The first Rashi in our parshah, is bothered why our parshah begins with the words “V’aleh HaMishpatim”, “and these are the Mishpatim”? Why not start “These are the Mishpatim”, without using the word “and”?
Rashi’s second explanation* explains that Hashem did so, in order to link our parshah, which discusses civil monetary law, to our previous parshah, which concludes with the laws of the mizbeach; to teach us that the Sanhedrin, which, among other things, rules over civil monetary lawsuits detailed in our parshah, should be located within the Bais HaMikdash complex**, in the same general area as the Mizbeach.
Why would Hashem link the two? The Bais HaMikdash represented the highest level of serving Hashem, which was done in such a way as to inspire all those who visited to reach the highest levels of awareness of Hashem. The Mizbeach, in particular, represented the highest levels of purity and of Divine Avodah. The Sanhedrin, on the other hand, had to rule over mundane monetary matters discussed in our parshah. What is it about monetary law that would make it appropriate to connect it to the laws of the Mizbeach & that warranted its place in the courtyard of the Bais HaMikdash?
The Northeast blackout of 2003, was a widespread power outage which occurred throughout parts of the Northeastern and Midwestern United States. It occurred on Thursday, October 14th, 2003, and some areas had no power for 2 full days. At the time, it was the world's second-most-widespread blackout in history, effecting 45 million people, in just 8 states alone.
When the blackout suddenly occurred, businesses were scrambling, trying to keep their operations running smoothly. There was one business which was scrambling more frantically than many others: Mr. Klein’s Ice Cream factory. Due to the massive power outage, Mr. Klein was at risk of losing all of his inventory of ice cream, which would all melt, representing an unimaginable financial loss. Mr. Klein knew that his freezers could perhaps keep things cold for maybe 24 hours, but certainly not more, and so, he was quite anxious.
Finally, the power for Klein’s Ice Cream did come back on, and all of their ice cream was saved. Mr. Klein was very relieved, to say the least.
However, despite his business being saved, he did not stop worrying. Mr. Klein turned to his son and said worriedly, “Wait! There are possibly many others who are still without power. Please, quickly find out – does Mehadrin Ice Cream, our competitor, have their power back on??”.
His son made some phone calls and discovered that Mehadrin’s Ice Cream indeed still had no power. Mr. Klein personally called the owner of Mehadrin Ice Cream, and said, “our power has been restored. We can work to make room in our freezers. Would you like to bring your products to our freezers until your power is restored, so that you do not lose any inventory?”. The owner of Mehadrin was blown away by the offer and graciously accepted. The two worked closely together, and had almost all of Mehadrin’s Ice Cream quickly transported and loaded into Klein’s Ice Cream freezers.
Mr. Klein did not stop there. They worked together to get freezer trucks to store any remaining ice cream which was leftover. By doing so, Mr. Klein saved his fellow yid, his competitor, from major financial loss.
Mr. Klein remarked to his son, “of course we helped. Do you know why? Because our competitors don’t decide how much money we make. In fact, even our business-efforts do not decide how much money we make. Only Hashem does. If another yid needs our help, we help them”.
(Story related by R’ Yehoshua Nissan, founding member of the Memphis Kollel)
Despite there being over 7 billion people in the world, and there being less than a few million frum Jews, other than frum yidden, do you know of any other people on the planet who have as many Gemachs to help others and who give as much charity as we do? Do you know of a people who, with other than a very few rare exceptions, are so meticulous with being honest with their money? Our national pursuit to do so, a pursuit which in the times of the Bais HaMikdash was enabled and supported by the Sanhedrin, is one of the brightest signals we can give to the world that there is a Hashem in the world, Who really does run every aspect of the world, including our income. It is specifically when it comes to monetary matters, such as those discussed in our parshah, which is the very livelihood and lifeblood of one’s family’s survival, as well as the fruit of one’s hours upon hours of labor – that one can truly shine.
When we do actions that demonstrate that we know that Hashem is also in control of all monetary matters, it declares Hashem’s sovereignty to all of the world, and can inspire people to be aware of Hashem’s existence just like the Avodas Hamizbeach and Bais HaMikdash. This is why monetary cases were dealt with in such close proximity of the Mizbeach and why Hashem links parshas Mishpatim with parshas Yisro (see R’ Moshe Feinstein in Sefer Kol Rom, where he elaborates on this concept).
Rashi’s first explanation also states that the “and”, at the beginning of our parshah, is also linking monetary law to the Aseres Hadibros.
What’s the connection?
Rashi explains that it teaches us that monetary law was given at Har Sinai just like the Aseres HaDibros.
R’ Moshe Feinstein asks, in Sefer Kol Rom, why the Torah teaches us this specifically by monetary law? Weren’t all Mitzvos given at Har Sinai?
R’ Moshe answers that specifically when it comes to financial matters, in a sense even more than any other daily/regular-occurring mitzvah, when one observes them, he demonstrates to the world the very first of the Aseres HaDibros: “Anochi Hashem”, that there is a Hashem – Who decides one’s income and Who is constantly making sure it comes to fruition; nobody can add or subtract from the amount that Hashem decrees.
Do you want a powerful opportunity to concretely demonstrate to yourself, and to the world, that there exists One Creator, Who is always in control, and that He alone constantly controls every aspect of the world? One of the best ways to do so is through money. Whether it be through giving Ma’aser, donating something to a gemach, going above and beyond to be honest in business, etc. – nothing declares your understanding that Hashem is the Only One who decides our income, that He decided it on Rosh Hashanah, and that all of our money is from Him regardless, stronger than this. It is for this reason that Hashem linked our parshah with parshas Yisro.
May we all merit to do so, thereby acknowledging “Anochi Hashem” – Hashem’s existence, thereby inspiring others of it akin to a level that was accomplished via the Avodas HaMizbeach in the Bais HaMikdash, and also thereby making a Kiddush Hashem.
*- According to Tzeidah LaDerech, and, according to the first printed edition of Rashi.
**- In Lishkas HaGozis, a chamber that was in the Courtyard of the Bais HaMikdash.