Mishpatim 5777


Parshas Mishpatim deals primarily with the subject of Torah monetary laws. Interestingly, the Parsha begins with the Halachos of the Eved Ivri – a Jewish thief who stole more than he can afford to pay back and is sold by Beis Din into bondage to a fellow Jew to repay his victim. While there is certainly much to learn from these Halachos, one may wonder what is so fundamental about this as to warrant its place as the introductory topic to Choshen Mishpat.
The culmination of this segment is the Halacha of “Nirtzah.” This refers to the Jewish slave who has ended his prescribed six years of bondage but, instead of returning home, opts to continue in servitude of his master. The Torah allows him to do this. However, he must first check in with Beis Din and have his ear pierced against the doorpost. Rashi (Shemos 21:6) explains the ear piercing as symbolic of his not “listening” to the Mitzvah of לא תגנוב (שמות כ:יג), “Do not steal” (Shemos 20:13). He explains further that even one who sold himself to pay off personal debts would be subject to this piercing in the event that he opts to remain after six years, in recognition of his not listening to the dictum of כי לי בני ישראל עבדים (ויקרא כה:נה) , “They are My slaves” (Vayikra 25:55), as opposed to slaves of my slaves. The use of the doorpost is also an allusion to this concept, as it was the doorpost on which the blood of the Korban Pesach was placed to show Hashem to skip over the Jewish homes at the time of their redemption, which in turn rendered the Jews servants of Hashem.
Now, this slave is certainly not the only case of disobedience to the Torah. We certainly don’t go around piercing the ears of people who eat Treif. What is it about this deviation from Torah guidelines that calls for this specific penalty?
The Sfas Emes writes that we can inversely deduce from the Nirtzah that one who says every day ואהבת את ה’ אלקיך (דברים ו:ה), “and you shall love Hashem” (Devarim 6:5), which is the opposite of the Nirtzah’s declaration of “I love my master,” merits to have his ears “opened.” Chazal explain that the Pasuk, אשר אנכי מצוך היום (דברים ו:ו), “which I am commanding you today” (Devarim 6:6), is telling us that the Mitzvos of Hashem are not some antiquated doctrine that we hold onto from the past. Rather, Hashem renews his commands every day. It takes properly attuned ears to hear these daily Divine commands.
With this principle in mind, we can approach this Parsha anew. To assume that we are Hashem’s servants, we must also assume that we are receiving commands from Him. This is a Jew’s daily directive in his life. All his interactions with people are governed by the will of their common Master. Stealing someone else’s allotted property, for example, is a primary infraction of this principle.
The Parsha begins by discussing an individual who has fouled things up so badly that he has stolen more than he can afford to pay back. This can only be remedied by temporarily removing this servant from his post and apprenticing him to another, functional servant. The Eved no longer functions as an independent person in his interpersonal interactions but as a subsidiary to his new master – a functional, “Ehrliche Yid.” This is by no means where we would want him to remain. He has his own job to attend to and his own orders are awaiting his return to the service. It is his chance to relearn how to “hear” the directives that define every Jew’s daily life. As any functional Jew can attest, nowhere are these messages clearer and more applicable than in our daily interpersonal interactions.
So now the training period is up and what does this fellow have to say? “I kinda like things like this, getting my orders from my earthly master.” To this person, the Torah prescribes having his ears compromised, as a display of his unwillingness to “listen” to Hashem.
It is this message of working for Hashem and tuning in to His directives that is the fitting introduction to Parshas Mishpatim.


It’s Motzei Shabbos, you are sitting down to drink your coffee (before or after cleaning the kitchen, based upon your minhag), and you realize that in your haste you stirred your milchig coffee with a fleishig spoon. Now what?
The scenario brings into question three separate items: the spoon, the coffee, and the mug. Not all situations will necessarily result in the same answer for all three.
Case One: If the spoon in use is not known to have been used with a meaty item in the last twenty four hours, then we apply the Halachic principle סתם כלים אינם בני יומם, vessels of unknown use are assumed to have been last used more than twenty four hours ago. Consequently, we maintain that the vessel’s absorptions become פגום, tainted, after twenty four hours and are unable to affect what they enter into; therefore, the meaty absorptions cannot affect your coffee. As such, the coffee and the mug are permissible but the spoon should require Kashering, because it now has absorptions of milk and meat and may not be used.
Case Two: If the spoon is known to have been used with a bona fide fleishig item (potato kugel doesn’t count) within the past twenty four hours, then different Halachic considerations will determine the answer.
• If there is sixty times more liquid than the volume of the spoon immersed into the coffee, the principle of Batul B’shishim, nullification in sixty, applies. This means that an item cannot give taste into something greater than sixty times itself. Therefore, the spoon cannot affect the coffee, as the absorptions are less than sixty times the coffee. The coffee is permitted, but again, the spoon should require Kashering.
• If there is not sixty times more coffee than the volume of the spoon, there might still be grounds to permit the coffee. This is based upon a Halachic dispute regarding a Kli Sheni.
There is a familiar principle in Hilchos Shabbos of Kli Rishon and Kli Sheni. A Kli Rishon refers to the pot that the food was cooked in. Such a vessel has the ability to cook. Food transferred into another vessel is labeled a Kli Sheni, a secondary vessel, and loses the ability to cook, despite being hot.
The questions arise in the area of Halacha where the criteria is not cooking but the transferring of absorptions. Do the same limitations placed upon a Kli Sheni in Hilchos Shabbos pertain to Hilchos Issur v’Heter? Will the coffee, which is presumably in a Kli Sheni stirred by a meaty spoon, be able to draw out absorptions, despite the fact that it cannot “cook?”
The Shulchan Aruch (Taaruvos 105.2) rules that a Kli Sheni is unable to extract absorptions, Hilchos Shabbos and Hilchos Issur v’Heter being one and the same. Nonetheless, since there are some opinions that rule that a Kli Sheni can extract absorptions, he advises one to “Lechatchila” be stringent and not to intentionally create such situations. (Don’t knowingly stick the meaty spoon into the coffee.) It is only if the situation happened to develop “B’dievad” that one may be lenient, relying upon the majority of opinions.
The Rema agrees with this opinion, and the Shach goes along for the most part as well. (He is stringent in certain situations not relevant to the present discussion.) The Taz, citing a Maharshal, is stringent, rendering a Kli Sheni for the most part potent and able to extract absorptions.
The Halacha generally follows the ruling of the Shulchan Aruch. Therefore, it would seem that everything, including the spoon, should be permitted, since this is an ex post facto Kli Sheni situation.
Standing against this is the Hagaos (glosses) of Rabbi Akiva Eiger. He cites a Minchas Yaakov, who maintains that since a vessel is able to be Kashered, it is to be regarded as “Lechatchila.” Since the vessel can be rectified, this is not an ex post facto situation. If so, the spoon in question should require Kashering for further use, even according to the Shulchan Aruch!
Is Rabbi Akiva Eiger’s opinion generally agreed upon? Are there other factors which will permit the spoon? Ask your Rav. But hurry up! Your coffee is getting cold!