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Four Guardians - Mishpatim

Friday, 1 February, 2019 - 9:06 am

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True story: Once, a valuable item was stolen from a car parked in the courtyard of a Russian synagogue. When the guard was interrogated, he said: “My job is overlook that things are going well. When they don’t go well, it’s not my job anymore!”

This week’s Parasha Mishpatim is filled with laws dealing with our everyday lives and human relations. Among others, it analyses four kinds of people who watch over the property of others: a) the unpaid guardian b) the paid guardian c) the borrower who uses the other’s property without paying for it and d) the renter, who pays in order to use it.

The difference between the guardians isn’t related only to the payment they receive (or not) but to the degree of responsibility they each carry in case the item gets damaged, lost or stolen… The unpaid guardian, in almost any case is exempt from paying compensation in case of damage, except in case of real negligence. The paid guardian and the renter have to pay compensation in almost every case, unless it was something that they could not prevent, such as an armed robbery. The borrower though is always liable, in all circumstances.

How does it all relate to our everyday lives?

Our Sages explain that each one of us is a guardian in G-d’s world. G-d gave us a beautiful world, a precious soul and a lot of capabilities, talents, energy and life. He also gave us 613 Commandments to keep and “guard”.

If we do a mistake and don’t keep-guard it properly, how much do we need to “pay”? How responsible are we?

There is the unpaid guardian, who keeps the commandments simply because G-d asked us to and because he loves Him. He is not thinking of the reward he deserves. And if he does a mistake, a sin, G-d will forgive him, unless it is a case of real negligence.

On the other hand, we have the paid guardian, the one who keeps the commandments in order to receive a reward. Third, we have the renter-guardian who wants to enjoy this world but feels the obligation to “pay” G-d for his use of the world by keeping His commandments. Both are fully responsible for their mistakes, unless they could not prevent it in any way.

The worse guardian is the borrower, the one who wants to enjoy G-d’s world without any commitment or obedience tro G-d. The borerower will always be liable, in any case or circumstance.

Which kind of guardian are YOU?

Shabbat Shalom,


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