Divrei Torah

PARSHAS MISHPATIM 5777

A significant portion of this week’s Parsha deals with laws involving damage caused by a human being or his property. If one person injures another person, the first person could be liable for five types of fines and penalties. If a person’s property causes damage, the owner sometimes pays the victim full compensation, while at other times he is only liable for half compensation. The determining factor is how likely the property is to cause damage. 

There is property called a “tam” and there is other property that is called a “muad”. A “tam” is property – for example an animal – that is not expected to cause any harm. If such an animal does cause damage – for example $1000 worth - its owner is liable for only $500 of that damage. If that same animal could be expected to cause harm, that animal is deemed a “muad” and its owner is liable for the entire amount of damage it causes. 

However, when the Torah discusses a human being, there is no distinction between one who might be expected to cause harm and one who is not expected to cause harm. There are not two classifications of human beings. In the words of the Talmud – “man is always a ‘muad’, no matter if he damages intentionally, unintentionally, accidentally, willingly, awake or while asleep. Human beings are always responsible for their actions. 

Unfortunately, human beings don’t always see it that way. Frequently, when something goes wrong, people attempt to lay the blame on somebody else or on outside factors, rather than look in the mirror and accept responsibility.

 “Man is always a ‘muad’” – people are always responsible for their actions, whether they like it or not. Every one of our actions has an effect upon the world. When we make a mistake, we must own up to it because we caused harm to the world. When we do Mitzvos, we build the world. Either way, when we accept responsibility, we are acting responsibly and making the world a more responsible environment.