Practically Perfect

Categories: Mishpatim, Parsha

Art by Sefira Lightstone


Every Parsha has its theme. This week’s Parsha, Mishpatim, has loads of commandments—53 in total—and is therefore called “Mishpatim,” which literally means “judgments.” This word typically refers to specific commandments, as Mitzvot are broken up into three categories. “Edut” are testimonials, those we wouldn’t necessarily have considered in establishing a society, but which make sense and serve as reminders of G-dly ideals or events, for example, Shabbat. “Chukim” are “statutes” that we don’t understand at all and are meant to affirm our higher level of belief in G-d, for example, the prohibition of mixing wool and linen in one garment (did you know that?). And then there are Mishpatim (judgements). Mishpatim are laws that any basic, moral and ethical society would need to establish in order to avoid a barbaric atmosphere. Stealing, killing, kidnapping, mistreatment of foreigners are all prohibitions that fall under this category. So let’s look at the context chronologically. The Jews have just received the Torah. They are in an unbelievably heightened spiritual state and are ready to accept whatever G-d tells them, as they stated clearly at Mt. Sinai, “we will do, and then we will understand.” Give them something they wouldn’t have thought of in their own! Why the need to dive into such basics?
> Because therein lies the lesson. Yes, the Torah was just given. Yes, they are ready for something lofty and spiritual that bridges the mundane world in which we live with the divine to which they got a glimpse, but in order to do so, they needed these “judgements” first. This Torah which you have just received is meant to infuse the divine into your average, regular activities. Yes, you may have come to this conclusion on your own, but now you have the ability bring the G-dly into these practical, everyday activities. The beauty of Sinai, the uniqueness of it, was not about the purely spiritual and lofty, but was about the G-dly impact on everything we do. We cannot separate the G-dly, we can’t turn it off any longer and say, “I don’t feel like being a good person today. I’m just not feeling it.” Everything, all the time, has the ability to be impacted by the G-dly and the goodly. So let’s be sure to make the most of our everyday activities. Good Shabbos!

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