Torah Fax

Friday, February 20, 2004 - 28 Shevat, 5764

Torah Reading:  Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 - 24:17)
Candle Lighting Time: 5:17 PM
Shabbat Ends: 6:19 PM
We Bless of the Month of Adar
Parshat Shekalim


If one were to steal an animal and then sell it or slaughter it, the Torah-in this week's parsha-states that the thief must not only make restitution for the theft, but  also pay a fine. For the theft of a lamb, he must pay four times the value of the lamb and for the theft of an ox he must pay five times the value of the animal.

Our Talmudic rabbis discussed the reason why the discrepancy between the theft of a lamb and the theft of an ox? It seems that the Torah regards stealing an ox a more serious crime than stealing a lamb. One of the answers the Talmud provides relates to the function of the ox. It is more serious an offense to steal an ox which would normally be working than to steal a lamb that does not perform any labor. By adding on an additional payment for the theft of an ox, the Torah wishes to impart to us the importance of work.

Every law mentioned by the Torah is relevant for all, not just to the hopefully few people who happen to pass through the halls of justice because of their recalcitrant behavior. What lesson-relevant to all-can we derive from the two approaches concerning the contrast between the fine for stealing a lamb or stealing an ox?

As stated on numerous occasions, the human condition is not a monolithic one. We get our inspiration and direction from at least two internal sources. One is our G‑dly soul and the other is what is called our "animal soul."  The animal soul is not synonymous with evil. Rather it is what motivates us and energizes us to satisfy our physical, emotional and intellectual needs. Contrary to the assumption that the animal soul is inherently evil and destructive, Chassidic thought teaches us that it contains many positive assets. And because the animal soul can often eclipse the signal that emanates from the more deeply embedded G‑dly soul, it is therefore crucial that the positive side of the animal soul not be ignored. Indeed, by utilizing the positive aspects of our animal nature, it ceases to be an impediment to the G‑dly soul, thus enabling the G‑dly soul's message to be transmitted to us more clearly.

By stealing an animal, the Torah alludes to the one who dismisses, denigrates and takes away the positive qualities of another person's animal soul. In this there can be two forms of theft, corresponding to the two general types of "animal souls"-the ox and the lamb. The ox is a strong and hard working animal, while the lamb is meek and timid. They represent two personality types that are simultaneously positive as well as negative.

The "ox" personality is often arrogant, overbearing and sometimes destructive. Yet the same ox can also represent a hard working individual, who submits to the yoke placed on it, and one who will be a formidable agent for bringing about growth and development.

Likewise, the "lamb" can be said to symbolize two opposite traits. On the one hand the lamb is introverted and is preoccupied with satisfying its own needs. The lamb does not plow or cultivate fields; it does not make constructive changes in its environment. On the other hand, a lamb is also a symbol of innocence. It has an easy going nature and a humble disposition. One does not have to place a yoke on the neck of the lamb to enable us to shear its wool.

To "steal" either of these two creatures is to take the positive traits these animals possess and deny their potential. When one tries to suppress the natural "lamb" disposition of another, by demeaning their innocence, or modest demeanor, one is guilty of theft and must compensate by paying four times as much.

Similarly, one may try to denigrate the energetic and flamboyant nature of another, rather than encouraging them to channel it in a constructive direction. They too are guilty of theft, and must make proper restitution by over compensating-paying 5 times the value of the ox.

The significance of the numbers 4 and 5 in this regard is that both numbers represent the multi-layered composition of the G‑dly soul. Our soul is comprised of the four levels of action, emotion, intellect and will. In addition, there is a fifth, quintessential part, which represents the inner core of our being.

If a lamb was stolen-i.e., one lost their natural innocence and civility-one must work on reinforcing the positive nature of the lamb, by revealing the person's soul-powers that are divided into four. This can be accomplished by encouraging humble actions, cultivation of humble feelings, and motivating one's will to be lacking of ego. For the person who had lost the positive angle of their ox personality-i.e., by ceasing to be firm, outgoing and productive-it does not suffice to repay four times as much; to simply invest all four parts of one's nature with this trait. One must also seek out the fifth level of one's being. For it is from this most essential level of one's being that leads one to go beyond one's own self interest and become an outgoing activist for change for the rest of the world.
The Messianic Age is associated with the fifth and most essential level of our soul, for it is the time when we will fully appreciate the value of all of our efforts "the ox" and labor of the thousands of years we spent in exile. 

Moshiach Matters

Just as the Jews look forward with bated breath for the arrival of Moshiach, so too does Moshiach himself yearn for the time that he can come and redeem the Jewish people. This is hinted at in the verse (Deut. 15:7) “When there will be an Evyon, a poor peron, among you.” An Evyon is one who desires and needs and here it refers (on a deeper level) to Moshiach who is looking forward and begging G‑d to appoint the time for him to come and redeem His children. (Or HaChaim HaKodesh)

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