Divrei Torah

PARSHAS MISHPATIM 5778

At the end of last week’s Parsha, we read about the Jewish people receiving the Ten Commandments and the Mitzva of building an altar to G-d in the Tabernacle. In the beginning of this week’s Parsha, we read about laws of justice . . . about a Jewish slave . . . injuring another person . . . property damage . . . to name a few. When G-d arranged the Torah, He did so with a purpose. There is a reason for the order of the sections in the Torah. It is not random. So, what is the connection between the end of last week’s Parsha and the beginning of this week’s Parsha?

Rashi teaches us one solution to the problem. Just as the Ten Commandments were given by G-d to the Jewish people through Moshe at Mount Sinai, so too were the commandments in this Parsha – given by G-d to the Jewish people through Moshe at Mount Sinai. The proof to this is the wording; “And these are the judgments.” “And these” – is a conjunction that indicates an addition to that which was stated previously.

Rashi is teaching us that the juxtaposition of these two portions teaches us that there is more to the Torah than the Ten Commandments. Just as belief in G-d, keeping Shabbos, honoring parents, not murdering , etc. are essential mitzvos in the Torah, so are the Mitzvos relating to caring for another person’s property and well-being essential mitzvos in the Torah. A person should not say to himself, “As long as I keep Shabbos, I can behave in whatever manner I want.” “As long as I believe in G-d, I can do whatever I want.” Therefore, the Torah puts these two sections together. There is more to belief in G-d than lip service. There is more to belief in G-d than the length of one’s sleeve. Getting along with a fellow human being – being respectful of another person and another person’s property – is all part of Torah.

However, one also has to be careful that this is not misinterpreted or given the wrong emphasis. On several occasions, students have asked - for example - “Is it a better to do only the Mitzvos between fellow human beings, or the Mitzvos between man and G-d.” “Is it better to be a ‘good person’ or to keep kosher?” My response is usually, “Which is worse? One is not a complete person either way.”

The Torah does not mean that one only has to do the Mitzvos between fellow human beings – to the exclusion of the Mitzvos between man and G-d. The Torah states “and these”. It is a conjunction. The Mitzvos between man and G-d must be done in conjunction with the Mitzvos between fellow human beings 

One set is not enough. A half of a person is not a whole person. In order for a person to be in good health, the whole body must be functioning properly. One-half of a body functioning does not make for a strong person. The same is true with the Mitzvos. Mitzvos between man and G-d are important, but not to the exclusion of Mitzvos between fellow human beings. Mitzvos between fellow human beings are important, but not to the exclusion of Mitzvos between man and G-d. 

We have to try to do all the Mitzvos, not just pick and choose those that are convenient or make the most sense to us. They were all given to us by G-d through Moshe at Mount Sinai. In order to build a building, one cannot cut corners . . .leave out any steps. So too, we have to do all of the steps – all of the Mitzvos – and then we can build a complete Jewish people.