Mishpatim: The Less Popular Laws

There's some virus going around the country right now, and my 1.5 year old daughter decided to get it.  Some of the results of the virus are not pretty, but it's very important for whoever has it, to make sure they are hydrated.  And anybody who has had a 1.5 year old child knows … that's not easy.

Because our regular doctor was down with the same virus, we were having issues getting an appointment with another doctor.  Remember, it's socialized medicine here (no complaints either; generally, it's pretty good here), so there are a lot of hoops to jump through to get anything done.  And usually, the people holding those hoops happen to have a degree in Pure Evil.  They are heartless and are more than happy to hang up on you, even after waiting forty minutes on hold.

However, there is somebody who works as a liaison between the religious community and the local health care system, and it's his job to remove whatever hoops necessary to make sure people have proper treatment.  We have no personal relationship with him, but I rarely see him without his phone to his ear.  We were extremely impressed by how well and quickly he responded, getting us an emergency appointment with another doctor (sparing us a trip to the emergency room), who was able to look her over and give us proper instructions.  This morning, he contacted my wife, just to check in on our daughter to see how she's doing.  Our doctor as well contacted us several times to make sure.  Thankfully, while she's still sick, she's doing better.  But there was a great feeling of "wow… somebody DOES care."  I only wish that people who supposedly work for the "greater good of the community" would actually act in such a way.  The way you treat people who are in need is just as important as if you actually helped them, if not more.

When it comes down to kashrus, Shabbos, marriage, and other important halachos, people generally will go to a competent rav.  These are big issues and they don't want to break Shabbos or treif their kitchen.  And nobody wants to enter a marriage that will be questionable and could cause issues for their children.  However, there is one issue that many tend to think that they, or other "professionals" can handle, and that's called "money."  Suddenly, everybody knows the halachos, because "it makes sense!" or they go to a lawyer, since if the local laws say something, then for sure it's okay to do.  In fact, many people are not even aware that there is a question at all!

We have in our home a balcony.  It's completely useless.  We can't even use it to dry our clothes in the summer, since it's all direct sunlight and our clothes will be ruined.  So, after a lot of saving, we decided to enclose the balcony, put a roof on it, and use it as a much-needed storage room.  However, if we build it, it will block out the light of two windows belonging to our neighbor.  Honestly, I don't think many people would have thought about it, and if they did, they would not have thought about it again.  But, once in a while, I have some fear of Heaven, and I went to our neighbors to get permission from them, knowing full well, that if they said "no," I wouldn't be able to do a thing about it.  Thankfully, they agreed wholeheartedly, and now we have a fully functional storage room, all within the confines of halacha.

Another example that many, including me, are not aware of, are "sign up early" deals that people offer for courses or other such things. In many circumstances, believe it or not, this is a form of taking interest from a Jew (which is illegal).  Or the ever popular: paying wages on time, which, unfortunately, is a very common thing.  Several years ago, I was very impressed by the owner of the company that I work for.  There was some issue with the weekly payments, and he emailed the company and explained that they will be a few days late, due to technical reasons.  He apologized and said that if anybody is in dire need of the money at the expected time, to contact him, and he will loan them the money personally, until they get paid.

Speaking of him, a few years ago, there was a glitch in our system (not my fault!) where we were overcharging a whole slew of customers.  It was a small amount over time, so neither they, nor us, noticed anything.  However, he somehow caught it, and had me spend quite a bit of time writing code to find out exactly how many people we "stole" from, how much, and then to pay them all back.  He could have ignored it, fixed the problem, and moved on, but instead, he took a programmer that he's paying for, diverted him from his regular work for a few days, to make sure that everybody got paid back fairly, no matter how little it may have been.

Yet, another.  My wife works for a successful real estate agent in Yerushaliyim.  He had a piece of property which, when the contract was up with his current tenants, he was going to use it for something else.  But what happened?  The husband passed away from Covid, leaving the wife alone.  He wasn't sure what to do.  On one hand, he has every right, legally, to use his property when the time comes, yet on the other hand, the Torah might say differently.  I did not hear all the specifics, but he was told to let her stay.  Whether it would be Jewish law or simply Jewish ethics, I don't know, but it shows that nothing is as simple as it might appear to be.

Unfortunately, we really do not place much emphasis on this area of halacha, even though we use it every day.  One of the main reasons is because it's so large and complicated; it's not so simple to understand.  However, we all should try to spend time learning this area of law, at least in a shallow way, so at least we know what are questions and what are not.  Perhaps many of us, do not have the obligation to know all of the relevant halachos, but we certainly have an obligation to live by them.  And in order to live by them, we need to know some basics.

With that, I wish you all a wonderful Shabbos!