Thursday, January 31, 2008

Mishpatim - The Vav

Rashi comments on the words - Ve'Eileh HaMishpatim, Vav Mosif Al HaRishonim"-the letter Vav connects this to what preceded it. Rashi explains what this means- that just as what's come before is from Sinai, so too what is about to be stated now is from Sinai.

Rav Shlomo Yoseif Zevin points out that the laws in this parsha are civil laws, mishpatim. Every civil society has such laws. People make laws and people changelaws. What is different about our laws? What separates us from the rest of the world is this one little letter, this connector,the VAV. We might mistakenly think that what makes us unique as a culture are ourritual practices and observances. While these are beautiful, modes of practice are not what truly set us apart as a society, because rituals abound in every culture. What's unique about our religious way of life is that our standards of civility are of Divine origin.

Rav Elchanon Wasserman points out that the true meaning of "Tzidkatcha TzedekLe'Olam VeToratchah Emet" – “Your justice is just forever, and Your Torahis true” is that Jewish law is fair because the Torah is true. It is that divinity of Torah that sets us apart and that makes our laws true.

Jews of all ages and backgrounds without exception need to constantly reinforce within ourselves our belief in the divinity of our laws, specifically the societal laws. Rabbinic tradition permeates the religious lives we live. Trusting and respecting the rabbinic system is key to our continued commitment to traditional Jewish life. It is possible, yet tragic, to emerge from an upbringing in a traditional Jewish community without respect for halacha as a true way of life. It is possible to live in an orthodox community and not get that the way we are to relate to and treat others is a holy, Divine matter.

The Vav that links the Mishpatim to G-d must be studied and our commitment to this connection must always grow stronger. May G-d bless us that it should be so.

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