FMT- Parashas Mishpatim 5781 – Joy with Limits

One of the Mitzvos related in our Parasha is the three festivals: Pesach, Shavous and Sukkos. The Verse [Shemos 23, 14] states: “Three times a year you shall celebrate a Festival for Me.” Then the next Verses describe the Festivals: “You shall observe the Feast of Unleavened Bread; … and the Feast of the Harvest, of the first fruits of your actions; and the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year.” [Shemos 23:15-16]. It is interesting that the Torah requires that the festivals are reveled for Hashem. Why is not more important to celebrate these Festivals with our wife and children? The number 3 is a revolving number in Judaism: There are 3 prayers per day; the Jewish nation is composed by 3 categories of people, Kohen, Levi, and Israel; We had 3 forefathers, Avraham, Yitzchak, and Yaakov. What is the message behind all this? Rabbeinu Bachya raises a different point: the term used for “Three festivals” really means “Three feet”, why was such an ambiguous language used. He answers that it is to teach us that one should not ascend to Temple on horseback or in a wagon. Rather, it is a special Mitzvah to ascend walking by foot. Hence, one who has no feet has no obligation to fulfil this Mitzva. His answer is puzzling: Since people come to celebrate Hashem in the Temple, would it not be logical to forbid walking by foot, as it would exhaust the pelerines and prevent them to rejoice properly during the Festivals? Besides, if the Torah obligates the march by foot what is it not stated openly and only hinted? Rabbi Yosef Bechor Shor [A Rishon], points out that these three periods are usually joyous periods even without the addition of a formal holiday, for Passover is a time when we commemorate our freedom. Shavuos heralds the beginning of the crop harvest, and Succos marks the time when we gather in the harvested crop. All of these are inherently joyous times. Rabbi Yosef conveys that the message incrusted in this Mitzva is that a Jew must understand that as a loyal and devoted servant of the Almighty, he must utilize joyous occasions to intensify and deepen his relationship with Hashem by including Him in his joy. Therefore, we ascend to the Holy Temple to celebrate with Hashem just as one invites his closest friend and relatives to celebrate the most joyous moments of his life. However, this does not provide a reason for the requirement to come by foot. The importance of this obligation is enhanced by the fact that someone that has no feet is not required to come. What is the correlation between the feet and the Festival, is someone without feet incapable of celebrating? The Chizkuni explains the reason for “three times a year;” you need not exert yourself by coming to Jerusalem and the Temple more than three times a year, i.e., to have to “lose” valuable time from your agricultural activities by having to travel long distances. Other religions are far more demanding of their worshippers. It is an interesting approach; one should not complain it could be worse. This is not too rational to avoid explaining by demonizing a situation, so what is true meaning of his statement. The Sforno explains based on a Verse in Tehilim [149:2]: “The people of Israel rejoice in their Maker.” Such joy on the festivals is legislated by Hashem to offset the joy displayed during the making of the golden calf. The Torah then reported “when he saw the calf and the people dancing.” [Shemos 32:19].” Easy abundance is dangerous. One tends to rationalize his success on his intelligence and his strategies, which could lead him down the wrong path. The Arizal reveals that the money a person is allotted for the year is decided during the blowing of the Shofar. A person will not make more or less whether he works 70 hours a week or 5 hours a week. Though, it is verifiable that hard work earns more money? The Arizal explains that it true that one can force his fate and have more money transit through his hands, but he will only keep what was decided in Rosh Hashana. And the reason of the 3 requirements, it is because after 3 times is the number of times to set a rule. By visiting the Temple 3 times a year one is assured not to go astray. Here is an inspiring story: Reb Dovid Leib Tzinz from Bikovsk related how a certain Shlomo Kleingut was the proprietor of a kretschma [inn] in Sanz where many of those visiting the holy Divrei Chaim, Rav Chaim Halberstam Zatsal would lodge. A man from Germany once arrived and ordered a drink. Reb Shlomo the innkeeper struck up a conversation with him and asked how it was that a German Yid sought to meet with the Divrei Chaim, since visitors from Germany were not at all common. The man related this amazing personal story. “I hail from Vienna and it is true that I am no Sanzer Chassid. But listen to my story. After I got married, I found my niche in the lumber industry, for which I needed ready access to good stocks of quality trees. My business was located near the famous “Kaiser’s Forest” – a private reserve open to select people with the right connections. I became friendly with one such nobleman who arranged access for me. We had the following arrangement: I would lay out money in advance for the bootlegged lumber trees. Then, I would have to cut them down myself, with great exertion, get them to the sawmill, and then wait for payment for the lumber from my black-market customers. All in all, this scheme yielded only a very meagre livelihood. My relationship with the man developed to the point that my contact allowed me to acquire trees on credit, payment due in one year. This was not actually legal. With terms like that, I started doing some serious trading, based on the current cash flow from buyers. To make a long story short, I emerged as one of the leading lumber merchants in the Empire, becoming quite wealthy in the process. But there was a dark side. I yielded to the Yetzer Hara and cut corners on my Shabbos observance. I started by just signing some papers thinking, “It’s just a little drop of ink, and not any hard work to sign a paper. What could it hurt?” That started a downhill slide until I became totally mechalel Shabbos. Nothing is a coincidence. It was exactly at that time that my competitors conspired against me and lodged a complaint with the authorities, that I was swindling customers. This was totally false. I may have dealt on the black market, but I never cheated anyone out of even a penny. That same night a band of soldiers grabbed me and threw me into a dark dungeon to await trial. I had no way of informing my wife, who became sick with worry. She ran frantically to one after the other of the noblemen with whom she knew I was in business. No one was able to tell her my fate. And this desperate situation dragged on for four months. One day my loyal wife heard that in Sanz there was a famous Rabbi who often helped Agunos (abandoned wives) locate their lost husbands, for proper disposition of their marriage. She took the first train to Sanz and made her way to the Rebbe’s receiving room. The gabbai wrote out the customary kvitel, and she tearfully described her bitter plight to the Rebbe. The Rebbe looked deeply into the kvitel and said these words: “Go find your husband and tell him that if he promises never to desecrate Shabbos again, he will be released from prison and will return home a free man.” My wife was confused and redoubled her anguished cries. “How can I give him the Rebbe’s message if I don’t know where he is?” The response: “Travel back to Vienna, Hashem will send your salvation while you’re still on the way!” My wife has great faith in Tzadikim, and headed for the train station where, unlike her usual custom, she bought a ticket in first class. On board, she was seated near a party of high-ranking noblemen from Vienna. Pained by her tragic situation, she broke down into uncontrollable sobbing. One of the men took pity on her and offered to help if he could. “My husband disappeared without a trace four months ago. People tell me he is in prison somewhere, but no one seems to know just where. I am at the end of my rope.” This man was a heaven-sent passenger on that very train. “I happen to be the Superintendent of the Central Prison in Vienna, and now that I hear your husband’s name, I can tell you he has been awaiting trial in my facility.” My loyal wife protested, “My husband is no criminal. He has swindled no one and these are just trumped-up charges that his competitors concocted to drive him out of business.” The man replied, “Lady, I wish I could help you. But the law is the law, and he must remain locked up until his trial. There’s nothing I can do.” “Look. I’m only asking for one thing, let me at least visit my husband for a short while so that I can have a heart-to-heart talk with him” she said. “Said and done. That should be no problem. Meet me at the warden’s office tomorrow at noon.” The Superintendent was good to his word and brought my wife to my cell. The joy on her face from just knowing my whereabouts was palpable. She repeated me the Sanzer Rebbe promise that I would be set free if I accepted uncompromisingly to keep Shabbos. I failed to understand how any person could make such a promise, since it would have to come from the Higher Realms. But despite my skepticism, I agreed to never desecrate Shabbos again. My wife returned to the Sanzer Rebbe to inform him of my resolve. The Rebbe had this to say: “Go back home and you’ll find your husband waiting for you!” And so it was. When she entered our house and saw me, naturally she wanted to know my story. That Superintendent continued delving into my case and saw that the charges against me didn’t have a leg to stand on. On his own authority, he took the indictment sheet and tore it to pieces before my eyes and sent me home, saying “Get yourself home; you’re free and clear and the charges are dropped.” I happily became Shomer Shabbos again and my business prospered. I recognized what the Sanzer Tzaddik accomplished on my behalf, as an envoy of Hashem. So here I am to express my gratitude to him. Now you understand why a German Jew is visiting a Chassidic court.

לעילוי נשמת באשא בת בנימין בערל תנצב”ה

ולעילוי נשמת ליפקה בן ליב הכהן תנצב”ה

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