The Rules We Live By

Divin

In this week’s Torah reading, Mishpatim, the Torah enumerates many, many laws governing human behavior and actions. Amazingly, the very first ordinance has to do with the proper treatment of Hebrew slaves; they can only work for six years and must go free in the seventh, and if he was married when he became a slave, his wife goes with him.

One would think that after centuries of slavery in Egypt, the Torah would forbid the practice, but that’s not what happens; it puts parameters on it, but doesn’t abolish it. Rabbi Yitz Greenberg, in this week’s D’var Torah for Hadar, points out that while the Torah and its laws are designed to move us towards a messianic world, it starts “by affirming the value of the real world as it is and the importance of living life in it.”

In other words, God meets the people where they are in the hopes–and with the intent–of bringing them closer to an ideal. The Torah reflects the reality of the world as it is at that time, and then works to improve on that reality.

We’ve come a long way since then, but many of the problems addressed then are still with us. People are still needy, workers are mistreated, women are treated as chattel or worse in some parts of the world.

We may never achieve perfection in the world, and I’m not sure I’d even want to. However, as in the time of the Israelites wandering in Sinai, we have a mandate to take the status quo and improve upon it, and that’s why God created humanity, to continually finish the work of creation. Now, having entered into the covenant with God, our responsibility takes on new meaning, and a new impetus to act.

May we be blessed to appreciate and to thrive in our world today, and to see the dreams of a better world fulfilled in our lifetimes. And may each of us be the ones to make it happen.

2 Comments
  1. Beth Kramer

    Thank you, Rabbi Elkodsi, for these beautiful words of Torah. Your messages inspired by the weekly parashah always uplift me and give me much to consider. Shabbat shalom!

    Reply
    • Rabbi Elkodsi

      Thank you Rabbi!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Latest Sermons

Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun
Yom Kippur: Hope, Despair And A Shining Sun

Yom Kippur 5783 Like many of the quotes and poems that make their way into use, a poem attributed to an anonymous person in a concentration camp, or in hiding, became somewhat of an urban legend, and has often been taken out of context, as well as not accurately...

Kindness

Kol Nidre, 5783 On Rosh Hashanah, we began our prayers in the hopes of moving God, the Holy Blessed One, from kisei din, the throne or seat of judgment, to kisei rachamim, the throne or seat of compassion. Ten days later, here we are at the eve of Yom Kippur,...

Shema: Listening, Hearing and the Shofar

Rosh Hashanah 5783, Day 2 The word, “Shema.” What do you think of when you hear it? Usually, we think of “The Shema” as the verses we chant or sing from the book of Devarim, Deuteronomy, and in that context, it’s a bold theological statement. It is an idea which goes...

Latest Midrash HaZak

Bo: Telling Our Story, Enhancing our Senses
Bo: Telling Our Story, Enhancing our Senses

Bo: Telling Our Story, Enhancing our Senses Rabbi Sue Live Elwell When we turn to the texts that have accompanied many throughout the days of their lives, we look for directional signs that may be useful to us as we navigate our final days and years. As we age, we...

Emor: Questioning The Status Quo
Emor: Questioning The Status Quo

Emor: Questioning The Status Quo Dr. Betsy Stone I am fascinated by this parsha, with its juxtaposition of HOLY days and UNHOLY people. Emor begins by telling us how a Kohen may be defiled/ritually impure–by visiting a graveyard, shaving parts of their heads or...

Miketz: Preparing For Life’s Journey
Miketz: Preparing For Life’s Journey

Miketz: Preparing for Life's Journey Rabbi Dayle Friedman In Parashat Miketz, we encounter Joseph as a person growing in wisdom. For the third time in his life, he is moved to interpret a pair of dreams. As a youth, Joseph reports two dreams in which he is a center of...

Latest Personal Blogs

Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem
Blessing My Bended Knees-A Poem

This past week, I participated in a Ritualwell class with Alden Solovy on "Writing From One Word of Torah." I distilled 3 stream-of-consciousness prompts on the word "Baruch/Berekh," the root of which can mean "blessing' and "knee, into this poem. Blessing my bended...

The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives
The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives

Photo: publicdomainpictures.net The Eshet Hayil In Our Lives An email from My Jewish Learning about “A Woman of Valor” prompted me to pivot the next evening’s planned adult learning session to looking at these 22 verses from Mishlei, the Book of Proverbs. These verses...

Live Long and Prosper?
Live Long and Prosper?

By Oklahoma Heritage Association, Gaylord-Pickens Museum - Author, CC BY-SA 3.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=25656727 Live Long and Prosper? January 5, 2022 began the third year of the seven and a half-year cycle of Daf Yomi, the practice of...

Pin It on Pinterest