motzei Shabbos: Mishpatim 5781

Imagine what the first Shabbos was like, after G-d created the heavens and earth. A project like none other that existed at that time; a project that will only be given a complete renewal upon the appearance of the new heavens and the new earth (Isaiah 65:17). Abraham Heschel explains that when we observe Shabbos, we are celebrating the creation of the world, to the extent that we may even take part in the renewal of the seventh day. Perhaps, this may be envisioned as actually entering that space that Heschel refers to as “an island in time.”

In parashas Mishpatim, a reminder to keep the Sabbath is given, immediately following the commandment about the Shemitah year. The juxtaposition of this reminder with the commandment in regard to the Shemitah cycle is important: what is the implication? The seventh year when the land is permitted to lie fallow, follows six years of work on the land. This cycle is akin to the day of rest that follows a six day work week. Both of these observances point towards the Millennial Sabbath, that follows six thousand years of history.

In like manner that during the first six years of the Shemitah cycle, the land is sown, and produce is gathered, the same may be true in regard to the six thousand years of history. G-d’s divine plan is continuously sown through His words, and hashgacha (guidance). The Shemitah year may be likened to the abundance of blessings that will be poured out upon us, when we are gathered into the land of Israel. The Sabbath also points towards these blessings, inasmuch that chazal explain we can even get a glimpse of Olam Haba (the World to Come) on Shabbos.

Redemption Price

parashas Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1 – 24:18) 5781

parashas Mishpatim 5781

“And six years thou shalt sow thy land, and gather in the increase thereof; but the seventh year thou shalt let it rest and lie fallow.” – Exodus 23:10-11, JPS 1917 Tanach

“Six days thou shalt do thy work, but on the seventh day thou shalt rest” – Exodus 23:12

“For a thousand years in Thy sight are as yesterday when it is past, and as a watch in the night.”
– Psalms 90:4, JPS 1917 Tanach

For six thousand years of history shall pass; then, the sabbatical millenium according to traditional Jewish thought. This understanding is based upon the shemittah cycle as well as the weekly Sabbath, and other commandments mentioned in parashas. The Shemittah year, the seventh year whereof the land lies fallow, follows six years of work on the land, whereof the land is sown with seed, and the produce is gathered (see above, Exodus 23:10-11). The weekly Sabbath is a day of rest, following a six day work week; the seventh day being when G-d rested from creating the world, we are commanded to rest as well.

Thus, a comparison may be drawn, based upon these examples, pointing towards the six thousand years of history that will be followed by a thousand year rest, an era of peace and prosperity. “For a day is like a thousand years, and thousand years is like a day to Elokim G-d.” After the sabbatical millenium, when the natural cycle of seven days is completed, the new heavens and the new earth will appear. “For, behold, I create new heavens and a new earth; and the former things shall not be remembered, nor come into mind” (Isaiah 65:17, JPS).

“If thou buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve; and in the seventh he shall go out free for nothing” (Exodus 21:2). A remez (hint) to the Messianic Redemption, can be found in the commandment in regard to a Hebrew servant who serves another Hebrew. He is redeemed from bondage at the end of six years; a Hebrew who was a slave in Egypt is not meant to be a perpetual slave again. At the completion of six thousand years of history, the Geulah (Redemption) occurs, bringing a restoration to Israel, & the Malchus Elokim (Kingdom of G-d).

Additionally, another commandment obligates a fellow Hebrew to redeem a brother who had been sold as a servant to a gentile. In this case, he is redeemed by a relative, through a redemption price, given to the gentile. “Any that is nigh of kin unto him of his family may redeem him” (Leviticus 25:49, JPS 1917 Tanach). The relative who redeems his brother is called the goel. The Hebrew word goel (redeemer), may also be understood as a reference to the Moshiach (Messiah).  He is like the goel who is obligated to redeem his Jewish brother from slavery. How much more so is He sent to redeem his Jewish brethren?


Slaves No More

parashas Mishpatim 5781

After receiving the Ten Commandments, the mishpatim (ordinances) were given. The first ordinance given is the designation of freedom a Jewish servant receives after only serving a for a limited amount of time. It is as if the Torah is saying, that the Jewish people are not meant to remain in bondage again, not even as indentured servants.

The only exception appears to be the servant, who after six years, would prefer to remain with his master. He declines his freedom; subsequently, his ear is pierced by an awl on a door to mark his perpetual servitude. This act serves as a reminder that the same ear that was pierced, should have heeded the call to freedom. Yet, according to some commentators, even he is released from bondage upon the arrival of the Jubilee year.

Symbolically, the door represents freedom, because of the blood of the Pesach offering that was placed on the doorposts in Egypt, right before B’nei Yisrael was freed. Ultimately, our actual freedom is through Torah itself. As explained in the following manner:

The commandments were inscribed (cherut) on stone tablets; yet, the Hebrew word cherut, with a different vowelization, means “freedom.” What is the connection? When we observe the commandments of G-d, we are freed from slavery to our yetzer harah (evil inclination).

parashas Ki Tisa 5781 – Gold Dust Words Give Life: Torah for the Soul

The incident of the golden calf conveys within the narrative, an allusion to the law of the sotah – the wayward wife – whereof a woman suspected of adultery is tested by way of drinking "bitter water." Israel is likened to the sotah, in this case, because the people, in a sense, committed adultery by turning away from H'Shem, and worshipping another god.
  1. parashas Ki Tisa 5781 – Gold Dust
  2. parashas Ki Tisa – Incense and Avodah
  3. parashas Ki Tisa 5781 – the Remedy Prevails
  4. parashas Tetzaveh 5781 – Exilic Faith
  5. parashas Tetzaveh 5781 – Crushed for the Sake of Purity

Contrasts Reconciled

“And these are the judgments that you shall set before them.” – Exodus 21:1

v’eilah mishpatim – and these are the judgments”

The parashas begins, “and these are the judgments.” In Hebrew, the letter vov, meaning “and,” bears significance here. For the implication can be drawn, that there is a connection being emphasized, between this parashas and the previous one. Immediately following the revelation at Sinai, whereof H’Shem “descended,” amidst the thunder and lightning, in an impressive display of His greatness, the Torah begins to list the mishpatim, a set of commandments that seem pale, mundane, and this-worldly in comparison. A simple question may be asked, in and of itself, what does this juxtaposition of opposites portray in its contrast of a heightened experience at Sinai, to the relatively dry giving forth of commandments having to do with everyday life?

All areas of life are intertwined, as characterized within the framework of Torah. G-d’s divine plan for mankind has as much to do with His appearance on Sinai, amidst the thunder and lightning, as the everyday guidelines given to us in order to regulate our conduct. Although many would conceive of religion, as somehow separate from the mundane affairs of life, this can not be the case. Also, in regard to what is considered as the spiritual realm, wherein, through prayer or hisbodedus (meditation), we may reach great heights of sublime experience that seem “out of the ordinary:” these experiences must not take precedent over our attempts to live a righteous life, in all the manner of details.

Yet, perhaps, it is all to common to focus on the spiritual component, to the exclusion of leading a leading a life based upon G-d’s commandments. Thus, a compartmentalization of spiritual experiences may occur, while conducting oneself in a manner akin to secular standards. Rather, the sublime ways that we connect to G-d should sharpen our acuity to bring down this awareness into every aspect of our lives, encompassing all areas that might otherwise be overlooked, disregarded, or not held up to the light of reason, within the perspective given to us by all of kitvei kodesh (Holy Scripture).

parashas Ki Tisa 5781 – Gold Dust Words Give Life: Torah for the Soul

The incident of the golden calf conveys within the narrative, an allusion to the law of the sotah – the wayward wife – whereof a woman suspected of adultery is tested by way of drinking "bitter water." Israel is likened to the sotah, in this case, because the people, in a sense, committed adultery by turning away from H'Shem, and worshipping another god.
  1. parashas Ki Tisa 5781 – Gold Dust
  2. parashas Ki Tisa – Incense and Avodah
  3. parashas Ki Tisa 5781 – the Remedy Prevails
  4. parashas Tetzaveh 5781 – Exilic Faith
  5. parashas Tetzaveh 5781 – Crushed for the Sake of Purity