Pearls of Rashi – Parshas Mishpotim II

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This week’s Torah portion is Mishpotim. The Parshah begins by telling us that Hashem told Moshe,[1] “these are the ordinances (Mishpotim) which you shall place before them (meaning the Jewish Nation).” We need to understand, why does the Torah say that Moshe shall “place the ordinances before” them? It would seem more appropriate for the Torah to have said that these are the ordinances that Moshe shall teach them?”

Rashi cites the words from this verse “that you shall place before them, and explains as follows. “Hashem said to Moshe, do not think of saying, ‘I will teach them the chapter or the law two or three times until they know it well, just as it was taught (to me). However, I will not trouble myself to enable them to understand the reasons for the matter and its explanation.’ That is why it is written, ‘you shall place before them.’ You shall set the Torah before them like a table, set and ready to eat from.”

Rashi is telling us how Hashem told Moshe Rabbeinu to teach the Jews. Moshe must care about his students, and not just fulfill the task assigned to him by Hashem. He must make sure that his students understand the Torah which he is teaching them. It is not enough for him to simply present the material two or three times, and assume that they understood what he taught them.

This itself presents us with a great lesson. There are unfortunately teachers who present Torah to their students without concern whether the students understood the material. We must learn from Moshe to make sure that we are presenting the Torah in a manner that the students understand. Otherwise, we must explain it again and again, always looking for clearer manners of expressing the lesson, new allegories etc. with which the students can connect.

There still remains a difficulty in Rashi’s words. Why does he write “two or three times?” We know that Rashi’s choice of words is exact; he certainly did not choose these numbers randomly!

The explanation is based on what the Talmud says[2]; “one is obligated to teach his students a lesson four times.” In other words, generally speaking, four times is enough for the student to comprehend and retain what he learned. However, according to the words of the Talmud, two or three times would not suffice. From this, we can see just how precise Rashi’s words are.

I wishing one and all a good Shabbos!

Rabbi Shmuel Mendelsohn

Adapted from Likkutei Sichos Volume 9, Page 38

לזכרון הרבנית הצדקנית
מרת חי’ מושקא ע”ה ז”ל
בת כ”ק אדמו”ר אור עולם
נזר ישראל ותפארתו צדקת ה’ עשה
ומשפטיו עם ישראל ורבים השיב מעון
מרנא ורבנא יוסף יצחק
זצוקללה”ה נבג”מ נ”ע זי”ע
נפטרה ביום רביעי פרשת משפטים
כ”ב שבט שנת תשמ”ח
ת. נ. צ. ב. ה.
אשתו של כ”ק אדמו”ר נשיא דורנו

[1]. Our Parshah, Shemos 21:1.

[2]. Talmud Erchin, 53, b.

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