Newsletter #03, 2016 – Mishpatim 5776

mishpatimIn this parsha, there are series of civil laws given to the Israelites. Even today, most of the principles of these ancient laws are widely used in our modern justice system. The laws regarding redress of damages, kidnapping, assault and the “four guardians” are just a few examples. Parshah Mishpatim also mentions additional laws regarding administration of the courts system, civil issues such as indentured servants, treatment of foreigners and the observance of seasonal festivals. In all, there are 53 mizvot in this parshah.mishpatim 5776 mt sinai jessica(Visit the artist Jessica Sheldon at Jac Art Designs.)
“Mitzvot” or commandments are the revelation of God’s will in the Torah. Mitzvot control many aspects of our Jewish life by giving us obligations and prohibitions to do certain things. In my humble opinion, the amount of Mitzvot that we keep is highly dependent upon our trust and faith in HaShem’s word. Certain Mitzvot are easy to do, but others seem to be difficult. Generally, mitzvot can be classified into three categories:
1. Mishpatim: These are the “common sense” commandments. They are logical, desirable and necessary. For example, prohibition against murder or theft.
2. Edo: These are “remembrance” mitzvot that commemorates certain events. They are also straightforward and common sense for most Jews. For example, weekly Shabbat observance, celebrating festivals, etc.
3. Chukkim: These are decrees that have no rational explanation, but God wants us to follow them anyway. They are the ultimate test of faith! God told us to do them, and that’s why we observe them.
The Torah contains 613 Mitzvot: 248 of these are positive commandments which require us to do something, such as “Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy” and 365 are negative commandments, which require us no to do certain actions, such as “You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor.”
Rabbi Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the UK made the following comment:
“An important truth about the Divine command is that the principal thing is the act.” If, for example, a person has made all the appropriate mental preparations for putting on Tefillin but stops short of actually putting them on, he has not fulfilled the commandment. And if on the other hand he has put them on, but without the proper intentions, he has nonetheless performed the Mitzvah, and must make a blessing over it…”
Yes, action is the key! No matter how much someone prays, without action (performing mitzvah), it is impossible to maintain a close relationship with HaShem. “Reasonable” commandments do not require that much effort on our part, but those that are beyond our understanding (Chukkim) require faith, trust and discipline. Observing Mitzvot is our lifeline/connection to God. Shabbat Shalom! ~~~~~~~~ Yosef


Read the January 2016 Newsletter for the European Union for Progressive Judaism. Click here to download and read.

torahRead Torah from Around the World #310: Parashat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 – 24:18)
By: Rabbi Naamah Kelman, the Dean of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion in Jerusalem

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