March 4, 2024
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March 4, 2024
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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Mishpatim: The Sweet Tooth

Shemot: 21:26-27

“I probably shouldn’t be talking to you without my lawyer present.”

“Manny, we go back a long way. I think we can discuss this like adults without having to lawyer up.”

“Fine, but I don’t think there’s much more to discuss, Hyman.”

“How many years have you worked here at Darton’s Kosher Chocolates?”

“I’ve been here 27 years.”

“That’s quite a long term of employment!”

“Yes, and most of them were happy years.”

“And you’ve been our chocolate taster all those years?”

“No, I started on the factory floor, managing the boxes and creating chocolate molds. It was only after you noticed my incredibly sensitive palate that you moved me to chocolate taster.”

“And were you always the chief taster?”

“No, I apprenticed under Fred Hammerschmidt for seven years, God rest his soul.”

“God rest his soul.”

[Appropriate moment of silence.]

“And would you say we’ve treated you fairly?”

“For the most part.”

“From what I recall, all your kids went through yeshiva day school and college thanks to your salary and benefits from Darton’s Kosher Chocolates.”

“Yes, that’s true. But now you’re forgetting all the contributions I’ve given to the Darton family that have enriched your life.”

“Such as?”

“You had never heard of nougat until I showed it to you.”

“I suppose that’s true.”

“And who came up with the Seder mints?”

“I thought Sid in marketing did that.”

“It was me, Hyman. It’s always been me.”

“Well, that was a big product for sure! Many chocolatiers have made chocolate-covered mints over the years, but the association with Passover Seder? That was genius!”

“So, as you can see, I have been very valuable for Darton’s.”

“No one doubts that, Manny. We definitely appreciate your contributions. So then what seems to be the problem?”

“You know what the problem is, Hyman. It’s my tooth.”

“I’m sorry. Forgive me for being obtuse, but I still don’t get it.”

“Let’s review the situation, shall we? For the past three weeks I’ve had a nagging pain in my mouth. It’s been getting worse for the past few days.”

“OK, I’m with you so far.”

“So I went to my dentist, and he tells me it’s a cavity that has now developed into an abscess. He thinks it’s not worth doing a root canal and wants to extract the tooth.”

“I’m so sorry to hear that, Manny.”

“Thank you.”

“But I don’t really understand what that has to do with your job here at Darton’s.”

“I guess you’re not that familiar with this week’s parsha, then.”

“Actually, I’m very familiar with Mishpatim. It’s my bar mitzvah parsha, and I read it for the first time at Anshe Chesed of Hoboken 47 years ago this week.”

“So then can you tell me the pasuk in the parsha that deals with teeth?”

“Sure. The parsha states that if you have a slave, ve’im shein avdo o’ shein amato yapil, lachafshi yeshalchenu tachat shino.”

“And how would you translate that?”

“And if he knocks out the tooth of his slave, or the tooth of his maidservant, he shall set him free in return for his tooth.”

“Need I say more?”

“Yes, I’m afraid you must.”

“I’ve been tasting chocolate for you for over 20 years. That’s a seriously high sugar job, with significant hazard for dental surfaces. Now I must lose my tooth. It’s as if you knocked it out. So now you are responsible for setting me free.”

“Huh! That’s an interesting interpretation of the pasuk.”

“Thank you.”

“And how do you interpret being set free?”

“Either full-time disability or a generous retirement package.”

“While I totally respect your attempt to analyze the parsha, I beg to differ with your interpretation.”

“Oh? How so?”

“I would say that when God tells us to set a slave free if we knock out his tooth, He is saying that we must treat our workers with the respect that they deserve.”

“I couldn’t agree with you more.”

“It’s also a small step against slavery, teaching Jews that every life has value; but forgetting that for a second, let’s focus on the worker for a moment.”

“Sounds fair to me.”

“I believe that the pasuk is saying you cannot physically abuse your workers. You must treat them with respect, like providing them with excellent medical insurance and a generous dental plan—to protect them against any toothy mishaps—as I have provided for you.”


“You should also give them good retirement benefits like a 401K plan with matching funds from the company so that they can retire whenever they choose, whether their teeth are healthy or not. They can even retire early if they want to.”

“Interesting. So you’re saying that, according to your interpretation of the parsha, I am not due for a bonus package
because of my dental pain and suffering.”

“That would be a correct interpretation of my understanding of the parsha.”

“That also seems like a valid point of view on Mishpatim.”

“Thank you.”

“And you’re saying that perhaps I should get back to work now?”

“That might be a good idea.”

“Thanks, Hyman. It was very illuminating discussing the parsha with you. I’m going to go back to tasting chocolates now. And when you have a chance, I want to discuss with you an idea I have for a line of spicy jalapeno chocolates. Maybe we can tie them into Passover marror somehow.”

“Sounds interesting. Write up a proposal and we can talk.”

By Larry Stiefel

 Larry Stiefel is a pediatrician at Tenafly Pediatrics.


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