Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )
Rabbi Kalman Packouz' popular Jewish weekly.
GOOD MORNING! What is true spirituality? My beloved friend, Rabbi Avraham Goldhar, who has a revolutionary approach to helping kids get better grades with less study time in both secular and Jewish studies (Goldhar.com), came up with the following paradigm of attributes to clarify your definition of spirituality. Put a check mark by one attribute from each pair that you think is more spiritual:
Now, if you want to try something interesting, put an "x" mark by each attribute that you associate with the Jewish people.
What is fascinating is that most people associate spirituality with emotion, kindness, solitude, nature and serenity ... and the Jewish people with intellect, justice, community, God and challenge. The reason is that we have an Eastern notion of spirituality -- an all encompassing emotional bliss connecting with the universe. The Jewish approach to spirituality is based on fulfilling a purpose, to fix the world (tikun olom)-- which requires intellect, justice, community, God and challenge.
For the Jew, intellect is to be channeled into emotion -- emotions can't rule you; you must do the right thing. Justice provides for a world of kindness. A society has to be willing to identify rights and wrongs and stand up to evil. If not, one can attempt to do kindness, but end up enabling evil. Community provides you with an understanding of who you are - a member of a people - even when you are alone, you are still part of something more. Realizing that there is a Creator and having a relationship with the Creator makes the natural much more profound. This world is a veiled reality with the Creator behind it. People can only receive serenity when they live up to their challenges; otherwise, they are tormented in their pursuit of serenity by not living up to their potential.
There was once a Jewish girl who stopped in Israel on her way to India to seek spirituality. Friends suggested that she go to Neve Yerushalayim to take a class and give Judaism one last shot before seeking other pathways to spirituality. The one class happened to be studying the laws regarding returning a lost item -- when is an item considered lost, what if the person gave up hope of its return, what constitutes a legitimate identifying mark to claim the item, to what extent and cost of time and money are you obligated for returning the item... The girl was furious! This is NOT spirituality. She left in a huff and headed off to India.
Six months later she and her guru were discussing a philosophical matter while walking through the village. They came upon a wallet filled with rupees. The guru picked it up, put it in his pocket and continued with his point. The girl interrupted him and asked, "Aren't you going to see if there is identification in the wallet to return it?" The guru replied, "No. It was his karma that he lost it; it's my karma that I found it. It's mine." The girl implored, "But, he might have a large family and that might be his monthly earnings ... they could starve if you don't return it!" The guru responded, "That is their karma."
The young lady then remembered the class she took in Jerusalem -- and realized that spirituality without justice, kindness and concern for others is just a false spiritual high, corrupt emotion. She returned to Jerusalem and ultimately returned to her Torah heritage.
The Torah gives us great insight on spirituality. The Almighty appears to Avraham on the third day following his Bris mila (circumcision of the covenant). In the middle of their conversation, Avraham saw three men approaching and wishes to offer hospitality. He says to the Almighty, "My Lord, if I have found favor in Your eyes, do not go away from Your servant." Avraham is asking the Almighty to "wait on hold" while he goes to take care of three mortals? How can this be? What can be greater spirituality than talking with God?
The answer is given in the Talmud (Shevuos 35b, Shabbos 127a), "Hospitality to travelers is greater than receiving the Divine Presence" -- better to be like God than to talk with God! Better to take responsibility for the world and its inhabitants, than to commune with God. That is true spirituality ... to be God-like -- and that is why one needs intellect, justice, community, God and challenge if one truly wants genuine spirituality!
Torah Portion of the Week
One of the most mitzvah-filled Torah portions, containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments. Included are laws regarding: the Hebrew manservant and maidservant, manslaughter, murder, injuring a parent, kidnapping, cursing a parent, personal injury, penalty for killing a slave, personal damages, injury to slaves, categories of damages and compensatory restitution, culpability for personal property damage, seduction, occult practices, idolatry, oppression of widows, children and orphans.
The portion continues with the laws of: lending money, not cursing judges or leaders, tithes, first-born sons, justice, returning strayed animals, assisting the unloading of an animal fallen under its load, Sabbatical year, Shabbat, the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot & Succot).
Mishpatim concludes with the promise from the Almighty to lead us into the land of Israel, safeguard our journey, ensure the demise of our enemies and guarantee our safety in the land -- if we uphold the Torah and do the mitzvot. Moses makes preparations for himself and for the people and then ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.
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based on Love Your Neighbor by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"If you meet your enemy's ox or his donkey going astray, you shall repeatedly bring it back to him: (Exodus 23:4).
Rabbi Naftoli Zvi Yehuda Berlin points out in his commentary, HaEmek Dovor, that the Torah stresses the obligation to return a lost object to your enemy. By "enemy" the Torah means someone who usually insults you.
You might think that you should keep a distance from this enemy and not come into contact with him by returning his belongings. Therefore, the Torah emphasizes that even in the case of an enemy, you must return what is rightfully his.
Furthermore, because of the merit of this mitzvah, he might not insult you in the future. Even if he does insult you, however, you should display restraint.
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QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The sun shines and warms and lights us
and we have no curiosity to know why this is so;
but we ask the reason of all evil, of pain, and hunger ...
-- Ralph Waldo Emerson