Mishpatim – Ex. 21:1-24:18

As the Torah Turns

Rabbi Lader’s Weekly D’var Torah

Mishpatim – Ex. 21:1-24:18 (Feb. 12/13)

Our Torah portion this Shabbat is Mishpatim – Ex. 21:1-24:18, and is filled with 53 ethical responsibilities and social demands (do’s and don’ts) that provide a blueprint for establishing order, and includes consequences for those who go beyond the limits of that order. This is a portion filled with details, and a person – a people – can be so caught up in the details, that they could lose sight of the bigger picture. The Israelites have an amazing opportunity to create change… to create a society that is thoughtful and caring, that is fair and just.  And so it is with us.  The opportunity to create change – or to be change agents – is always before us.  It takes being concerned with facts and the process of truthful inquiry; but being concerned with all the facts and details should not cause us to lose sight of our moral and societal responsibilities. When Moses comes before the people and relates all these laws, the people respond: Na’aseh v’Nishmah – We will do and we will… listen? obey? understand?  Does their response mean that they will do everything they have been told and then think about what they heard?  Does it mean that they will do what they have been told and, as a result, obey?  Or… could it mean that they will do the fact-finding and truthful inquiry and then will come to understand what it means to enter into this grand “bigger picture” of moral and societal responsibilities?

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