In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make your paths straight. Prov.3;6 ב”ה
“Let’s make the next few minutes last forever….”
Mishpatim/Terumah/Tetsaveh-The Next Stage of Creation 5777
The years of wandering through the wilderness were indeed the great training period for the Jewish people. The task of the Jewish people through all the centuries to come would be to spread the knowledge of the Teaching of God among all the classes of the people.
Aseret ha-Dibrot “The Ten Words”
In Judaism, these Ten ‘utterances’ are sacred but they are not taught as being separate from the rest of the commandments (statutes,ordinances, etc.) If these Ten utterances were to be taken on their own there is a big important “something missing”….
What is the point of a parent giving a rule to a child unless (when it is a positive commandment) there is some sort of concept of “reward”, meaning or benefit from the safeguarding and fulfillment of said rule? What is the point of a parent giving a child a rule unless (when it is a negative commandment) there is some concept of consequence or punishment which comes from adopting a negative behavior/transgression of these rules of import? These words on their own are extraordinary, but viewing them apart from their ensuing elucidations is incomplete thinking.
What the Israelites heard at Sinai has become known as the “Ten Commandments.” The Torah doesn’t call what was “said” at Sinai the Ten Commandments.
Think about that for a minute.
Labeling these words as such indeed makes it seem as though this list of ten things are the commandments of God.
The Torah calls them aseret ha’devarim (Ex. 34:28). The first verse, “I am the Lord your God …,” is viewed as either a command or a preface to the commands. Without establishing the understanding and belief in the One God Who has the authority to translate the constitution for His Kingdom and have it be honored by His subjects (partners) the rest will not hold significant value to the listener. Last lesson we looked briefly at the Preamble and historical exposition from this “Near East treaty- like” picture from the Torah: “I am the Lord your God. Who brought you out of the land of Egypt, from the slave-house.” Then we are given the outline and next specific detail. Our Parasha Mishpatim מִּשְׁפָּטִים (ordinances) is the beginning of the “fleshing out” or detailing of the the aseret ha’devarim.
(Excerpts from writing of Rabbi Sacks): Usually the aseret ha’devarim are portrayed as two sets of five, the first dealing with relationships between us and God (including honoring our parents since they, like God, brought us into being), the second with the relations between us and our fellow humans. Let us try to consider viewing them as three groups of three.
The first three – No other gods besides Me, no graven images, and no taking of God’s name in vain – are about God, the author and authority of the laws. The first states that Divine sovereignty transcends all other loyalties (No other gods besides Me). The second tells us that God is a living force, not an abstract power (No graven images). The third states that sovereignty presupposes reverence (Do not take My name in vain).
The second three – the Sabbath, honoring parents, and the prohibition of murder – are all about the principle of the createdness of life. Shabbat is the day dedicated to seeing God as creator, and the universe as His creation. Honoring parents acknowledges our human createdness. “Thou shall not murder” restates the central principle of the Noahide covenant that murder is not just a crime against man but a sin against God in whose image we are created.
So the fourth, fifth and sixth commands form the basic jurisprudential principles of Jewish life. They tell us to remember where we came from if we seek to know how to live.
The third three – against adultery, theft and bearing false witness – establish the basic institutions on which society depends. Marriage is sacred because it is the human bond closest in approximation to the covenant between us and God. The prohibition against theft establishes the integrity of property, which is one of the bases of a free society. Tyrants abuse property rights. The prohibition of false testimony is the precondition of justice.
A just society needs more than a structure of laws, courts and enforcement agencies. It also needs basic honesty on the part of us all.
There is no freedom without justice, and no justice without each of us
accepting individual and collective responsibility for truth-telling.
Finally comes the stand-alone prohibition against envying your neighbor’s house, wife, slave, maid, ox, donkey, or anything else belonging to him or her. This seems odd if we think of the “ten words” as commands, but not if we think of them as the basic principles of a free society.
The greatest challenge of any society is how to contain the universal phenomenon of envy: the desire to have what belongs to someone else. “… the primary driver of human violence is mimetic desire, that is, the desire to have what someone else has, which is ultimately the desire to be what someone else is. Envy can lead to breaking many of the other commands: it can move people to adultery, theft, false testimony and even murder. It led Cain to murder Abel, made Abraham and Isaac fear for their life because they were married to beautiful women, and led Joseph’s brothers to hate him and sell him into slavery. It was envy of their neighbors that led the Israelites often to imitate their religious practices and worship their gods.
So the prohibition of envy is not odd at all. It is the most basic force undermining the social harmony and order that are the aim of the Ten Commandments as a whole. Not only though do they forbid it; they also help us rise above it. It is precisely the first three commands, reminding us of God’s presence in history and our lives, and the second three, reminding us of our created-ness, that help us rise above envy.
We are here because God wanted us to be. We have what God wanted us to have. Why then should we seek what others have? If what matters most in our lives is how we appear in the eyes of God, why should we seek anything else merely because someone else has it?
It is when we stop defining ourselves in relation to God and start defining ourselves in relation to other people that competition, strife, covetousness and envy enter our minds, and they lead only to unhappiness.
Thirty-three centuries after they were first given, the Ten Words, the Ten Utterances, the Ten Commandments remain the simplest, shortest guide to the creation of a good society.
When we look at a commandment we want to look at the One Who fashioned it and the One Who gifted it. We want to meditate on it and apply it but also look into its repercussions. The commandments that come with a promise or a warning are especially illuminating. Each and every word of Torah is of great value. Not one stroke is transmitted for vanity. One example is this message to both parents and children: Parents- be sure to set a good example to your children. Children- don’t use as an excuse that your parents didn’t set a good example…
- Sh’mot 20:5 “You shall not worship them or serve them; for I, the LORD your God, am a jealous God, visiting the iniquity of the fathers on the children, on the third and the fourth generations of those who hate Me, 6 but showing lovingkindness to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments.
The Torah and Ezekiel’s message seems clear. I don’t somehow pay for the sin of my fathers, although my life may hold consequences of his actions and choices. I alone can choose my path. I alone am responsible for how I respond to my circumstances. My father alone is held accountable for his decisions and my children will not pay for my crimes. They may suffer from any negative influences (or excel because of positive effects I may have had on them), but my children will be judged based upon what they choose to do in their lives. The very best thing a mentor or parent can do for a child is foster and encourage a DAILY RELATIONSHIP with God.
The Tablets of Testimony, are given to the people…as the Groom sends a ring with a messenger, an agent…this agent is Moshe. Through time the Torah is handed down from generation to generation as an eternal covenant and those who grasp it become agents in this world, bringing the “proposal” to open hearts. Parasha Mishpatim (ordinances) is our guide as to how to keep the Thunder going! How to keep hearing Hashem going!!
The invitation to Sinai was
not just for the Hebrews.
When I extend the invitation out into the world I make Hashem’s Words…(it is as if I am walking around with God’s voice…) a little louder in the world!
John 8;25 “Who are You?” they asked. “Just what I have been telling you from the beginning,” Yeshua replied. 26 “I have much to say about you and much to judge. But the One who sent Me is truthful, and what I have heard from Him, I tell the world.” 27 They did not understand that He was telling them about the Father. 28 So Yeshua said, “When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and that I do nothing on My own, but speak exactly what the Father has taught Me. 29 He who sent Me is with Me. He has not left Me alone, because I always do what pleases Him.” 30 As Yeshua spoke these things, many believed in Him. 31So He said to the Jews who had believed Him, “If you continue in My word, you are truly My disciples. 32Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” 33“We are Abraham’s descendants,” they answered. “We have never been slaves to anyone. How can You say we will be set free?” 34 Yeshua replied, “Truly, truly, I tell you, everyone who sins is a slave to sin. 35A slave is not a permanent member of the family, but a son belongs to it forever. 36 So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.
John 15;1 “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. 3 “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. 5“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. 6 “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. 7“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. 9“Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. 10“If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.
- Mishlei 4;18 But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, That shines brighter and brighter until the full day. 19The way of the wicked is like darkness; They do not know over what they stumble. 20My son, give attention to my words; Incline your ear to my sayings. 21Do not let them depart from your sight; Keep them in the midst of your heart. 22For they are life to those who find them And health to all their body. 23Watch over your heart with all diligence, For from it flow the springs of life. 24Put away from you a deceitful mouth And put devious speech far from you. 25Let your eyes look directly ahead And let your gaze be fixed straight in front of you. 26 Watch the path of your feet and all your ways will be established.
Speaking My words loudly in the world.
How is this done? The texts seem to tell us precisely, without grey lines.
We are first meant to hear His words (this is done through study). Next, we are meant to actually apply these words (by living out His Torah- this will manifest itself differently in every single life, with some similarities within communities in agreement with the hermeneutic applied.) Thirdly, we are meant to teach what we have learned to others (we can do this through actual education in an official setting OR simply, oft best, by example.)
- Isaiah 28; 22And now do not carry on as scoffers, Or your fetters will be made stronger; For I have heard from the Lord GOD of hosts Of decisive destruction on all the earth. 23Give ear and hear my voice, Listen and hear my words. 24Does the farmer plow continually to plant seed? Does he continually turn and harrow the ground? 25 Does he not level its surface and sow dill and scatter cumin and plant wheat in rows, Barley in its place and rye within its area? 26For his God instructs and teaches him properly.
Studying the Torah
to God’s words.
Listening to God’s words that He spoke in those days and listening to God’s words as we make new applications of them for today. The Torah itself when used properly can be incredibly current. But we need to listen and learn. The idea of offerings was to speak to God, this dialogue still exists today. When we pray we speak to God. When we learn Torah we listen to God. When we follows the rules of the Torah then we bring a little more godliness into this world.
The building of the Mishkan was the starting point of bringing holiness into this world
which is the mandate of every member of the Assembly of God.
Jewish Law is the only system of laws that did not emanate from the people whose constitution it was intended to be. Judaism is the only, “Religion” that did not originate from the human beings who find in it the spiritual basis for their lives. It is precisely this “objective” quality of Jewish Law and of Jewish “religion” that makes them both unique, setting them apart clearly and explicitly from all else on earth that goes by the name of law or religion. It makes Jewish Law the sole cultural factor in making that may be considered the activator and culmination of every other manifestation of progress, while in itself as the given absolute ideal, the Law remains above all manifestations of human progress.
All other “religions and codes of law have originated only in the human minds of a given era; they merely express the conceptions of God, of human destiny, and of their relationship to God and to one another held by a given society at a specified period in history. Hence all these manmade religions and codes, like all other aspects of human civilization- science, art, folkways- are subject to change with the passing of time.
For by their very nature and origin they are nothing but expressions of levels reached by civilization at various stages of human development. Not so the Jewish “religion” and Jewish Law. They do not stem from beliefs held by human beings at one period or another. They do not represent time-bound human concepts of God, of things human and Divine. They are God-given; they contain ideas that, by the will of God, should mold the concepts of men for all time with regard to God and to things Divine, but above all with regard to man and human affairs.
From the very outset the Law of God stood in opposition to the people in whose midst it was to make its first appearance on earth. It was to prove its power first of all upon all His people, who opposed it because they were a “stiff necked people”. But precisely the resistance which this Law encountered among the people in whose midst it obtained its first dwelling place on earth is the most convincing proof of the Divine origin of this Law, a law which did not arise from within the people but came to the people from the outside and required centuries of struggle to win this people for itself so that they would become bearers of Laws of God through the ages.
-Hirsh Pentateuch on Shemot
עַיִן תַּחַת עַיִן שֵׁן תַּחַת שֵׁן
Ayin tachat ayin, shen tachat shen
…eye for eye, tooth for tooth
Sh’mot 21; 22 “If men struggle with each other and strike a woman with child so that she gives birth prematurely, yet there is no injury, he shall surely be fined as the woman’s husband may demand of him, and he shall pay as the judges decide. 23“But if there is any further injury, then you shall appoint as a penalty life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise. 26 “If a man strikes the eye of his male or female slave, and destroys it, he shall let him go free on account of his eye. 27 “And if he knocks out a tooth of his male or female slave, he shall let him go free on account of his tooth. 28 “If an ox gores a man or a woman to death, the ox shall surely be stoned and its flesh shall not be eaten; but the owner of the ox shall go unpunished. 29 “If, however, an ox was previously in the habit of goring and its owner has been warned, yet he does not confine it and it kills a man or a woman, the ox shall be stoned and its owner also shall be put to death. 30 “If a ransom is demanded of him, then he shall give for the redemption of his life whatever is demanded of him. 31“Whether it gores a son or a daughter, it shall be done to him according to the same rule. 32“If the ox gores a male or female slave, the owner shall give his or her master thirty shekels of silver, and the ox shall be stoned. 33“If a man opens a pit, or digs a pit and does not cover it over, and an ox or a donkey falls into it, 34 the owner of the pit shall make restitution; he shall give money to its owner, and the dead animal shall become his. 35“If one man’s ox hurts another’s so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide its price equally; and also they shall divide the dead ox. 36 “Or if it is known that the ox was previously in the habit of goring, yet its owner has not confined it, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall become his. 35“If one man’s ox hurts another’s so that it dies, then they shall sell the live ox and divide its price equally; and also they shall divide the dead ox. 36 “Or if it is known that the ox was previously in the habit of goring, yet its owner has not confined it, he shall surely pay ox for ox, and the dead animal shall become his.
#8478 (proper patrial adj, accusative adv, masc.n) tachat תַּחַת- the lower part, that which is below, under, beneath, in the place of, instead of.
- B’reshit 4:25 And Adam knew his wife again; and she bare a son, and called his name Seth: For God, said she, hath appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain slew.
- B’reshit 22:13 And Abraham lifted up his eyes, and looked, and behold behind him a ram caught in a thicket by his horns: and Abraham went and took the ram, and offered him up for a burnt offering in the stead of his son.
- Vayikra 14:42 And they shall take other stones, and put them in the place of those stones; and he shall take other mortar, and shall plaister the house. (context: house afflicted with tsara’at commonly mistranslated as leprosy.)
So we can see that this concept of “eye in the place of eye” is not in regard to literally taking out someone’s eye to somehow make up for the loss of an eye. This is about payment in return in some form.
The value must be just and fair therefore it would make little sense to presume an actual eye could automatically be of equivalent ‘value’ of another actual physical eye. Are the diamond cutter’s eye and the brick layer’s eye of proportionate value? The restitution will be determined on a case by case basis, before the ‘divinely’ appointed Judges from within the most upright of the people (beginning within the parties involved, going up to the heads of the 50’s, 100’s and 1,000’s and upwards to Moshe who would even inquire of the Lord through the Urim and Thumim should there be something he couldn’t determine ‘reconcile’ on his own.)
Sh’mot 18;21…you should choose some capable men and appoint them as leaders of the people: leaders of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens. They must be God-fearing men who can be trusted and who cannot be bribed.
Devarim 16;18…they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19“You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20 “Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue… [Requirements for biblical leaders who are fit to judge these cases.]
What we will attempt to accomplish with this time together is to gather up sparks and golden treasures into our hearts from some of the last parashiot of sefer Sh’mot. Mishpatim (ordinances, laws that tell us our story), Terumah (lifted up portion, gift to Hashem), Tetsaveh ( you command, the deeply beautiful way to clothe the Priests of Hashem)… whatever we could not grasp or carry this cycle I pray will be picked up at the appointed time as we come together again. Mishpatim is showing us examples from our history. Our family history is a template, and through these laws we can correct the history- rectify. This is not just some remote list for a dispensation unrelated to our own. We learn our history, and how it relates to these laws and most importantly…how we are meant to live today because of and through these laws.
These divine gifts aren’t “old”
they are the very key
to all that has been & is & will be.
B’reshit 27; 41So Esau bore a grudge against Jacob because of the blessing with which his father had blessed him; and Esau said to himself, “The days of mourning for my father are near; then I will kill my brother Jacob.” 42 Now when the words of her elder son Esau were reported to Rebekah, she sent and called her younger son Jacob, and said to him, “Behold your brother Esau is consoling himself concerning you by planning to kill you. 43“Now therefore, my son, obey my voice, and arise, flee to Haran, to my brother Laban!
B’reshit 2;2 By the seventh day God completed His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. 3Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made. 4This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created, in the day that the LORD God made earth and heaven.…
Sh’mot 20:11 “For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea and all that is in them, and rested on the seventh day; therefore the LORD blessed the sabbath day and made it holy.
Sh’mot 31:17 “It is a sign between Me and the sons of Israel forever; for in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, but on the seventh day He ceased from labor, and was refreshed.”
Taking time instead of in chatter, or on Facebook or on a game… and elevating those five minutes spent in complete concentration and intention…to separate as a gift to Hashem. Doing so… unlike you’re doing anything else…separate. Terumah- an elevation. We have been taking in chapter after chapter regarding the pattern that Moshe was shown in heaven. This pattern was to be brought down into this work and heartfully crafted by men (and women). However, as clearly ‘obsessed’ Hashem is with this construction and everything having to do with the rites herein, before the actual verses regarding creating this place…we find a reiteration of the Sabbath commands. The Torah is telling us, no matter how important, how divine the task at hand may seem…the preservation of Sabbath has a higher precedence.
The me that exists tonight
at that Sabbath table
never existed before.
I can make it a T’rumah.
We “build” a ‘cathedral’ in time when we set apart Terumah especially on Shabbat, during the times HASHEM has explicitly deemed as special to HIM. Will it still be Shabbat- yes. But to make it a Trumah Shabbat…is in our hands.
With Trumah we enter a completely new topic, a completely new mindset. We shift from lots and lots of laws to detailed instructions on how to build the portable Temple. The pattern…the way I will show you, the way you saw…
Breaking up the revelation at Sinai, Moshe’s witness of the pattern in Heaven, and the construction of the Mishkan is the terrible event of the chet ha’egel- the sin of the calf (carefully read Sh’mot 32). We will look more at that, b’ezrat Hashem (God willing), but for now let us attempt to internalize and connect some of these themes and elements.
Did you see that?
The very mission of the first human beings was to labor-abad, and to guard-guard-shamar the garden paradise. This was a day that was entirely “sabbath”. After the Golden calf the first thing Moshe choses to the tell the people is to guard and keep the sabbath. “You want to restore closeness with God? You want a spiritual experience? Don’t make calf’s- keep the Sabbath holy.” The place designed by God to promote relationship, closeness, worship here on earth is the Mishkan. But before you think that a place can contain Me, before you get caught up in drawing near to Me through your efforts and labor (even divine labor) remember,
…the Sabbath comes first because
the Sabbath IS
that place for closeness to Me.
Every single sefer starts out with something strong
to take you into
the journey of the sefer.
When we end a sefer we say
Chazak Chazak V’nitzchazek; Be Strong, Be Strong, Let us be strengthened. Let’s get strong from what we learned from
the sefer and get strong
to learn the next sefer.
Let’s take what we learned from sefer B’reshit- getting stronger from every story we learned, may all these be strengthening us to learn from sefer Sh’mot and may we bring every lesson we learned, every insight and Chazak Chazak to come
into the book of Vayikra.
We end Exodus with
Vayakhel and Pekeudei. Somehow the contents of these parashiot are how we are meant to get excited at the end of Sh’mot
coming into Vayikra.
At creation God looked at all that He made…the work was completed…it was good…so He blessed creation. Upon the creation of the tabernacle the people have done the work, it was completed…Moshe saw it and said that it was good…and he blessed the people.
This is confirmation
that it was a good thing to make man,
just so that he can make this place
to bring about the knowledge
that there is a creator- God in this world.
To make God’s presence known here is the next stage of creation itself.
Of this may we learn, of this may we partake, of this may we practice.
May you be strengthened like never before to hear the words of Hashem.
May you come closer and closer to Yeshua through learning the important details of the pattern he played out for us. May we hear Hashem’s words and make them louder in this world. May we open our hearts to new ways we can lift up a Terumah to God in all aspects of our time. May we testify to the outstanding, undeniable hand of the Divine in our lives and our world as this Living book of Torah intersects with our reality. May we build and may we cease all in order to connect with Him.
Resources: much of this entry was learned from Shlomo Katz, Rabbi Ari Kahn, Rabbi Sacks, Rabbi Chaim Richman and more. Go to Homepage on this blog and find My Resources entry for a complete list.
This and our physical learning is in the hope we have for a Refuah Shelemah for Lilly. Be strong for this next phase of your treatment. We all love you. And..
For Mirjam, I can’t believe its almost been one year. You are with me everyday.