The two Mishnayot (-11) we learnt erev Rosh Hashanah discuss the importance of using accurate measuring instruments when selling a product to another by measure. More precisely, the first Mishnah sets out the frequency in which a seller must clean their measuring instruments to remove any built up residue that would cause inaccuracy to the detriment of the buyer. Do these Mishnayot have any relevance to the imminent Yom Tov? Is there a reason why these Mishnayot “so happen” to precede Rosh Hashanah? Is there something contained in them that can help us focus on that awesome day?
Kehati’s introduction to these Mishnayot cites Rashi’s commentary on the following pasuk (Vayikra ) as the source for its ruling:
Just balances, just weights, a just ephah and a just hin you shall have: I am the L-rd your G-d who took you out of the
Rashi explains that ephah and hin, refer to instruments that measure the volume of dry products and liquids products respectively.
Interestingly, the pasuk that is the source for our Mishnah closes with a reference to Hashem taking us out of . Granted that the event holds central importance, what relevance does it have to the obligation to have just measures?
Rava (Bava Metzia 61b) asks this very question and responds that Ha Kadosh Baruch is telling us that He, who differentiated between a “drop” that was first born and one that is not, will punish those that cover their weights in salt (a process which distorts its true weight). Aside from strengthening this harsh warning to observe this Mitzvah, is there a deeper connection to the reference of the smiting of the first born?
The Torat Kohanim uses harsher terms:
[Hashem took us out of ] on the condition that we keep the mitzvah of [just] measures. Anyone that admits to the mitzvah of measures, admits to Yetziyat Mitzrayim. Anyone that denies the mitzvah of measures, it is as if he denies Yetziyat Mitzrayim
Why is there such “weight” given to this mitzvah?
The Torah Temimah explains the answer is found in the Midrash that discusses the plague of the first born. What was the definition of the “first born”? The Midrash explains that it was the first born child of the father and not the mother. In other words, if an Egyptian women secretly had an affair with ten different men and bore ten children each of them the first born of these men, during the plague all these children would be struck by the plague. This was a secret matter, hidden from the eyes of the public, yet know to HaKadosh Baruch Hu. Likewise, explains the Torah Temimah, the distortion of measures is matter secret to the transgressor. The pasuk is reminding us that it is nevertheless also known to HaKadosh Baruch Hu.13 Anyone who thinks otherwise is grouped with those that deny Yetziyat Mitzrayim.
Erev Rosh Hashanah, on the eve of the day of judgement, just prior to the beginning of Ten Days of Repentance the Mishnayot are telling us to clean up. Recognise that there is not only work to do on areas that are open and revealed, but also those area that are buried deep down know only to you... and HaKadosh Baruch Hu!
13 See Gemara Bava Metzia 61b that lists other mitzvot that are also linked to Yetziyat Mitzrayim in a similar manner. The way the Gemara describes them is that these are also mitzvot whose transgression can be masked from the outside world.
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