Shabbat Parashat Mishpatim| 5763
Close Enough for ComfortHarav Yosef Carmel
In the laws of shomrim (watchmen of objects), we find the laws of borrowers. “Should a man borrow from his friend (øòäå) and it broke or died, if its owner was not with him, he shall pay. If its owner was with him, he shall not pay” (Shemot 22: 13-14). The obligation of a borrower to safeguard the borrowed object is the strictest among those of the four shomrim, because he received the benefit of using the object without paying for it. Despite this fact, the Torah stresses with a double language that in a situation where the owner is with him, the borrower is exempt from payment. This stress prompted the Sefat Emet to explain these p’sukim with a unique and beautiful homiletic approach.
Hillel, upon accepting the daunting task of teaching the whole Torah on one foot, said: “That which you hate, do not do to your friend” (Shabbat 31a). Rashi, in his commentary on this gemara, brings the pasuk in Mishlei (27:10), “Do not forsake your friend ((øòê and the friend of your father” and adds that this friend is Hashem (based on Shemot Rabba 27:1). In other words, Hillel’s famous statement, which seems to put the stress of the Torah on mitzvot between man and his counterpart, can be seen in a different light if one considers that, to whatever degree we can utter the words, Hashem is a counterpart or friend.
Returning to the theme of borrowing from a friend, we can now present the Sefat Emet’s beautiful idea. Our lives and souls were lent to us by our øò (re’ah), Hashem. This presents us with a very demanding level of responsibility to safeguard these precious items. Under what circumstances will we have to “pay up” if our souls are damaged? If the owner of the borrowed object (Hashem) is not with us, i.e. if we have become separated from Him, then we will have to “pay.” Of course, this payment is more serious than a monetary one. If Hashem is with us, because we have fulfilled, “I have placed Hashem before me always” (Tehillim 16:8), then we will be exempt.
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