Torah Fax
Friday, February 16, 2007 - 28 Shevat, 5767

Torah Reading Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 - 24:17
Candle Lighting Time 5:13 PM
Shabbat ends 6:15 PM
Shabbat Mevarchim - Shabbat Shekalim
Rosh Chodesh Adar is Sunday and Monday, 2/18 & 19

Tunnel Vision

Mishpatim, this week's parsha, is filled with the Torah's civil and criminal laws. One of the most dramatic expressions of the law of self-defense is recorded in this parsha.
"If a thief is discovered in a tunnel and is stricken and killed it is not considered bloodshed…"
The rationale for this law is that when a person illegally enters another's property he anticipates armed resistance. He thus prepares himself to fight and even kill the owner of the house who will likely put up resistance and kill him. Hence, notwithstanding the fact that the thief is only interested in burglarizing the home, he poses a mortal threat to its owner.
In other words, when there is even the slightest and remote possibility that someone threatens a person's life, the Torah allows the person to use lethal force to protect himself. The only exception to this rule, the Talmud states, is when we are absolutely certain that the thief harbors no desire to harm the occupant of the house even if he were to put up resistance. The classic example given of this exceptional case is where the burglar is the father of the victim. In all other situations the law is that we may kill the burglar.
As stated in many of these weekly messages, the laws of the Torah were meant to be implemented as stated, except where the oral tradition modified its plain meaning. But, in addition to its plain meaning and application, every law in the Torah carries a message to us in our own personal quest for spiritual refinement and perfection.
The Torah's example of a burglar is one who burrows a tunnel into someone else's house. There are many ways a thief can get into a house, what message is there in the Torah's example of a thief burrowing a tunnel?
One approach to this matter is based on an alternate translation of the Hebrew words concerning the finding of the thief in the tunnel. Instead of "If a thief is discovered in a tunnel…" this revised translation reads: "If one tunnels deeply into oneself he may discover a thief." This means that if we dig into our personalities we may discover that we are not as honest and sincere as we might have thought. We may discover that we have ulterior motives in the good things that we do, or worse. As one searching chosid cried to his Rebbe about his lack of sincerity, whereupon he exclaimed, "even my recognition of my insincerity and desire to change is not totally sincere. And even my recognition of that recognition is insincere, etc. etc.," He kept on digging deeper into his motives and the lack of sincerity until he fainted.
When we question our own integrity and pureness of heart and discover that there may be a "thief" lurking there it makes it easier to not judge other people's motives. There is a tendency among some to judge others more harshly than the way we judge ourselves. The Torah therefore teaches us that when we see a thief it is time to introspect about our own honesty and sincerity.
And conversely, when on the surface it seems that we are far from being ideal, after tunneling deeply into the hidden recesses of our soul, we will discover that there is a part of us that is deceptively good and holy.
The above analysis raises the obvious question: How can it be both ways? How is it possible that deep down we are insincere and deceptive and, simultaneously, deep down we are also deceptively good?
The answer is that our souls consist of many layers. The deeper we dig, the more our true nature is exposed. So while digging beneath the surface will yield some painful aspects of our personalities, if we just dug a little deeper we will discover that at our core we are indeed sincere.
Before the coming of Moshiach, we are told that the hidden aspects of our nature are more easily accessed. Sometimes they might even surface without any effort. This explains the paradoxical phenomenon of our times. On the one hand, we see so much more negativity and hostility in people's attitudes and behavior, and, on the other hand, we are witness to so much more sincerity, selflessness and altruism.
This emergence of the hidden negativity and goodness gives us an opportunity to once and for all "strike and kill" the negative thief within us, and bask in the glow of the radiant goodness that has been revealed. By doing so we are ready to greet Moshiach and usher in the future Redemption.

Moshiach Matters

Chutzpah should be utilized in a positive way — by asking and demanding of G‑d insistently, that our righteous Mashiach should actually appear. G‑d will surely be pleased with this demand, and will accordingly fulfill it.
From a talk of the Rebbe Shlita on 27 Adar II, 5746 [1986]
Moshiach - It’s a Jewish issue. For more info, visit

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