Each week we feature a different outstanding Florida Rabbi.
Torah Portion of the week:
Rabbi Tzvi Nightingale
With Parshat Mishpatim, the fun days of reading Torah are over. The stories of the Torah basically cease to exist except in a couple of instances. From here on in, the Torah seems to be primarily concerned with the nitty gritty of detailing Mitzvot. Immediately after the most powerful and central event of receiving the Torah at Mount Sinai, we are suddenly hit with intricate laws dealing with torts, goring oxen, assault and battery, theft, seduction, verbal abuse, judicial process, leasing and lending, medical expenses and wages, amongst other things. Indeed, much of the parsha sounds more like Business Law 201 than religion.
This mixing of religion and law has long been an irritant for those who wish to keep their religion of the more spiritual matter instead of the hair splitting Talmudic discourses that surround these areas of Judaism. In fact, it is often viewed as sucking the life out of Judaism and a removal of the passion of religion, transforming Judaism to trivial regimen and detail.
And yet, the Torah goes out of its way to list these details before the famous statement of Naaseh Venishma - We shall do and (then) shall we understand, which defines the point of the Jews entering into the covenant with G-d.
The fact of the matter is this parsha, with its myriad of laws, in many ways defines in a far greater way our relationship with G-d. It is one thing to be religious and spiritual on a mountaintop, in a church or synagogue; but quite another in our daily dealings with our fellow man. It is no great challenge to be moral and G-dlike when the spirit moves you; it is quite another scenario for each and every Jew to infuse his or her daily actions with holiness and ethics. Abstract law may seem tiresome and petty at times, but it is the building blocks for Justice, and hence crucial. Thus, Mishpatim, gives us the context to express our holiness in our daily moral judgments and business, thereby providing holiness in all aspects of our lives.
It is this detail to law and justice that has made the Jews so powerfully connected not just to their religion, but moral beacons for the world throughout all the ages.