were put in front of the cameras to try to get Obamacare passed.
There was a widow with two small children who owned a plot of land
This story was being told shortly after the sin of the spies and after the בני ישראל had been condemned to wander in the dessert for forty years. However, noone could have actually owned land at that point. Any land in Egypt had that might have been under the control of the slaves would have been abandoned when they left. The land of Israel had not yet been entered so that the "widow" could not own land that had not yet been distributed.

In fact, even if it was meant to be set after the entry and settlement in the land it could not have been true. The land would have been inherited by her children and not by the widow. She could at most have been the administrator of her husband's estate. However, the people who died in the desert were those who were already at least 20 years old at the time of the spies. No man who was younger than twenty at the time of the spies died.  However, even if the children had been born just before the entry into the land, by the time the seven years of conquest and the seven years of distribution were over, the "children" would have been old enough to take over their inheritance.
When she went to plow the land, Moshe appeared and reminded her that she was forbidden to plow with an ox and a donkey together (kilayim).
Since he pretends that Moshe appeared and gave her the law, the incident must have occurred before they entered the land. However, besides the fact that they did not have land to sow while they were in the desert (which is why they were eating the manna), this law did not take effect until fourteen years after Moshe died and they first entered the land. In any case, she was not a "poor" widow considering what she was able to do.
When she went to sow the land, Moshe again appeared and told her that she could not plant a multiple seeds together (kilayim).
 Again the story has the problems mentioned above. Besides which we see that this is a wealthy widow and the "little field" is not so little since multiple crops could be sown.
At the harvest, Moshe reminded her of the laws of לקטת שככה ופעה (Leket, Shikchah, and Peah) which must be left for the poor. When it came time to store the produce Aharon appeared and demanded the levitical and priestly gifts of מעשר and תרומה (the tithe and the priestly portion).
Now we see Aharon entering the story even though he died before Moshe and before the entry into the land. Again the laws are described even though they could not have taken effect yet.

We also see that even if they had not taken effect, the laws announced for the benefit of the poor are treated as if they were unjust. Everyone was still wandering in the desert so that they could not have had a field to plant and till and harvest. They were still eating the daily manna so that they would not have needed the portions of the harvest that were set aside for the poor.

Besides that, the Levite and Priest cannot demand "their" portion of the grain. The owner of the grain, while required to give the portion, is able to choose which Levite or Priest is to receive the sacred portion.
In despair, she sold the land and bought two sheep for the wool, milk, and lambs. When the first lambs were born, Aharon appeared and demanded the first born of each sheep (בכור) When shearing time came, he appeared and demanded his portion (ראשית הגז - the first of the shearing).
Again we see the falsity from the actual words of the story. A כהן is forbidden to demand the required presents because the owner is allowed to choose whichever priest is to receive these "gifts".

We see that this widow was actually a very mean spirited person. She could not stand to enjoy her crop as long as any one else benefited. Just because she was reminded that the poor people or the Levite or Priest who had no other form of income were to get a portion of her crop, she sold the field so that no one would benefit.

Actually, the land was not hers, but her children's and by now they would have been old enough to claim the property. They would also have been required to make sure that she was supported, not just by the laws of the כתובה, but by the laws of honoring their mother. Even if she had the right to sell the field, she could only have sold it until the יובל (Yoveil - fifty year mark).

Consider also the price she supposedly got for the field. A field would have gone for more than the price of two female sheep that had never given birth. Had she bought fully grown sheep, of proven fertility and already giving milk, they would not have been subject to the law of the first born. What does this say about her character. She had to get rid of the field at once even if she had to sell it at a loss and she could not bring herself to buy anything that might have been of benefit to someone else in the past.

Notice how Korach carefully avoids bringing up the fact that she had no ram in order to impregnate the sheep. Thus, it is as if the lambs that were born appeared miraculously.

Of course, since she did not exist, this says more about Korach's character (who made her up) than the widow's.

Again in despair, she slaughtered the sheep, and Aharon appeared again and demanded the shoulder, the jaw, and the stomach in accordance with the laws of the Shelamim sacrifice.
Note again the fact that the "widow" could not bear to have any use out of something that someone else had benefited from. Now that the sheep had given birth, and the first shearing had been completed, they were no longer subject to the requirements of Priestly gifts. In spite of that, she could not allow herself to keep them even though she would have an income from now on and the flock would continue to increase (Assuming that the invisible rams continue to impregnate the sheep).

Korach silently changes the rules so that she has to give the priestly gifts for the slaughtered sheep just as in the time in the desert. The Children of Israel would not have noticed this as this was the situation that they were used to. All meat slaughtered for food were handled as a Shelamim sacrifice. Korach ignored the fact that once the land was entered, the people were allowed to slaughter and eat the meat separately and no longer required to bring all slaughtered animals to the altar.
In despair again, she declares the meat "cherem" or "hekdesh" so that no one can get any use out of it. Aharon appears again, claims the meat for the sanctuary and she is left with nothing.
Again she cannot bear to touch something that any one else has gotten benefit from. Instead of eating the meat, and getting a full meal (or meals) out of it, she attempts to make it totally unusable by anyone. Again, Korach attempts to make the law appear to be harsh and destructive. Just because she appears to have forgotten that the Priests eat from that which has been sanctified (because they have no other source of income), he pretends that she is being harmed in some way.

Note that he again changes the rules so that instead of eating the meat of the Shelamim sacrifice as required, she treats it as non sacred meat that can be made sacred. Also note that the ox and the donkey and the ram that appeared when they were needed to be part of the story have disappeared.

This is the way modern politicians attempt to bring up a story in order to convince people that their pet projects need to be passed. Similarly, when the politicians were trying to pass Obamacare, they claimed that children would be unable to get the drugs that they need even though the examples that they used actually were fully covered by current health insurance or were given the drugs free by the pharmaceutical manufacturers. In fact, it is only because of the laws that have been passed as a result of these stories that people find themselves in trouble.

Korach is an example of the modern day politician and used his false story to try to put himself in a position of power. He acted in the same way that Al Gore has acted with respect to "global warming" and his story is just as true.

Another interesting point about this is that it shows that Korach was like Bilam. He was greedy, and arrogant. This "widow" shows the characteristics of Bilam in refusing to allow any one else to benefit from something that is "hers".

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Why use the meraglim to determine a minyon

The talmud says that we learn that a nbhi is ten men because the תורה uses the term עדה (community) to refer to the 10 meraglim. One the other hand, סדום was not saved because there were not ten righteous people in the town. Similarly, Noach had to be saved as an individual because (with מתושלת who died just before the flood) there were only 9 people who could be counted. However, the question is raised, why was the halacha derived from the bad circumstance and not the good circumstance.

It appears that the point the Torah is making is that we do not notice the circumstances of things appearing to continue as "normal" but only when there is a major change in the world. Had the meraglim failed to discourage the בני ישראל, they would have entered the land and the entire incident might have been ignored or merely glossed over. Similarly, only when the count for good failed and the punishment brought down do we notice what happened. Thus, we can only see the use of ten as a "community" when the bad community actually causes something to occur or the lack of the ten causes the punishment not to be delayed.

Another point that we see is that while Hashem told Noach to start building the Ark while there were nine people (Noach, his wife, three sons, their wives, and מתושלת), the flood itself only came about after מתושלת died and there were only 8 left. Similarly, Lot only had a theoretical 8 people as well. That is, Lot, his wife, his two unmarried daughters, two son-in-law (from the plural used) and those daughters.. It appears that when it comes to saving people and judging righteousness, Hashem will count himself as part of the עדה, but when it comes the wickedness, the evil people are on their own. This is like the description of free will. If someone insists on "going bad", Hashem will allow him to go on the path that he has chosen. If someone tries to do good, Hashem will help him.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Blessings and Curses

An interesting contrast occurs between the blessings and the curses of Parshas Bechukosai. It starts out
אם בחקתי תלכו ואת מצותי תשמרו ועשיתם אותם
26:3 If you follow My decrees observe (or guard) my commandments and do them
On the other hand, the curses start ou
ואם לא תשמעו לי ולא תעשו את כל המצות האלה
ואם בחקתי תמאסו ואם את משפטי תנעל נפשכם לבלתי עשות את כל מצותי להפרכם את בריתי
26:14 If you will not listen (refuse to listen is the implication) to Me, and you will not do all these commandments
 26:15 If you will despise My decrees and your souls reject (lock out) My laws, in order to (deliberately) not do all My commandments, so that you annul My covenant.

As we see, the blessings and the cursesw come about because of a set of deliberate actions. It is not that a person is "happening" to act in a certain way or is negligent or "forgettiing", but that a person must explicitly decide what path to go on. The original people who rejected Hashem explicitly decided that they would go against the commandments of the Torah and would refuse to listen to Hashem. People would not eat nonkosher food because it happened to be cheaper or was available, but would deliberately buy nonKosher food  even when Kosher food was available. The Socialist Workers would deliberately schedule their dinner/dance for Yom Kippur. THis is what causes the curses to start.

Later on, once they have brought the curses on themselves, we see that continuing to act with "indifference" (בקרי) will cause the curses to continue. Once someone has started down the wrong path, it takes a positive action to break away and return to the right path. This is the tragedy of the descendants of those who started the breakaway cults. They are raised in the mistakes of their anscestors and no longer know what they must do to stop the curses that their forebears have left them and return to the blessings that are their heritage.

Their is a statement attributed to a soldier in the Yom Kippur War

"My father knew how to pray and refused to do so. I want to pray but do not know how to"
This is what we need to learn how to do in order to regain the blessings that are our heritage.


The blessing of נחקתי seems to have a contradiction in it. The pasuk says (26:6)
ונתתי שלום בארץ ושכבתם ואין מחריד והשכתי חיה רעה מן הארץ וחרב לא תעבר בארצכם
ורדפתם את אויביכם ונפלו לפניכם לחרב
And I will give peace in the land, and lie down with nooned to make you afraid, and I will cause wild animals to be banished from the land and a sword will not cross your land.
You will pursue your enemies and they will fall before you by the sword.
This seems to say that peace will first be the blessing of peace, then the wild animals will be chased away, and then the sword will not "cross over" the land. Rashi says that this means that this means that even a "friendly" nation will not cross over Israel to attack an enemy on the other side. This is what happened with Pharoah Necho and King Yoshiah. The king thought that Israel was worthy of this blessing and tried to stop Pharoah from crossing to fight Babylonia. He was wrong and got killed for his trouble.

Only then does the bracha say that Israel will fight and defeat its enemies. How can this be? Wouldn't peace come about in the reverse order? First destroy the enemies, then have even "friendly" armies no longer use the land as a base, then not have to worry about wild animals, and only then full "peace"?

The meforshim say that the peace that occurs is actually an internal peace. A peace that is between the various groups of Jews and within each individual Jew. Only when this occurs, will criminals not longer be around to cause people to worry about being burglarized or mugged. Only thewill the wild animals withdraw from the land to no longer menace the nation and allow the Jews to live in safety. Once this happens, then armies will no longer fell free to march through the land even if their original intent is to just pass beyond to destroy their own enemies.

This is similar to the blessing of peace that Hashem gave Pinchas after he killed Zimri ben Salu and Kozbi bas Tzur. The medrash says that he was the kohen that went out witht the army to fight Midyan after the plague of Ba'al Pe'or. The medrash says that he was the one who killed Bil'am.

In actuality, we see that only when a person finds peace within himself and שלימות (wholeness) can the effect of this peace spread out into the world around him. A person who is at peace is then capable of making piece with its neighboring  communities. Only then will the blessing of the time of Adam be reinstated so that the wild animals will stay away.

Friendly nations will be affected so that they will not attempt to use Israel as a military base to attack others.

However, we see that the enemies of the Jews will still not learn the lesson that they should have and will still continue to attack us. This is like Amalek after the Exodus. In spite of all the miracles and the plagues, they still insisted on attacking. Later on, the only thing that they learned was to disguise themselves so that Bnei Yisrael could not pray by name to defeat them. They thought that if they disguised themselves so that Bnei Yisrael prayed using the wrong name, they could fool Hashem. They found out that they were wrong. This is why the bracha of chasing the enemies is the end of that sequence.

Monday, May 16, 2011

And you shall proclaim "Liberty"

The word "dror" (דרור) is a unique word in the Torah and appears only in Parsha Behar (25:10) at the declaration of the Yovel.While it is translated as "liberty", we should consider what meaning it might have.In the gemarah in maseches Beitzah or in Meseches osh Hashanah, we see the term applied to a "tzipor dror" as a bird that cannot normally be "captured" by being closed in a house or the bird that is freed as part of the purification rites of the metzora ("leper"). The commentaries discuss what kind of bird this is. Rashi actually gives two answers. On answer is that it will continue flying and keep itself from getting caught. Another explanation that he gives is that it will find any opening that might occur and fly out. There are those that say that it is unable to survive in captivity. Others that it is capable of living anywhere that it finds itself and will "break free" whenever it can. That is, it will not be like the canary that will not leave the cage even if the cage door is left open, but will always work to make itself free.

The gemara in Rosh Hashana 9b says that the word is related to דיירא (dwelling place) and means someone who is subject to noone's will but his own. He chooses his own place of residence and will make his living wherever he finds himself. He will refuse to subjugate himself to anyone.

The פני יהושוע points out that the pasuk say לכל ישביה (all its inhabitants). This means that even if a person is a slave owner, he is not considered "free" unless the entire society is free. As long as there are those who are slaves, he himself cannot be considered free. That is why we have the saying
כל הקונה עבד כקונה אדון לעצמו
Whoever purchases a slave, it is as if he  has obtained a master  for himself
Therefore, it is only when the slaves are set free that we can say that the inhabitants of the land are free.

Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch shows the usage of the bird as one that does not allow itself to be tamed but makes its nest in a human house just as if it was an open field or wild forest. It uses the term מרור דרור, pure myrrh. It uses the word as a legal term, דררא דממונה which is explained as a situation that requires a decision of the court even thought he parties involved have not brought the question to the court. He then declares that the basic meaning is "to follow a natural trend". That is, the "dror" is something that follows its intrinsic nature and does not allow itself to be coerced into being "adulterated" in any way.

We see therefore, that the declaration of freedom is not only a responsibility of sending out the slaves into "freedom", but the responsibility of a person to make himself free to follow the nature that Hashem gave him. This is why we regard it as a requirement to serve Hashem. During the Yovel year one cannot continue to be a "slave" to the land but must follow the laws of shmita.

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Can a Kohen marry the widow of a nonKohen?

In the haftorah of Parshas Emor, the navi Yechezkel speaks about the Bais Hamikdash after the coming of the mashiach. The gemarah states that the book of Yechezkel was almost rejected as part of the canon because a number of points in this section appeared to contradict the Torah. One of the points that appears to contradict the law of the Torah is pasuk 44:22 which ends:
כי אם בתולות מזרע בית ישראל והאלמנה אשר תהיה אלמנה מכהן יקחו
This is translated by many commentators (such as the Art Scroll Chumash) as
only virgins of the seed of Israel; but a widow who is only a widow, some Kohanim may take.
This  means that a regular Kohen may marry a widow even though the Kohen Gadol (high priest) may not.

However, when looking at the Hebrew, it appears as if the translation should read:
Only a virgin from the seed of Israel and a widow of a Kohen may they take.
This changes the meaning of the sentence completely and appears to  contradict the Torah law that a regular Kohen may marry a widow. However, I have found a possibility that allows this statement to stand as translated in the second way. A widow can either have children or not have children. If she has not had children, then she is subject to yibum (marrying her brother-in-law) or Chalitza (equivalent to divorce). For a Kohen to marry the widow of a nonKohen, she must have undergone Chalitza. By rabbinic law a woman who has gone through Chalitza is treated as if she were a divorcee and is forbidden to marry a Kohen. Thus the widow of a nonKohen must have children if she is to be allowed to marry a Kohen. However, these children are not Kohanim and are forbidden to eat terumah even though their mother (who is now the wife of a Kohen) would be allowed to eat terumah. Similarly, any children the mother would have are now Kohanim and could eat terumah.

Is this a problem? Perhaps it can be considered like a child who has an allergy and cannot eat the same food as the other children in the family. However, this really is not the same as a child can understand the necessity to stay away from some food in order to not get sick. Terumah on the other hand is a spirituel matter and the child could wind up eating it, even accidentally. The mother could wind up putting it in front of all the children who would then eat it.

We actually see this situation in parshas Emor (Vayikra 22:13)
ובת כהן כי תהיה אלמנה וגרושה וזרע אין לה ושבה אל בית אביה נכנעוריה מלחם אביה תאכל וכל זר לא יאכל בו
And a Kohen's daughter who is widowed or divorced and has no children may return to her father's house as in her youth, she may eat from her father's food, but no "stranger" (nonKohen) may eat from it.
 The commentaries point out that one of the reasons for this is that she could wind up feeding her children terumah. This is forbidden since they are not Kohanim. Rashi also points out, that as long as she has children who are not Kohanim, she is considered part of a family of nonKohanim. This would be the source of the rabbinic enactment describe by Yechezkel forbidding the widow of a nonKohem who has children from marrying a Kohen. This is like the enactment forbidding a Kohen from marrying a woman who has undergone Chalitzah just like he is forbidden to marry a divorcee.

This allows the sentence in Yechezkel to be read in a straight forward manner and to mean that a Kohen may only marry the widow of another Kohen.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Calf vs. Spies

Rav Yair Kahn at Yesiva Har Etzion discusses the difference between the Cheit Ha'aigel and Chet Hameraglim. In both cases Hashem was going to destroy the Bnai Yisrael until Moshe Rabbeinu begged him to forgive them. However, in the case of the aigel, he was able to continue until Hashem agreed to continue with the people and take them into Eretz Yisroel. Even though every punishment that we would undergo in the future would include part of the punishment for that chet, we were still forgiven and Hashem explicitly says, וסלחתי כדבריך.  On the other hand, after the Chet Hameraglim, Moshe Rabbeinu is unable to continue and the entire generation is condemned to death. The only "leniency" is that Hashem allows them to die naturally over the course of the next 38 years rather than killing them all at once.

One would think that the idol worship of the calf would be more serious than being panicking and attempting to run away when being faced by war. Rav Kahn points out that the Chet Ha'aigel was not really a rebellion against Hashem, but was an attempt to replace the missing Moshe Rabbeinu (whom they thought was dead after 40 days on the mountain) with another representative. On the other hand, the Chet Hameraglim was a complete rebellion against Hashem and an attempt to totally reject Hashem's purpose for Bnei Yisroel.

Another aspect actually ties into the reason that Avraham Avinu sent Eliezer to his family to get Rivkah as a wife for Yitzchak rather than take a woman from the Canaanim. Both groups were idol worshipers. However, the family of Bethuel were idol worshipers because of an error in analysis. The Canaanim were idol worshipers because of a basic flaw in their makeup.

Similarly, the Chet Ha'aigel was an error in analysis. Only 3,000 out of 600,000 actually worshiped the aigel and were punished by death. The rest fell prey to the mistake that caused them to believe that they were just setting up a representation of Hashem to help them. Their bsic desire was to be closer to Hashem and follow what they thought was His will. The meraglim on the other hand fell prey to a basic flaw in character. They insisted on putting their own wishes, desires, and fears ahead of the explicitly stated commands of Hashem. We see this in a number of places in the story. From the very beginning when they said that "we appeared to them as grasshoppers and so we were in our own eyes", to the end when the "acknowledged" their mistake by attempting to go up an conquer Eretz Canaan even though Hashem told them not to. Even their "atonement" was actually a rebellion against Hashem.

Rabbi Kahn points out that the difference between the two sins is also shown in the tragedies of the fast days that were instituted on those days. The Chet Ha'aigel occurred on Shiv'a Asar B'Tamuz, while the Chet Hameraglim was on Tish'a B'Av. It was the Chet Hameraglim that triggered the final destruction and the full mourning. The tragedies that occurred on Shiv'a Asar B'Tamuz were things that could be forgiven and recovered from. The destruction of Tish'a B'Av was final and could only be endured. As Rabbi Kahn says
The reason that the fast of Tisha Be-Av is observed in such a unique way is because it does not commemorate a calamity that can be removed through prayer and repentance; it is rooted in historical events that led to a gezeira (decree) that could not be changed. The meraglim episode led to the decree that the generation would perish in the wilderness. Later in history, the Temples were destroyed on Tisha Be-Av. Prayer and repentance could no longer prevent the destruction. It already was too late.   

As opposed to calamity, a gezera cannot be removed. It expresses not Divine Providence, but rather the distancing of the Divine Presence and God "hiding His face," as it were. "R. Elazar said: Since the day on which the Temple was destroyed, there is a wall of iron that stands between Yisrael and their Father in Heaven" (Berakhot 32b). The reaction to a gezera is not prayer, but rather mourning and surrender to God's inscrutable will:  "And R. Elazar said: Since the day on which the Temple was destroyed, the gates of prayer are locked" (ibid.).

The seventeenth of Tammuz, despite the five tragic events which took place on that day, is defined as a day of calamity. It is true that on this date the first set of tablets were shattered, but following prayer on the part of Moshe Rabbeinu and teshuva on the part of the nation, we merited to receive the second luchot. On this date, the walls of Jerusalem were indeed breached, and the enemies stood ready to enter, and it was therefore a time of calamity for the Jewish nation, since the destruction had not yet occurred. But on Tisha Be-Av, a tragic decree had already been issued. Despite Moshe's entreaties, the attempts to mitigate the sharpness of the decree, the attempt to repent and continue on to Eretz Yisrael was futile and reached its tragic conclusion at Chorma (Bamidbar 14:45). 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Why Moshe Rabbeinu is not in Parshas Tetzaveh

Many meforshim discuss the reason why Parshas Tetzaveh is the "only" parsha (since his birth) that Moshe's name is not mentioned. Technically, his name is also not mentioned in eikev, r'ei, and shoftim. However, those three parshios are quotes of Moshe Rabbeinu's final speech. As a result, they would not be able to have his name in them, as a person does not normally speak of himself, by name, in the third person (Bob Dole notwithstanding). The meforshim connect this with Moshe's request to be "erased from the Torah" if Hashem would not forgive the Jewish people for the sin of the aigel hazahav (golden calf). However, the question still remains, why was this parsha chosen.

Since the request was given in Parshas Ki Sisa, next week, this parsha is the last occasion prior to the next reading of the request for it to be honored. This shows Hashem's reluctance to actually remove Moshe from the narrative.However, there are other reasons for doing so. Rabbi Sorotzkin points out that this parsha is the one that is always read during the week of Moshe's birthday and yahrtzeit (death anniversary) and as such contrasts with the situation in "other religions" which connect all their observances and holidays to the founder's life and death. Instead, the very lack of a celebration or mention of Moshe's name at this time shows that the important events are those of the Torah and the establishment of service of Hashem.

Another point is that it shows the humility of Moshe Rabbeinu in that he joyfully withdrew to allow his brother, Aharon, to be fully recognized as the Kohen Gadol and acknowledge his full authority over the spiritual realm. Indeed, Rabbi Sacks points out that this is a necessary occurrence for there to be a valid and lasting society. As he says in this week's Covenant and Conversation
There is though a deeper message, the principle of the separation of powers, which opposes the concentration of leadership into one person or institution. All human authority needs checks and balances if it is not to become corrupt. In particular, political and religious leadership, keter malkhut and keter kehunah, should never be combined. Moses wore the crowns of political and prophetic leadership, Aaron that of priesthood. The division allowed each to be a check on the other.
 Thus, it is a necessary factor for the existence of the nation of Israel.

Moses must show the people – and Aaron himself – that he has the humility, the tzimtzum, the power of self-effacement, needed to make space for someone else to share in the leadership of the people, someone whose strengths are not yours, whose role is different from yours, someone who may be more popular, closer to the people, than you are – as in fact Aaron turned out to be.

Lehavdil: in 2005 the historian Doris Kearns Goodwin published an influential book about Abraham Lincoln entitled Team of Rivals. In it she tells the story of how Lincoln appointed to his cabinet the three men who had opposed him as candidate for the Republican party leadership. William Henry Seward, who had been expected to win, eventually said of him that “his magnanimity is almost superhuman . . . the President is the best of us.” It takes a special kind of character to make space for those whom one is entitled to see as rivals. Early on, Aaron showed that character in relation to Moses, and now Moses is called on to show it to Aaron.

True leadership involves humility and magnanimity. The smaller the ego, the greater the leader. That’s what Moses showed in the parsha that does not mention his name.
I could bring up the modern politicians who have shown the reverse trait so that we know what problems that they have caused. This is true not only in the United States, but also in the State of Israel. I will not mention specific names but we all know who they are and what they have done.

Another point can connect this parsha with Parshas Zachor. Just as we must erase the memory of Amalek, we also "erase" the memory of Moshe Rabbeinu who fought Amalek. Just as the Mishkan was created as a communal effort, so too is the fight against Amalek a communal effort. Thus, we do not "remember" the individual who gave us the basis for the mishkan but we show it as a full communal effort. with the Kohanim becoming the representatives of the people. The bigdei kehunah show this status. The Kohen Gadol is not specifically Aharon but whoever is in that office will show the greatness that Hashem has assigned to the office. Just as Aharon took over the office from Moshe, so too will each of his successors take over the office and be responsible for the generation in which he serves.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

How is Tetzaveh connected with Korach

Rabbi Sorotzkin's Insights in Torah writes about the meil (coat or jacket) that the Kohen Gadol (High Priest) wore. This garment is made completely of tcheiles.  When Korach rebelled, one of the two questions that he asked was whether a four cornered garment made all of tcheiles requires tztzis. In fact, the Minchas Chinuch states that the meil was just such a four cornered garment. The Kohen Gadol was not required to put tzitzis on the meil even though it was required under normal circumstances. This is similar to the avnet (belt) which was made of sha'atnez and would be forbidden in any garment other than the uniform of the Kohen. We see from this that the answer is that any other garment made all of tcheiles would require tzitzis.

It is Interesting to consider the reason that things that are forbidden in "normal life" are required as part of the avodah in the Beis Hamikdash.Other examples are the karbanos (sacrifices) which involve a number of forbidden melachos normally forbidden on Shabbos (such as slaughtering animals).

Saturday, February 05, 2011

How to ask for Tzedaka - Parshas Terumah

Rabbi Horowitz raised an interesting point at Shalosh Seudos for Parsha Terumah (which included the Shevah Brochos for the daughter of a member of our shul). The pasuk that starts Parshas Terumah is

ויקחו לי תרומה
מאת כל איש אשר ידבנו לבו
תקחו את תרומתי
וזאת התרומה ...
ועשו לי מקדש
ושכנתי בתוכם
  1. Take for me Terumah
  2. From every man whose heart motivates him
  3. Take My Termah
  4. This is the Terumah that you should take (followed by details of the 13 types of items) ...
  5. And make for Me a Mishkan
  6. So that I might dwell among them.  
Rabbi Horowitz pointed out that when requesting money for a particular purpose, the normal course of events is to explain the purpose of the request first. Then we get the entire justification showing what is needed and how it will be expended. Only then do we get the plea for the money. The question is, why do we first get the request (in three different forms), followed by the exact details, and only at the end do we have the purpose of the expense, followed by the justification for that expense.

Rabbi Horowitz compared this to the question as to why the Chashmonaim needed to search for pure uncontaminated olive oil when they rededicated the Bais HaMikdash. Halachically, they could have used the tamei oil since there was no other oil available. The Avnei Nezer points out that when starting a new endeavor, one does so in the best way possible. This sets the foundation for the entire enterprise and enables it to be built up properly. This is like the education of a child. It ensures that the child will grow properly and continue to develop in the right path. The rabbi then spoke about the Choson and Kala and how the foundations that have been set by their families will affect the "bayis neeman beYisrael" that they are now in the process of building.

The Aish HaTorah printout speaks about the three languages of giving that are shown here. The first is for those who give lishmah, for the purest of motives. The reason that they give tzedakah is for love of Hashm. The second motive speaks about those people who feel sorry  for the poor person that they are supporting or who are enthusiastic about the particular cause that the money will go to. THe third category is those who are embarassed to be seen not giving or who regard the money as a "tax" that they are required to give. In any case, the money is to be accepted without inquiring into the motives of the giver. The giver is appreciated for his actions and the project will end up causing the final benefit to the community as a whole.

I have seem commentaries pointing out that the most miniscule misstep at the beginning of a project can lead to major catastrophe down the road. A fraction of a degree of the proper course can result in missing the target by a massive amount after having traled a great distance. Imagine two radii of a circle. One can step from one to another easily at the beginning. However, they can end up millions of miles apart.

Update: Rabbi Sorotzkin made an interesting point. Why was the building of the mikdash accomplished through donations, while the upkeep required the tax of the Chatzi Shekel? This shows that human nature has not changed. People are willing to donate lavishly for many causes as long as the result is something visible. However, the necessary upkeep and maintenance cannot be left to donations. Rabbi Sorotzkin mentioned a major meeting of the great rabbis of Europe to get funds for the Lithuanian Yeshivos. Someone asked how com Rabbi Meir Shapiro of Lublin was able to raise so much money for his yeshiva? Rabbi Sorotzkin pointed at that once the yeshivah was built, Rabbi Shapiro would have just as much trouble raising the money for the needed food and upkeep as all the others (and that is what happened). Even Hashem could not rely on voluntary donations for the upkeep.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Justice and Judgement

While going over some of the internet writeups on Parshas Yisro, I came across the question of why the Torah says that Moshe Rabbeinu listened to Yisro's advice, but does not explicitly say that he first asked Hashem about what to do. A number of meforshim say that of course he asked Hashem first, but the pshat seems to imply that he took Yisro's advice - with a significant modification - immediately. The internet comment that I saw brought up an interesting point regarding the actual performance of justice in a society. Up until that point, Moshe Rabbeinu judged like a king in his court. The Bnei Yisrael would come to him for judgment and he would give his opinion. Any difficulties would be settled by his asking Hashem. If any subordinate judges existed, they would guess "what would Moshe say?". If they the parties did not accept that, they would take it up the line to Moshe. This is the way things were done in the days of absolute monarchs. The law was whatever the king decreed. Indeed, that is the origin of the word "court" as the location of judgement and the seat of justice.

Yisro's insight was that this was not the proper way to handle the cause of justice in a society. It is true that Moshe Rabbeinu was the quintessential navi and was able to judge using the divine revelation. Of course he knew exactly what Hashem wanted him to say and would therefore judge correctly. However, he was only one person. He could not rely on others to read his mind and "know" what he would have said. When the next leader took (Joshua) over, or the judges who would lead after that, how could he be sure that the would continue properly in the way that he had mapped out?  Yisro knew that this was not what Hashem wanted. In order to ensure that the torah was kept, a uniform system of justice had to be established. That is why he suggested setting up a hierarchy of judges at all levels of society to teach, and enforce the laws of the torah. This would ensure that the laws of society would be uniform and not subject to the whim of any individual, no matter how pious, not even Moshe Rabbeinu.

This is why Moshe Rabbeinu was able to enthusiastically and immediately endorse his father-in-law's suggestion. The laws of the society were indeed based on an objective and lasting source, the torah. No matter who was sitting in the judges seat, the law was uniform and enforced uniformly. It did not matter who was the plaintiff or the defendant or even the judge. The law was as Hashem had given it. Indeed, the principle from then on was "lo bashamayim hi" (it is not in heaven), so that when laws were forgotten after the death of Moshe, Hashem could not give them again by divine revelation. When Rabbi Eliezer disputed with the rabbis, he could not succeed in his arguments even when a bas kol (divine voice) declared that he was correct. Anyone who claimed to have received a revelation that any part of the the torah had been changed was subject to the death penalty as a "false prophet" by definition.

The significant difference between the original suggestion and the way Moshe implemented it is also explained by this. Yisro originally said, leave the "little" cases to the judges and have them bring you the "big" cases. Moshe Rabbeinu said, bring the "difficult" (or complicated) cases to me no matter how "small" they might appear (with the implication that he could ask Hashem to explain them). This indeed sets up the ability for future courts to analyze and make a "good" determination in the future.

Of course, Moshe Rabbeinu probably intended this from the beginning. However, as long as he was the only source, it appeared that he was judging each case individually (like a king) and not from the general principles set down in the Torah. The methodology showed that judgement comes from the Torah and is based on principle.

This also explains a similar development of another point regarding the reaction of Bnei Yisrael to the giving of the torah as explained by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, the Chief Rabbi of England. Next week (in Mishpatim) we have the famous statement "na'aseh venishmah" (we will do and we will listen). However there are two other places where a similar statement is made. In Yisro (Shmos 19:8) we see the statement
 ויענו כל העם יחדו ויאמרו כל אשר דבר ה' נעשה
The entire people responded together and said, "Everything that Hashem has spoken we shall do".
 The difference is that here, the sentence shows everyone responding as a single unit. In Mishpatim (Shmos 24:3), the actual sentence is
 ויאמרו כל הדברים אשר דבר ה' נעשה
... they said, "Everything that Hashem has said, we will do and we will obey"
 We see that the unity of the first sentence is missing. This is deliberate. In action, the nation is one and the judges would all be working from the same set of laws. However,  as far as studying and understanding, everyone will reach his own level and follow his individual tendencies in understanding the meanings of the laws. "There are seventy facets to the torah". Some people can appreciate the torah through logic and develop his connection to Hashem like Yisro, who studied "all the world's religions" in order to appreciate the truth that Hashem has given us. Others learn by hearing the stories of the mystics and miracle workers of teh past in order learn of the path that they must follow. Some people will be drawn in by the "Torah Codes" while others would find that there is no meaning for them in that area. However, in the end, we will all be one people, following one Torah, and growing in our knowledge and appreciation of the path that Hashem has set for us to reach the goal that Hashem has placed before us.

The medrash speaks of everyone in a circle around Hashem pointing to the center and saying "This is Hashem" This is the legacy of Yisro and the result of the advice that he gave to Moshe Rabbeinu.

Rabbi Shlomo Porter of Etz Chaim in Baltimore points out the necessity of this type of justice. Rather than summarize and give my own explanation, I will quote his email.

Torah Portion: Mishpatim - The Parsha begins with a short introduction, “And these are the ordinances that you shall place before them.”  The Parsha continues on with a comprehensive system of laws governing human rights and responsibilities from the ethical treatment of slaves to not cursing a leader.  These laws were all given at Mt. Sinai and are considered Mitzvos-Divine Commandments that not only govern Jewish society but, in truth, shape us into a holy nation with a unique relationship to The Creator and the rest of the nations of the world.
Rashi, the preeminent Torah commentator, quotes a Talmudic insight about the phrase, “place before them”.  Why doesn’t it say “teach the” or “inform them” instead of “place before them.”
The Talmud answers that G-d wanted to teach Moshe that he should not teach the Jewish people just to parrot back the laws.  He had to place the laws before them like a set table; a Shulchan Aruch, in order that they could sit down and eat right away.  How so?  He needed to tell them the reasons and principles that could help them apply the laws to other cases.  This is called the Taamim.
Taamim has two meanings: reason and tasty.  Reason to the mind is like taste to the palate.  Both give us pleasure and make the object enjoyable.  The pleasure of knowing why is more enjoyable than a good tasty steak.  There are teachers who can give us the facts of Torah, but the ones we gain the most from are the teachers that give us a “Geshmack,” the pleasure, in learning Torah, who make it a truly enjoyable experience.
Moshe had to teach the Jews to enjoy the Torah.  Part and parcel of the mitzva of learning Torah is to enjoy the wisdom of The Creator.   Just as one gets attached to those whose company we enjoy, so we get closer to The Creator and his Torah by really enjoying and having pleasure out of Jewish living and learning.
In the Morning Service we say a special blessing on learning Torah.  “Please G-d make the words of Torah sweet in our mouths and the mouths of our children and all the children of the Jewish people.”
When Torah is a pleasure to us then our children will continue to seek out this same “candy.”  They will pass on this unique “candy” to their children and all future generations.
Good Shabbos,
Rabbi Shlomo Porter