In this week's Torah portion, we learn about the laws surrounding a defendant who partially admits liability to the plaintiff. If the defendant's admission is in response to the plaintiff's accusation, the defendant must take an oath denying liability for the remainder of the claim. However, if the defendant admits liability first and the plaintiff responds with a higher claim, the defendant is not required to take an oath.
Therefore, the Talmud rules that the court should always take the plaintiff’s claim first to allow for the possibility of taking an oath. However, there is a third situation. If the defendant claims that the reason he did not settle the claim outside of court was that his assets were depreciated, then he is given the opportunity to speak first and to avoid a biblically mandated oath.
This law has a spiritual lesson for every Jew's constant court case with the evil inclination. When the evil inclination claims ownership of the person due to their momentary sin, the person claims partial admission, acknowledging their wrongdoing while asserting their deeper desire to be connected to G-d.
This requires the person to take an oath, symbolizing their commitment to changing their ways and resisting the hold of the evil inclination. However, taking an oath carries grave responsibility, and the sages warn against doing so lightly. There is, therefore, a way to avoid taking an “oath” in response to the evil inclination’s claim. And that is by claiming that one’s “assets are depreciated.”
Our asset is the time we are given on this earth. By dedicating ourselves to our purpose in life, we can rightfully claim that spending more time in the courtroom with the evil inclination is deprecating our assets; we can avoid taking an oath and focus on fulfilling our true purpose - making our world into a home for G-d.
May it happen right now!
Candle lighting time this week is at 5:05 PM in NYC.