Mishpatim - Emes

Generally speaking, this week's parsha serves as the first of many parshas detailing certain mitzvos. Up until now, the primary focus of the Torah was the lives of the avos and the yetziah from Mitzrayim. This parsha begins telling over specific mitzvos relevant to daily life. As with every mitzvah of the Torah, there doesn't just exist the simple understanding of the "do's" and "don'ts" of the mitzvah, rather each mitzvah has an underlying yesod. So when one learns about each and every mitzvah, the focus shouldn't just be on how to perform the mitzvah with precision, rather he should try to learn the mitzvah on a deeper level and to uncover the foundation of the mitzvah as well.

One mitzvah we find in this week's parsha is "Midvar sheker tirchak”, to distance oneself from sheker. It's interesting to note that as opposed to other mitzvos, the way this particular mitzvah is commanded is by saying "tirchak", that the essence of the mitzvah is to "distance" oneself from sheker. By other mitzvos, the Torah merely tells us not to do an action, yet by sheker, the mitzvah isn't merely to refrain from speaking sheker, rather the Torah commands us to distance ourselves form sheker. This is something which needs further clarification. Why is sheker different than the other commandments in the Torah?

The Gemara in Sotah 42a says that there are four groups of people who can't be mekabel the pnei shechina. That is, these four groups of people share a common denominator which distances themselves from the reality of Hashem so much so that they can't connect with His presence. The four groups are leitzanim (jokers), shakranim (liars), chanafim (flatterers) and Misaprei Lashon Hara (those who speak Lashon Hara). Rav Chaim Freidlander says in the Sifsei Chaim on Middos v'Avodas Hashem (chelek one) that these four groups share the same root. The root of each of these is their connection to sheker. The Maharal in Nesivos Olam say that since the root of these people is sheker, they can never have a true connection to Hashem, whose essence is emes. As the medrash says, the choseim (seal) of Hashem is emes. Someone who defines himself by sheker, can't connect to something which is diametrically opposed to itself. 

If this is the true problem with the middah of sheker, then we see that there's an inherent difference between this mitzvah and other mitzvos. By other mitzvos, Hashem is commanding us to perform or refrain from a certain action. However, by “Midvar sheker tirchak", the actual commandment isn't on a specific action, rather it’s on the individual. It’s not just a mitzvah telling us what not to do; it’s a mitzvah telling us what not to be. Only when we achieve an inherent definition of emes can we successfully attain our purpose of connecting to Hashem. 

With this, we can understand why specifically by this mitzvah Hashem commanded us to distance ourselves from it. By every other mitzvah, the Torah tells us merely to refrain from an action. But by sheker, the mitzvah is to not become a certain type of person. Such a person can't connect with Hashem, on any level. 

Chazal tell us that a person's environment has an effect on him. So much so, that the medrash uses a sharp tone when saying that a person becomes that which he connects himself to. If that's true, then the commandment needs to be the removal of the self from any connection of sheker whatsoever.

This is the reason we need to have a distancing from sheker. If a person surrounds himself with something, it has an effect on him. Ever since I was young, my mother always warned me to keep a good chevra. She understood that the environment with which a person surrounds himself will inevitably have an effect on him. Says the pasuk, - "Midvar Sheker Tirchak", run away from sheker! Distance yourself from it! Because if it comes close to you for even a second, it could influence you. And if it has an effect on you and becomes even a small part of you, then you won't be able to completely connect with Hashem. And if you don't have the ability to fully connect to Hashem, then it undermines the purpose of your creation.

   Yacov Nordlicht