Monday, October 20, 2014

“We Want Mashiach Now:” Learn Nezikin?

Rav Turetsky

Various Jewish thinkers have offered perspectives as to how one can bring Mashiach. With the Yeshiva about to start learning Bava Kammah, I’d like to note an interesting approach that may add insight and meaning to the learning we will be doing this Zman.

The Talmud (Shabbat 31a) derives references to all six of the Sedarim that comprise Shas from the following verse:  "וְהָיָה אֱמוּנַת עִתֶּיךָ, חֹסֶן יְשׁוּעֹת חָכְמַת וָדָעַת" (Yeshayah 33:6).[i]  Interestingly, the Talmud establishes that Yeshuot (salvations) is a reference to Seder Nezikin, that section of the Talmud that deals with monetary law. Some versions of the Tosefta even refer to Seder Nezikin as Seder Yeshuot. Rashi (ad loc) explains that Nezikin provides salvation, through warning us to avoid damaging others and subsequently owing money to the victim.

The simple explanation as to why Nezikin is referred to as such has nothing to do with the ultimate redemption. Instead, following the laws of Nezikin saves one from having to compensate would-be victims for damages performed by his property. Others, though, see a potential link between Nezikin and the larger salvation of the Jewish people. Why would that be? Why would Nezikin provide the key to our redemption?[ii]

Various answers may be offered to answer this question.[iii] We will note three possible approaches.

1. A basic answer may be that Nezikin deals with interpersonal relationships. The Talmud (Yoma 9) teaches that the second Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of baseless hatred, and it is logical that pristine personal relationships lead to the ultimate redemption. A thorough study of Nezikin inculcates within the learner the knowledge and awareness necessary to excel in the interpersonal realm, and may therefore be the source for salvation. 

2. Rav Rosensweig has developed the idea that while other legal systems also have civil law, Judaism’s system may be unique and far more ambitious. He maintains that our legal system is not only to avoid chaos and establish order, but rather to infuse Kedusha into the different elements of human interactions governed by our legal system. This idea may best be seen through those halachot such as Ribbit (the prohibition of charging interest) that points to a higher standard and more ambitious undertaking than merely establishing an orderly society. Based on this idea, one may suggest that bringing in Kedusha to all elements of our society serves as the necessary prerequisite for the Mikdash. The Mikdash can only be built within a society established on care, concern, and Kedusha.

3. I once heard an additional interpretation in the name of Rav Moshe Shapiro. For him, there is less of a direct link between Nezikin and redemption, as much as a common denominator connecting these two areas. He suggested that all of Nezikin has one thing in common with the ultimate salvation. Both are dependent on a claim. With no formal claim of damage, so many of the halachot in Seder Nezikin would never apply; the courts do not get involved in most cases if the victim does not issue a claim. Similarly, he argued, there will only be an eventual redemption if we make an active claim that we, in fact, want and desire a true and complete salvation. Passive waiting may not suffice.

May our learning of Nezikin strengthen our interpersonal relationship and lead to an eventual redemption!

[i] For example, Emunah (faith) refers to Zeraim, as the planter must have faith the seeds he plants will bear fruit. For different interpretations of the connection between Emunah and Zeraim, see Rashi and Tosafot (ad loc).
[ii] One may strengthen the question. Many areas of Torah have little parallel to other cultures and legal systems. For example, Kodshim and Taharot have no real equivalent in our modern-day secular society and are not based, at least to a large extent, on objective human logic. Seder Nezikin is different; civil law is found in the world around us, and we are quite familiar with many of its permutations and intricacies.  The Torah even demands, at least according to Ramban (Breishit 34:14), that non-Jews establish such a system as part of their seven commandments. Rambam (Hilchot Melachim, cited in Ramban ibid) argues with Ramban. For him, the mitzvah of Dinim doesn’t require one to establish a separate legal system. Instead, one must establish courts that enforce the other six mitzvot Bnei Noach. One may wonder why specifically the realm with the greatest amount of overlap with other cultures would be the source of salvation and redemption.
[iii] See Maharsha (ad loc) and Maharal (Tiferet Yisrael chap. 10). The simple pshat may be that Nezikin provide salvations for those that would otherwise be taken advantage; the Torah’s system of civil law protects the various members of society.

No comments:

Post a Comment