Are You All Ears? – Parashat Mishpatim

February 16, 2020 at 2:40 AM , , ,

“….But if the bondsman says, “I am fond of my master, my wife, and my children. I will not go free”…His master shall pierce his ear with an awl and he shall then serve him forever….” – Shemot 21:5-6

וְאִם אָמֹר יֹאמַר הָעֶבֶד אָהַבְתִּי אֶת אֲדֹנִי אֶת אִשְׁתִּי וְאֶת בָּנָי לֹא אֵצֵא חָפְשִׁי . . וְרָצַע אֲדֹנָיו אֶת אָזְנוֹ בַּמַּרְצֵעַ וַעֲבָדוֹ לְעֹלָם – שמות כא, ה-ו

Why was the ear chosen to be pierced from among all the limbs of the body? The Talmud (Kiddushin 22b) explains: The Almighty said, “This ear, which heard My voice on Mount Sinai when I proclaimed, “For Bnei Yisrael are slaves to Me” (Vayikra 25:55)—they are My servants, and not servants of servants, and yet went and acquired a master for himself, let it be pierced!”

But was the revelation at Sinai only heard? The Giving of the Torah was also experienced visually, as the verse states, “And the entire nation saw the sounds” (Shemos 20:15). Yet, while the slave’s ears are punished for betraying what he heard, his eyes are not held accountable at all, despite having witnessed the awesome revelation of G-d!

The explanation for this is that the slave is not being blamed for failing his past, but for not living up to his potential now, and therein lies the difference between seeing and hearing.

In order for the Jewish people to freely choose to be G-d’s subjects, the awesome revelation at Sinai did not continue after the Giving of the Torah. Therefore, no one is held accountable for no longer having the clarity about his G-dly purpose in this world that he had then.

Are You All Ears

Conversely, our ability to hear, meaning, our ability to mentally grasp even things that are not visible, was not affected.  After all, the purpose of G-d’s concealment after Sinai was for us to discover Him on our own and to choose to be His subjects even when His Presence isn’t seen. This expectation itself proves that our sense of “hearing”, our ability to sense G-d’s kingship even when He isn’t seen, is still sound.

Therefore, the thief who wants to stay on past his six-year bond is only punished for his failure to hear—to realize that “Bnei Yisrael are slaves to Me“– even though it is not as blatantly obvious as it was at Sinai. If he would “listen”, he would understand that to be a “servant to servants” is not the place for a Jew.

—Toras Menachem, vol. 39, pp. 110-113


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