Friday, February 08, 2013

Mishpatim 5634 First Ma'amar

"ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם/And these are the laws that you shall place before them." (Shmos 21:1Why does God instruct Moshe to place the laws before them?  In fact, the entire pasuk seems extraneous.  Why does the Torah not state simply, as it does elsewhere, "God spoke to Moshe.  Tell the children of Israel …"

The  Chiddushei HaRim said in the name of the Rav from Parshischa z"l, that the Torah is teaching us that we must put the laws of the Torah before our very lives.  We committed to this when we said, "... כל אשר דבר ה' נעשה ונשמע/… everything that God said, we will do and accept (lit. hear)" (Shmos 24:7)  We committed to doing everything God had commanded even though we did not necessarily understand it all.  It was more important to us to perform God's will than to understand the reasons underlying His will.  Because of this approach, we merited understanding as well. 

This is why the Ten Commandments – simply commands – were given first followed by the laws representing understanding.  This concept is clear in the pasuk, "מגיד דבריו ליעקב חוקיו ומשפטיו לישראל/He tells His words to Ya'akov, His statutes and laws to Yisrael." (Tehillim 147:19)  His words represent His will without understanding the reasons.  Only afterwards, does He relate the reasons represented by His laws.   This is true for every mitzvah.  By cultivating a strong desire to accomplish God's will by performing His mitzvos we will, in the end, merit understanding as well.    

This idea is the answer to a question on a Rashi in the beginning of our parsha.  Rashi explains the words, "אשר תשים לפניהם/that you shall place before them, answering the question that we asked earlier.  He says, "God told Moshe, 'Don't think to teach them the laws a few times and be done with it.  You must teach them the reasons as well.'  This is why the pasuk says, 'that you shall place before them'; place the mitzvos before them like a set table that is ready for eating at."

The Sfas Emes asks, does anyone think that Moshe Rabbeinu would not teach the nation the reasons for the mitzvos?  Why does God have to make a point of instructing Moshe that he must teach them the reasons?  The answer is our concept.  Our intent when we perform mitzvos needs to be achieving the will of God, without necessarily understanding their reasons.  God, however, said that the nation merited understanding because we said, נעשה ונשמע/we will do and we will listen, thus committing to the mitzvos even before understanding them.  So he instructed Moshe to explain the reasons to us.

This idea refers to those mitzvos which confound us.  What of mitzvos which seem logical?  Most of our parsha is filled with civil laws.  Any ordered society would abide by them.  The Sfas Emes teaches that we must perform these mitzvos, too, only because God commanded us and not because of their logic.  Why?  Logic itself, the Sfas Emes teaches us, is a creation and cannot therefore be taken for granted.

He learns this from the first Rashi in our parsha.  Our parsha starts with the letter vav/and, connecting it to the previous parsha and the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai.  Rashi, quoting Chazal, infers from this connecting vav that the logical laws in our parsha were also given on Mount Sinai.  Why do Chazal need a pasuk to teach us that the laws in our parsha were given at Mount Sinai?  The entire Torah was given at Mount Sinai

The answer is that Chazal are in fact, not teaching us that these laws were also given at Mount Sinai.  That is obvious.  When Chazal say that these mitzvos were also given at Mount Sinai they are teaching us that the logic of these mitzvos comes from God.  Logic itself is a creation.  We find this concept in the following pasuk, "... אתה כוננת מישרים משפט וצדקה ביעקב אתה עשית/… You founded fairness; You have made the justice and righteousness of Ya'akov." (Tehillim 99:4)  Even our concept of fairness was created by God. 

Once we understand and accept that logic itself was created, it is clear that we need to perform even the logical mitzvos because God commanded us.  May we merit yearning to achieve God's will. Amen!

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