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    The parsha begins with
    the words “And these
    are the laws which you
    shall place before
    them.” [Shemos 21:1]
    In commenting on this
    pasuk, the Medrash
    cites the passage: “Through justice a king
    establishes a land, but the man of Terumos will
    destroy it.” [Mishlei 29:4]
    The Medrash elaborates: If a person will make
    himself like the Terumah portion which is set
    aside from the rest of the grain and placed in
    the corner of the house… In other words, if a
    person sets himself apart and says: “why
    should I have to get involved in the problems
    of the community?” If he takes the attitude,
    “why do I need this hassle of community
    involvement?” If he takes the attitude of “I
    will take care of myself…” Regarding such
    people, the passage speaks by saying “the man
    of Terumos will destroy it.”
    The Medrash then cites an incident involving
    Rav Assi. When Rav Assi was about to die, his
    nephew entered and found him crying. Rav
    Assi’s nephew asked him, “Why are you

    crying? Is there any area of Torah that you
    have not learned or have not taught? You have
    many disciples who can testify to the contrary.
    What are you afraid of? Is there any area of
    Gemilas Chessed [acts of kindness] that you
    have not performed? And your greatest praise
    is that you distanced yourself from rendering
    judgment — you did not involve yourself in
    litigation and dinei Torah and did not sully
    yourself with messy communal matters. What
    could be wrong?”
    Rav Assi responded, “It is for this very
    negligence (of not occupying myself with
    litigation and communal matters) that I am
    crying. Maybe I will face Heavenly
    Punishment over the fact that I could have
    rendered judgments for Israel and abstained
    from doing so.”
    Terumah is holier than chullin [non-sacred
    produce]. It is set aside, on its own. The man
    of Terumos that the Medrash refers to is the
    person who considers himself like “Terumah.”
    He feels that he is above the masses that are
    “chullin”. He feels “I don’t need all this” and
    refuses to sully himself with the needs of the
    common people (hamon am). “Let me do my

    own thing. Let me be for
    myself. I want to be like
    terumah that is set aside in
    the corner.”
    This attitude, the Medrash
    states, is destructive. The
    lesson we must take from
    this Medrash is that not only
    those who are worthy to be
    judges must occupy
    themselves with
    congregational needs. We
    are all called upon, on many
    occasions and under many
    circumstances to get involved — to become
    the chairman, to sit on the committee.
    Everyone who has sat on a committee or been
    involved in communal needs knows that it is
    full of aggravation. It is so easy to take the
    attitude “I don’t need this.”
    One gets involved in a shul and what does one
    get for it? Rarely a thank-you, only complaints!
    Someone was involved in putting out
    mimeographed divrei Torah for a shul. What
    did someone comment to him? “You shouldn’t
    have printed it on pink paper!” Is there a

    ‘yasher koach’ for doing it? No! The only
    comment was that someone did not like the
    color of the paper! This is what one can expect
    when getting involved — whether it is the shul
    or the school. All one can expect from
    involvement in any communal organization is
    grief. Guaranteed.
    That is why Chazal say that one has to do it.
    Regarding one who says, “Not me; I will sit in
    my corner, learn my daf-yomi, and send in my
    check, but don’t get me involved,” the
    Medrash quotes the passage “The man of
    Terumos will destroy it!”