February 8, 2024 / 29 Shevat, 5784 • Parshat Mishpatim
Issue 807
Dedicated in loving memory of Mrs. Miriam Friedman

Mishpatim discusses the laws governing damages and the responsibilities of the four types of consignees: the “borrower,” who borrows an item from his fellow; the “hirer,” who rents an item from his fellow; the “paid consignee,” who is paid to guard over his fellow’s item; and the “unpaid consignee,” who guards over his fellow’s item for no compensation.

Four Types of Users

If it was stolen from him, he must make
restitution to its owner. 

Exodus. 22:11

Spiritually, we are all consignees. G-d has entrusted us with the care of our Divine soul, our fellow human beings, and the world at large.

On our worst days, we are borrowers: We enjoy the use of our soul, our fellows, and our world without reciprocating.

At times we do better and act like hirers: We recognize that true physical and spiritual pleasures can only be experienced when we give, so we give in order to receive.

Sometimes we rise above the world of hirer and borrower, the world of the self, and advance to the level of the paid consignee: We are caretakers, seeking to use G-d’s gifts for His purposes. Perhaps, as paid consignees, we are not beyond looking forward to the reward, but at least that is not our focus.

On our best days – and ultimately all our days will be such – we are unpaid consignees. We are oblivious to physical and spiritual rewards; in Maimonides’ words, we “serve G-d out of love . . . not because of anything in the world . . . not to inherit the good, but as one who does the truth simply because it is the truth. . . .

--Daily Wisdom Volume 3