In Parshas Mishpatim, the Torah tells us of the laws regarding an Eved Nirtzah - A Jewish slave who has finished his term of slavery yet chooses to stay as a slave by his master, as a consequence we bore a hole in his ear against a doorpost and he then remains a slave by his master until Yovel.

The written text in the parashah reads as follows:

וְהִגִּישׁ֤וֹ אֲדֹנָיו֙ אֶל־הָ֣אֱלֹהִ֔ים וְהִגִּישׁוֹ֙ אֶל־הַדֶּ֔לֶת א֖וֹ אֶל־הַמְּזוּזָ֑ה וְרָצַ֨ע אֲדֹנָ֤יו אֶת־אׇזְנוֹ֙ בַּמַּרְצֵ֔עַ וַעֲבָד֖וֹ לְעֹלָֽם׃

his master shall take him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl, and he shall then remain his slave for life.

The literal reading of the text would imply that one has the option of boring the hole either on the door or on the doorpost, yet Chazal (Kiddushin 22b) clarify that the doorpost is in fact an invalid place to bore the hole, as the Torah itself states (Re'eh, Devarim, 17;15)

וְלָקַחְתָּ֣ אֶת־הַמַּרְצֵ֗עַ וְנָתַתָּ֤ה בְאׇזְנוֹ֙ וּבַדֶּ֔לֶת וְהָיָ֥ה לְךָ֖ עֶ֣בֶד עוֹלָ֑ם וְאַ֥ף לַאֲמָתְךָ֖ תַּעֲשֶׂה־כֵּֽן׃

you shall take an awl and put it through his ear into the door, and he shall become your slave in perpetuity. Do the same with your female slave.

We must specifically bore the hole on the door alone, the reason that the Torah mentions the doorpost in the verse prior is to teach us that the characteristics of the door must be similar to that of the doorpost, just as the doorpost is perpendicular so too the door must be perpendicular and on its hinges when performing the piercing.

In Aderes Elyahu, the Vilna Gaon comments on that verse:

פשטא דקרא גם המזוזה כשרה אבל הלכה עוקרת את המקרא וכן ברובה של פרשה זו וכן בכמה פרשיות שבתורה והן מגדולת תורתינו שבע"פ שהיא הל"מ והיא מתהפכת כחומר חותם חוץ המצות שבאו במנצפ"ך שהם מישרים

The simple reading of the verse implies that one can bore a hole in the ear of the Jewish slave on the doorpost, yet the oral law uproots the textual reading of the verse, This is true for most of this parshah as well as many other parshiyos in the Torah. This is due to the greatness of the Oral Torah which was transmitted by Moshe from Sinai, as it reverses like the mold of a stamp, except for the commandments that come from Mantzepach which are straight.

The Gaon is teaching us that the oral Torah and the written Torah are one and the same, the only difference is perspective. The wonderful analogy he uses to describe this phenomenon is the mold of a stamp in respect to its imprint on paper. The mold of the stamp has the lettering backward and is only spelled properly when stamped on paper, so too the written Torah is to us like the mold of the stamp whereas the oral Torah is its imprint. A tremendous parable that enlightens the mind to the relationship of the oral Torah and the written Torah.

There Vilna Gaon writes that there is an exception, however, as the mitzvos from Mantzepach are straightforward. We know that Mantzepach is an anachronym for the end letters in the Hebrew alphabet as seen from the Talmud (Megillah, 2b-3a). But what exactly are the mitzvos that are learned from Mantzepach? Furthermore, in what way are these mitzvos straightforward as opposed to the other mitzvos?

Thank you for all suggestions in advance!


2 Answers 2


On the Otzar Hachochma forum, the following interpretation is brought, apparently originating with the Gra's grandson:

Mantzepach (or Menatzpach) is actually an acronym for the five Mitzvot where Moshe asked Hashem for clarification. Since Hashem clearly explains the law to Moshe in these five cases, the Oral Law [should/would?] not uproot the Written Law. These cases are:

  1. Mekoshesh - the man who gathered wood on Shabbat

  2. Nokev - the man who (chas veshalom) cursed Hashem

  3. Tzelofchad - the request of the daughters of Tzelofchad to inherit

  4. Pesach Sheni - the people who were impure asked what could be done to allow them to bring the Pesach sacrifice

  5. Kozbi - where the people were crying (unsure what to do) at the entrance of the Tent of Meeting

  • Very interesting. I just don't understand how these mitzvos relate back to Gaon's piece about them being straight. Furthermore it is strange that the Gaon would use the same acronym that Chazal use to describe the sofei teivos with regard to these 5 mitzvos unless there was some conceptual connection between them. Feb 11, 2022 at 3:45
  • 1
    Read through the full piece, where he addresses these issues. I'll bli neder try to add a bit more when/if I have time. Feb 11, 2022 at 4:01
  • It's been quite a while i almost forgot about this post. Any possible chance you can give me your explanation? Apr 18, 2022 at 1:50
  • 1
    @MosheMoskowitz because these parts of Torah (which is represented by the letters) were "given" later, via prophecy, not at the time of Matan Torah. Therefore, the final letters represent these final parts of Torah. Apr 21, 2022 at 12:37

In addition to what רבות מחשבות wrote I added a section on the connection to Gevurah and Geulah:

Efraim Palvanov on his website "Mayim Achronim: Uncovering the depths of Torah wisdom" (article: Secrets of the Five Special Sofit Letters) explains that in Parasha Behaalotecha Moshe Rabbeinu was for the first time "stumped" by a question and had to ask G-d what to do in the particular situation:

The son of the Israelite woman pronounced the Name in blasphemy, and he was brought to Moses—now his mother’s name was Shelomith daughter of Dibri of the tribe of Dan—

and he was placed in custody, until the decision of Hashem should be made clear to them.

Why was he placed in custody until the decision of G-d? The Sifra (Emor, section 14:5) on this pasuk explains that they did not know if the person was liable or not:

they did not know whether he was liable to the death penalty or not.

The second one was Pesach Sheni, third was the wood-gatherer, fourth was the case of Zimri and Kozbi and the fifth one was the case with the daughters of Tzelofchad.

The Shelah (Shenei Luchot HaBerit, Torah Shebikhtav, Eikev, Torah Ohr 30) explains something interesting, Moshe Rabbeinu permitted himself to say about himself "And any matter that is too difficult for you, you shall bring to me and I will hear it.”- Devarim 1:17. G-ds reaction to this was "that he could not even deal with a problem that women knew the answer to, i.e. the problem presented by the daughters of Tzlofchod". I think this is a really important lesson that G-d wants to teach us, that we always need to be humble. We cannot say that "I have a bigger claim to the Torah than you!", since the Torah was given in the dessert, we must humble ourselves and say that everyone has an equal share in the Torah (Bamidbar Rabbah 19:26).

Explains Efraim Palvanov:

These five questions (mekoshesh, nokev, tzelofchad, pesach sheni, kozbi) correspond to the five special Hebrew letters that have a distinct symbol when they appear at the end of a word: The “open” mem (מ) becomes a “closed” mem sofit (ם) while the “bent” nun (נ) becomes a “straight” nun sofit (ן), just as the “bent” tzadi (צ) becomes a “straight” tzadi sofit (ץ). The “coiled” pei (פ) and khaf (כ) unravel into the straight pei sofit (ף) and khaf sofit (ך). Together, these five unique letters are referred to by the acronym מנצפ״ך, “mantzepach”, and carry a tremendous amount of meaning. What is the origin and purpose of these special letters?

He goes further to explain the connection between these fiver matters/words and the concept of Gevurah. See here.

The Pirkei DeRabbi Eliezer (48:17) goes to explain that the five letters of the Torah (Mantzepach) are a reference to the future redemption:

The five letters of the Torah, which alone of all the letters in the Torah are of double (shape), all appertain to the mystery of the Redemption.

See also Bereshis Rabbah 1:11:

R. Simon said in the name of R. Joshua b. Levi: Manzapak [מנצפ"ך] is a Mosaic halahhah from Sinai. R, Jeremiah said in the name of R. Hiyya b. Abba: They are what the zofim [i.e. prophets] instituted. It once happened on a stormy day that the Sages did not attend the House of Assembly [i.e. the Academy]. Some children were there and they said, 'Come and let us make a House of Assembly. Why are there written [two different forms when the following letters come in the middle or end of a word respectively] mem [מ] mem [ם], nun [נ] nun [ן], tzadi [צ], tzadi [ץ], pai [פ] pai [ף]? It teaches [that the Torah was transmitted] from utterance [מאמר] to utterance, from Faithful [נאמן] to faithful, from Righteous [צדיק] to righteous, from mouth [פה] to mouth, and from hand [כף] to hand. From utterance to utterance — from the utterance of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the utterance of Moses. From Faithful to faithful— from theAlmighty, who is designated, "God, faithful King," to Moses, who is designated faithful, as it is written, "He [Moses] is faithful in all My house" (Numbers 12:7). From Righteous to righteous— from God, who is designated righteous, as it is written, "The Lord is righteous in all His ways" (Psalms 145:17), to Moses who is designated righteous, as it is written, "He executed the righteousness of the Lord" (Deuteronomy 33:21). From mouth to mouth — from the mouth of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the mouth of Moses. From hand to hand: from the hand of the Holy One, blessed be He, to the hand of Moses. They completed them and they grew to be great sages in Israel; some say that they were R. Eliezer, R. Joshua and R. Akiba. They applied to them the verse, "Even a child is known by his doings, etc." (Proverbs 20:11).

  • I would swap out the sheim Hashem for 'ה
    – Dov
    Feb 11, 2022 at 10:09
  • @Dov did not see it, changed it! Thanks!
    – Shmuel
    Feb 11, 2022 at 10:26

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