Bigger Than Me

Friday, 5 February, 2016 - 1:12 pm

On Sunday we had a guest lecturer from Ohio. Rabbi Nochum Mangel spoke about the Torah’s view on immigration.  While immigration is an issue that secular people and courts will undoubtedly have an opinion about, we learned that many of the principle concerns are indeed addressed in the Torah.  For example, the Torah addresses the morality of borders, security, cultural cohesion and economic impacts – amongst other relevant factors.

As one participant noted, “I’m amazed at how the Torah’s perspective is so logical, yet so G-dly. It takes the heated discourse and transforms it into a holy endeavor.  It really helped me rid myself of the vitriol that this topic arouses.”


We often view Torah as either Divine edicts, or the wisdom of ancient societies.  When we talk about kosher we often try to rationalize it in the context of historical health concerns. Today, as well, we may approach kosher as something I ought to do for my own benefit, be it health, food safety, or environmental consciousness. These are great considerations. But, ultimately, kosher is a law that we observe because G-d said so. It’s considered a supra-rational decree.

The advantage in this category of commandments is that although our minds and hearts are less engaged, our dedication is greater. We do them exclusively to demonstrate our commitment to G-d. Sometimes, they even defy logic. Yet, as Jews, we remain devoted to G-d’s Torah.

This week’s parsha, Mishpatim, discusses a different type of law. Mishpatim are logical laws. Examples of such rational rules are, “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Honor your parents,” etc. Even if G-d did not demand that we fulfill these precepts, we would hopefully observe them anyway.

When the Torah introduces these rational mitzvot, it emphasizes that these too were delivered by G-d at Sinai.  Yes, we may have imagined them ourselves. However, now that G-d asked us to observe them they carry a different weight. They are also a means of bonding with our Creator.

It’s easy to remember G-d when we are observing the laws of kosher, or some of the rituals of Judaism. More difficult, however, is to connect with G-d when we are doing something we believe in already. 

By reminding us that even the rational commandments were given at Sinai, the Torah highlights that all aspects of our lives must be dedicated to G-d.  We don’t give charity simply because it is the correct thing to do. Tzedaka is important to us because it is G-d’s wish. When I write a check to tzedakah, I am not only helping others. I am helping myself connect with Hashem.

Something I ought to ask myself is, “Am I doing this simply because it makes sense, or feels good, to me? Or am I utilizing this opportunity to become more holy?

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