Deepening Our Relationship With Hashem By Perfection of Mitzvot B'ein Adam L'Chavero

What is striking about Parshat Mishpatim is that it appears to interrupt the flow of the narrative of Bnei Yisroel’s development as a nation. Prior to Parshat Mishpatim, starting with parshat Shemot, we read about Bnei Yisroel’s extraordinary journey from downtrodden slaves to uplifted nation receiving the Torah from Hashem at Har Sinai (parshat Yitro). The parshiyot after Mishpatim delve into the intricacies of the mishkan and priestly garments (and of course, there’s the incident of the egel).

So what are we to make of parshat Mishpatim, a seemingly dry recitation of numerous civil laws that appears out of place in the Exodus narrative? Or is it really out of place? Let’s see….

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A Connection Between Yibum and Purim?

This post examines a pasuk from last week's parsha, Ki Taytzei, and welcomes input from readers since I haven't found any commentaries discussing the question raised.

The pasuk concerns the procedure of chalitza, which is implemented when the brother of a deceased man who had no children chooses not to marry the man's widow through yibum (levirite marriage). The pasuk (Devarim 25:9) states:

V'nigsha yevamto elav l'aynei hazekeinim v'chaltza na'alo may'al raglo v'yarka b'fanav; v'anta v'amra ka'cha ya'aseh l'ish asher lo ivneh et beit achiv.

And she proceeds towards her yavam [i.e., her brother-in-law] before the elders and removes his shoe from his foot and spits in his face; and declares, "This shall be done to the man that will not build his brother's house."

I would like to focus on the phrase "ka'cha ya'aseh l'ish" - "this is what shall be done to the man" - now where else do we see that phrase?

Answer: see Megilas Esther (6:5-11) where Achasverosh asks Haman what reward shall be given to a man whom the king wishes to honor. Arrogantly thinking Achasverosh must be referring to him, Haman suggests dressing such a man in royal garments and having him led through the streets on horseback declaring, "kacha ya'aseh l'ish asher hamelech chafetz bikaro." (6:9) Yes, the phrase "kacha ya'aseh l'ish appears in Megilas Esther (and appears again in 6:11 after Achasverosh reveals that Mordechai is the man he wishes to honor, and Haman actually implements for Mordechai all that he recommended - including calling out: "ka'ach ya'aseh l'ish" as he leads Mordechai through the streets).

For the same phrase ka'cha ya'aseh l'ish to appear in both Devarim in connection with the discussion of chalitza and the humiliation of the yavam, and in Megilas Esther in connection with the humiliation of Haman, is surely no coincidence. Instructive connections between seemingly unconnected portions of Tanach have been built on slimmer reeds than that. Yet, after looking at various sources that tend to delve into ta'ami hamitzvos (e.g., Rav Hirsch, Ramban, and Sefer Hachinuch), I could not find any discussion of the significance of the repetition of the phrase ka'acha ya'aseh l'ish in Devarim and Megilas Esther.

Maybe someone has seen a commentary discussing this? For now, let me share some possible thoughts.

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