MidrESHET Hayil

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Parashat Mishpatim-Not So Small After All….

Parashat Mishpatim

Not So Small After All….

Rules of the City of New York - Title 9
Procurement Policy Board Rules

   §1-01  Use of Language in These Rules.

   (a)  Singular-plural and gender rules. In these Rules, words in the singular number include the plural and those in the plural include the singular. (Yes, you a reading a Devar Torah right now….). Words of a particular gender include any gender and the neuter. When the sense so indicates, words of the neuter gender refer to any gender.

   (b)  Titles. (if you’re bored already, skip the next two points….)The titles to chapters, sections, subdivisions, and paragraphs, or other titles contained in these Rules, are for convenience and reference only and in no way define, describe, extend, or limit the scope or intent of the substantive provision to which the title applies unless the context so requires.

   (c)  Listing(s) not indicative of order of preference. Unless otherwise stated, a listing of factors, criteria, or subjects in these Rules does not constitute an order of preference. (Okay, I’m not sure how you were physically able to read this far….but keep going….)

   (d)  Meanings. The words defined in this section shall have the meanings set forth below whenever they appear in these Rules unless the context in which they are used clearly requires a different meaning, or a different definition is prescribed for a particular provision.

Blah, blah, blah....BORING!

Nobody likes reading boring instructions. Who would want to read rule, after rule, after rule? I don’t know about you, but that’s certainly not what I do on my free time. Yet, Parashat Mishpatim is full of laws and commandments that we are meant to read and follow to its precise detail. How can we keep them if we can barely even read through them once? Sometimes I’m just not in the mood to read all about the sale of slaves or about theft of sheep and oxen….

Even if these laws seem somewhat ‘dry’ to us, if we realized how important it is to keep each and every single one to its finest detail, we would even memorize the entire Parasha! What we have to understand is that the missvot we are given aren’t as simple as just reward and punishment. We might say to our selves So big deal, I won’t bother with the trivial little missvot in this Parasha, like feeding animal carcasses to the dogs if it’s not kosher to eat, and I’ll face the consequent punishment for it, I’ll live… But if we really knew what a big deal each and every little sin is, and alternately, how powerful each and every missva we do is, we would be much more careful in the manner in which we behave.

When we were fortunate enough to have a Beit Mikdash, when a person sinned just one ‘tiny’ sin, they were obligated to bring an entire animal sacrifice known as a korban to make up for it. Since we use the concept of korban so often, maybe we can forget what a big deal it really is, it’s an entire procedure. Just think about it. One ‘little’ sin like lashon hara and you had to take a high quality cow or ox from your own personal possesion, or go out and buy one, wake up early one morning and trek across Eres Yisrael to the Beit HaMikdash with this massive animal and wait in line along with thousands of other people (and their massive cows) until it would finally be your turn at the mizbeah (the altar) if you were lucky enough to be taken that day (if you weren’t, you would have to find accommodations for the night for you….and your cow). So you finally make it to the towering mizbeah. Now the process can finally begin. First, the animal for the korban is brought and must be checked for blemishes (a process known as hakravah), then something known as semikhah takes place, where the owner of the korban places his hands on the head of the animal and presses down with all of his strength and begins to confess his sins. Picture yourself doing this. It is not an easy thing to do; not physically and not emotionally. Just imagine yourself with you hands on a cows head pushing with all your might, screaming out with regret and tears what you have down wrong. You are trying to concentrate deeply and, meanwhile, the animal is moving and kicking, and making wild noises. A few minutes later, this large cow is held down so it could be slaughtered because of your sin, and is put to death (shehitah). Picture to yourself this animal being decapitated in front of your very eyes. Now blood starts to flow out everywhere, and part of it is received in a vessel to be sanctified (a process known as kabalah), while the rest is left to flow. The Kohen then carries this blood (halakhah) and then applies and sprinkles it in a ritual way(zerikah) and the rest of the animal parts are burnt on the altar as a korban/sacrifice to HaKadosh Barukh Hu (haktarah), while some other parts are left to be eaten (akhilah). Imagine the scent of burning flesh, of an animal turned to ashes before our eyes. What a humbling experience; it could have been us.

This entire procedure for one small sin. Does it seem small anymore? I don’t think so. Read the Parasha again. Would you dare even think about transgressing one of these ‘random’ or ‘unimportant’ missvot? I don’t think so. We do not have any concept of how profound the effects of our missvot and aveirot are. It is not just about mechanically doing something we don’t understand; there are deep spiritual implications behind every single one of our actions. If we do something even small wrong, look at the entire procedure we must go through in order to correct it. This is no small matter.

The effects of our actions are far-reaching. Be’ezrat HaShem after 120 years, we will be judged based on the ‘Hok u’Mishpat’ we have accomplished in our lives. Hok refers to the missvot and aveirot we have done and their respective reward and punishment. So what would Mishpat possibly mean? Hok pretty much seems to cover it all…

Mishpat refers to the impact we had on other people’s lives through our own personal actions. Mishpat is the far-reaching effect we had on other people when we had no idea that the ‘small’ missva we did had saved another Jew. Even the smallest action we take upon ourselves can have a profound effect on others. It is no coincidence that this Parasha is called Parashat Mishpatim. These seemingly unimportant laws become the basis for how we treat each other, for the effect we have on other people’s lives. This is why we must be extra careful with precisely these laws….

Rebbetzin Ginzberg offers a wonderful mashal to beautifully capture this concept. She explains to us that life is often like a play. When you are standing on stage, the light shines so strong on you that you cannot see the audience, and you assume nobody sees you. But this is actually the very moment that everybody is looking directly at you, the spotlight is on you! No matter how big or how small your line in the play, everybody is listening. And sometimes, it is precisely that one little line that twists the whole plot and changes the story.
Likewise, even the smallest thing that you do, you would be surprised who is paying attention, and you would be even more surprised how much you may have inspired them to grow. Most times we never even realize how much we can affect others; make sure the effect you have on those around you is a positive one.

Be’ezrat HaShem, may we all develop this awareness that even the smallest things we do can influence others greatly even when we do not know it, and that we should be positive role models for those around us. Now that we understand the power of a korban, today, when we don’t have a Beit Hamikdash and offer Tefillot in place of korbanot, let us realize what the strength of Tefillah is, and strive to daven with more strength and closeness to HaKadosh Barukh Hu, all to merit the coming of Mashiah where we can once again offer korbanot to HaShem Yitbarakh, Amen!

This Devar Torah is dedicated to each and every person who had a deep and profound effect on my own life by emulating the Ways of HaShem and did not even know it….

Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!
Ariella Samimi

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