Thursday, February 23, 2006

Parshas Mishpatim

In this week’s parsha, parshas Mishpatim, we learn an interesting fact about avdus, slavery. After 6 years of servitude to one’s master, a Hebrew slave is free to go on his way. However, if for whatever reason the slave does not want to be freed and wants to sign on for more time, he goes through an interesting ritual where he has a hole bore into his ear, upon a doorpost. The obvious question, besides for “why the heck are we doing this at all?”, is, why specifically the ear? Why not his arm, leg, or any other limb for that matter?

The answer given by the gemara (Kiddushin, I believe) is that because this person heard at Har Sinai that we were to be slaves to Hashem, and now, this person is choosing to serve someone else in addition to Hashem. Therefore, because he is, in a way, going against what Am Yisrael heard at Mt. Sinai, we bore a hole in the ear, specifically. However, a question arises from this. Why do we not bore a hole in a thief’s ear? After all, we heard at Har Sinai, “Lo Tignov”. Why do we not bore a hole in the ear of someone that does not honor their mother and father? After all, heard at Har Sinai “Kaved es Avicha v’es Imecha?” Why it is specifically in this case of avdus, of slavery, where this is the only time we put a hole in someone’s ear?

As an aside, it is interesting to point out the chashivus of the ear over all other limbs. The gemara (again, in Kiddushin, I believe) discusses damages one must pay for injuring another. The gemara states that if you chop off a person’s hand, you have to pay the value of that hand (not the place to discuss exactly what the value of a hand is). Similarly by a foot; if one chops off someone else’s foot, he is obligated to pay the value of that foot. What is interesting is that it says in the same place that someone who makes someone else deaf isn’t responsible only for paying the value of the ear, rather, he is responsible for paying the value of the entire body.

Anyway, to answer our question, it would be helpful to see what Rabbeinu Yonah says about the concept of hearing. Explains RY: hearing is the ultimate sense, as it has the greatest influence up us. If we see hear our parents arguing when we are youngsters, this is likely to have a profound effect on us (my example, not his). If someone says something nice to us, that affects us. If we hear deep words of mussar, they are likely to sink in. Says RY: what a person hears on a moment-to-moment basis can constantly be mashpia upon him.

R’ Chaim Yaakov Goldvicht, the first Rosh Yeshiva of KBY says that when we look at our question (why the hole in the ear only by avdus) in the framework of how RY explains the sense of hearing, it makes perfect sense. Again, the entire purpose of hearing is to affect us, to influence the way that we do things. However, for a slave, it doesn’t matter what one hears; his thoughts, ideas, wishes, etc, are all batul to his master. When one signs on for an extended period of slavery, he is signing on to have all of his personal machshavos nullified to the will of the master. This is why we bore a hole in his ear in this case, because a person has tremendous potential to improve oneself through hearing – and this slave is throwing that out the window. We all should be appreciative of his gift of shmiya that Hashem gave us and allow ourselves to improve ourselves and our Avodas Hashem through it.


Blogger Jack Davidov said...

My second year in Yeshiva, I learned that Gemara. I used to say that over at the Shabbos table almost every week (it works when you go to different houses) until one of my friends was like, "I've heard you say that three times!" I didn't realize it, but he was often a guest at the same houses that I would go to for a Shabbos meal.

7:29 PM, February 23, 2006


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