Dvar Torah for Parshat Mishpatim


Based on Rabbi Nachman’s Wisdom #116

“These are the laws that you shall place before them” (Exodus 21:1).
Before them—and not to non-Jewish courts. Even if you know that their law is exactly the same as ours, do not present your case to them. To do so is a desecration of God’s name” (Rashi).

The Book of Exodus is quite moving: A physical, intellectual and spiritual journey of an entire nation, of over three million individuals; their transition from slavery to freedom, from worthlessness to prominence, from Godlessness to Godliness. We are afforded the opportunity to envision the suffering and  degradation of slavery; the deadening monotony of nature running its course as a “master race” inflicts over 200 years of humiliation upon a people it deems sub-human; the awe of witnessing miracles in both the scientific and social order of things; the love of open Divine Providence; the exhilaration of a mass Revelation when the Heavens were torn asunder. So it's a bit puzzling that we are presented with humdrum, run of the mill, common sense rules: laws of fairness, honesty, liability. Why interrupt the story of the journey to tell us this?

Rashi's comment points us in the direction of an answer. The resulting civility and social order is not the only purpose. If the social interaction of Jews is based on ethics rather than on God's directives it is a disgrace. Why?

Rebbe Nachman points out that the initial letters of “Derekh Mitzvotekha Arutz” (the way of Your mitzvot I will run; Psalms 119:32) spell the word ADaM, man. The human race is meant to be the crown of Creation, the maestro that harmonizes all its elements. That only happens, however, if man himself is connected to the Source of Creation, to God Almighty. This connection does not come about automatically as a result of one's actions. It comes about only if one's actions are based on the premise of Torah.

That is why a Jew can attain this goal through even seemingly non-religious acts—because s/he can choose to behave in a particular way specifically because God has so dictated, and not because logic or fairness require it. To live my life for any other reason—even if it comes out just as nice—disgraces You. “Derekh”—the fair and common sense way of life I live; “Mitzvotekha Arutz”—I run that course because it is Your mitzvah, Your command.

agutn Shabbos!
Shabbat Shalom!

P.S. For those of you concerned about possible political and military events that may affect the welfare of millions of Jews in the Middle East and elsewhere, remember Isaiah's prophecy, “Make a plan—it will fall apart; concoct a plot—it won't succeed, for God is with us” (Isaiah 8:10). “Ootzoo eitzah v'sufar....”