Parshas Mishpatim 2022

January 29, 2022:

Torah from this past Shabbos, Parshas Mishpatim:

Mishpatim Verse 21:1

And these are the laws that you should put before them.  Rashi explains אשר תשים לפניהם — God said to Moses: It should not enter your mind to say, “I shall teach them a section of the Torah or a single Halacha twice or three times until it will become current in their mouths exactly according to its wording (i. e. until they know the text verbatim), but I shall not take the trouble to make them understand the reason of each thing and its significance”; therefore Scripture says, אשר תשים לפניהם, “which thou shalt set before them” (cf. Genesis 34:23) — like a table fully laid before a person with everything ready for eating (Mekhilta d’Rabbi Yishmael 21:1:1).

The Kotzker explains that God is telling Moshe that the Jewish people should understand the Torah  with the sources בּמקורו העליון, the heavenly source being the Penimos Hatorah, Kabbalah, Zohar, and Tanya until they understand that the Torah could only be given to the Jews.  The Jewish people are one with the Torah.  (As we sing Yisroel, Oiriasa, V’Kudsha Brich Hu, Chad Hu.)   This is the meaning of Rashi who says,  לפניהם. וְלֹא לִפְנֵי גוֹיִם  This Kotzker continues that this can only happen if the Jews thoroughly understand the reason for everything, without the laws being a חוקה, a statue with no meaning.  Meaning we do not want the people to do Mitzvos just because that is how it is done, like a statute, but through full understanding.


What is this full understanding?

I showed my initial translation to Rabbi Kimmelman, a Lubavitcher, and I explained it as a non-Chassid.  Meaning we have to thoroughly explain each Mitzvah so people become attached to the Mitzvah.   He told me that the Kotzker is referring to understanding  the hidden meaning of the Torah through  Kabbalah.  I changed my translation to incorporate his thoughts.    However, I believe this Kotzker can also be used that we have to explain each MItzvah in a rational way so people connect to the Mitzvah and love the Torah so the Mitzvos are done due to their connection to the Torah and ultimately to God. Take for example, the laws of Tumah.  On a rational level this makes zero sense.  However, because God created us as a holy nation and God instituted this concept, we accept it because of our specialness.  

How do I apply this?

I love to walk six miles Shabbos morning to Daven at Chabad of East Lakeview.  There are a number of reasons.  Walking is therapy for me.  I want to be part of building a community from the inside and I want to see if Rabbi Kotlarski can actually make his Chabad House a community, with all the challenges of being in Lakeview.  My friends from Anshei Shalom moved to Chabad and we have a Chumash Shiur.  When I attend I give the Shiur.  I pour all my feelings and emotions into the Shiur.  I want the attendees who have not had an intense Hebrew education connect to a Rashi, an Ibn Ezra, a Ramban so that they feel emotionally connected to these great commentators.  I want them to see the greatness of Torah and I want them to feel they were there when Rashi wrote his Parush.   After 120, they will go over to Rashi, hug him, and discuss various Rashi’s or the other Reshonim with him.  This Is what the Kotzker means, we become one with the Torah and with Hashem.


Letter to Rabbi Yonah Reiss

October 14, 2021

Rabbi Yonah Reiss

Chicago Rabbinical Council

2701 W Howard

Chicago, IL  60645

Dear Rabbi Reiss:

Rabbi Zev Eleff in his 2016 book, Modern Orthodox Judasin  quotes a 1954 Der Tog article in which Rabbi Yoseph Ber Soloveichik was asked three questions and the Rov’s response was published. One of the questions was asked by a  young man who had moved to the suburbs.  There was no orthodox Shul nearby and asked the Rov if he, the young man, can hear shofer in a Shul with mixed seating.  The Rov said, “It would be better not to hear the shofar than to enter a synagogue whose sanctity has been profaned.”  The Rov went on to say,”Orthodox organizations should undertake to build synagogues in the suburbs and new communities where Jews are settling.  If the various synagogue organizations .  .  . wound concentrate in America they could accomplish much.”

It is over 65 years since the article and I just realized that Chabad is fulfilling the Rov’s wishes and the Rov’s prophecy.    I was speaking to Rabbi Avrohom Gershon and he told me that his son, Rabbi Mordechai Gershon,  opened up a Chabad house at 1501 S. Indiana, in the South Loop of Chicago.  I was amazed.  I already knew that Chabad had a number of places on the North side, but did not realize how much Lubavitch has penetrated the City.  Someone told me that in opening up a new store, his company used a 2.5 mile radius around a store to be part of the store’s community.    Chabad’s biggest  gap is between Bnei Ruvain and Chabad of East Lakeview, a 6.5 mile walk.   Lincoln Square is roughly in the middle.  I am sure that Rabbi Hertz is working on setting up a Chabad house in Lincoln Square. (I just found out that Rabbi Hertz will eventually set up a Chabad house in West Lakeview, roughly 2 miles south east from Lincoln Square or 4 miles from my house.)

I attend the Chabad of East Lakeview.  Rabbi Kotlarski is working to create a community and a full time Shul.  One of the benefits he has is that there is an Eruv in the community.   There is no problem with Chilul Shabbos.  It is a joy watching this formation.

In the attached letter to Rabbi Ciment of Boynton Beach, FL, I spell out what a Shul means to congregants.  Lubavitch is giving Jewish people eternity.  

Walking the six miles from my house to Chabad of East Lakeview on Shabbos Parshas Noah, I thought about the luxury of an Eruv.    Setting up a large community Eruv that would encompass many of these Chabad houses or individual Eruvim around these Chabad houses would be a major benefit for the Lubavitch Rabbis and for the Jewish people. Carrying on Shabbos would be one less worry for them.   I realize that this is a difficult undertaking in terms of Halacha and money, as I do not have the money to fund the project, but I would like to put this out in the public consciousness, especially to the leaders of the community.   


Mitchell A. Morgenstern