In this portion we have a long list of legal, moral, and ethical responsibilities we have towards each other. These legal matters are very spiritual. This portion gives us the option to uplift the spiritual realms to those of the physical and material. to have a dialog with Divinity. To shift a human behavior.
In Mishpatim Torah Portion we have a long list of the legal, moral, and ethical responsibilities we have towards each other. In this Portion we have a long list of laws that refine the obligations we have as humans towards fellow humans. Whether in terms of finance, whether in terms of how we are supposed to treat people who work for us, of how to deal with a person who killed or stolen, whether intentionally whether unintentionally. What are we suppose to do with those people. What are we supposed to do with this kind of human behaviors?
We have laws we are to follow – Divine laws. We are living under Divine rules. Our behavior is observed under the Divine judging system. The heavenly courtroom. There is no way out of these. We have accepted all these laws, legal moral and ethical obligation when we have said – Everything G-d will say we shall do. Everything G-d will command us we shall obey.
So We read this portion and we read a long and in a way kind of even exhausting list of laws. Some of which we find difficult to even relate-to as people living in these day and age. I think it is safe to say that unfortunately, by innocently looking and reading this portion we understand how humanity is far, so far, light years away from the biblical laws of justice in its behavior. Amazingly, as much as these laws are just, right, logical and correct – even mandatory in terms of the creation of a just society. One glimpse around us is enough to realize we live in a twisted reality. A reality that does not take heavenly court seriously, and surly most of times do not act upon the Divine rules.
We think we understand the truth, however, while reading this portion – the laws and commandments even seem to be against the truth. When this happens, We must remember that there is an absolute truth we are not aware of. And that the Divine order of things is there and very active, even when we cannot grasp it. So what would be the right way of reading this portion? or How can we find a connection to this portion while living in the 21st century? Let’s try to understand…
It has been mentioned many times before, that all matters or aspects we encounter in the revealed Torah, in the actual reality of it – in the story itself, also exist in the hidden Torah, in the concealed Torah, which can be revealed or shown to us through spirituality or spiritual observance on what is hidden and concealed but still expressed in the texts.
In other words, when it comes to Torah and reality in general, the spiritual have a material expression and the other way around. Therefore, the laws in this portion - the laws of crime, embezzlement and judgment also exist in spirituality. Or because they are exist in spirituality they also exist in reality. In our material world. Let's Dive into this idea...
The Zohar states that Torah has both a body and a soul. The Torah’s “body” is its physical dimension — it’s recounting of the physical history of the universe and its instructions for the physical life of human beings in it. Animating this body is a soul — a spiritual dimension in which every law and event, and their every detail has its metaphysical significance. Body and soul complement and fulfill each other. The body is a vehicle for the soul, extending the soul’s reach to areas it could not touch on its own. A body without a soul is dark and cold and therefore often a law or event in Torah might seem dry, prosaic or trivial. However, that is only until it is viewed or explained in the light of its spiritual import. Lets take an example:
This portion starts with the verse: And these are the Laws that you shall set before them. The Zohar explains: These are the laws, means, these are the laws of reincarnations. These laws are connecting between the spiritual realms and the material world. These are the laws of a just heavenly trail between people, while taking under consideration their privies lives. Moreover, the Zohar continues and says that this portion is dealing with DINEY MAMONOT.
The laws of finance.
The one thing that can make people completely blind and influence their judgment is money. These are the laws of reincarnations when it comes to matters of money or finance. A sage can be blinded by money and even a judge can be swayed by financial temptations. So we are talking here about something that has the power to corrupt the purist of souls. For humanity at large money and finance, is the biggest threat when it comes to a just society. And G-d as our father obviously knows that and want to make sure we are capable of coping with this threat.
The Creator creates and created all souls and so he knows what the previous incarnations were between man and his friend.This is how G-d leads His world - according to the Torah Law – the absolute truth. the Maggid of Mezritch asked the the Baal Shem Tov to give him a Torah lesson on this portion- and the Zohar’s approached to it. So the Baal Shem Tov told him: Go to this forest. In the forest You’ll see there a tree, under the tree you’ll see a spring. Stay there until six in the evening and then return here. So he went there. He found a nice place overlooking the tree with the spring. Shortly after, he saw a wealthy man comes with a horse. The man was tiered so he went off the horse, had a little meal he brought with him and then left the place. Because he was tired, he forgot his wallet there. Following him, another man came to rest under the tree. This man found the wallet. Took it as his possession and left the place. Then, another man came. This man was poor and unhappy. As he was also tired, he ate a small thing that he had, drank some water from the spring and then he fell asleep. Then the first man came again, and immediately confronted the poor and unhappy man, asking him - where is the wallet he left there with all his money. The poor man had no idea what he was talking about and try to explain to him he did not take it. So the first man – the rich man – than started hitting the poor man really hard and left the place angry. When the Maggid of Mezritch returned to the Baal shem Tov that evening he was really confused. He told him what he saw. And the Baal shem Tov explained:
The first man you saw in his past life owed a lot of money to the second man a big amount he didn’t paid him. And so the second man, the man who took the his wallet, only received the amount was owed to him from past life. Both of these men came to a judge back then, the judge was the third man – the poor man. In their past lives this judge did not make a fair trial, he didn’t ruled on the favor of the second man. Letting the first man to get out clean in the trail. So as much as reality seems sometimes as unjust, The Divine judgment is just.
So by looking at this story we see that the dry laws and legal regulations we sometimes don’t see in this world are actually has a spiritual meaning. They offer some sort of a Karma-tic solution. When observing at things in the light of the spiritual essence we can see the justice.
Let go to another example from our portion: The four principal causes of damage.
We have the bull, the pit, the animal that eats someones property and the man igniting a fire. Lets examine these in a spiritual light. The bull represents a stubbornness in human behavior, a behavior that have the power to damage others. We are to be careful our stubbornness wand make sure it will not damage others.
And if a person opens a pit or if a person digs a pit that becomes a danger for somebody else life of property. Sometimes things we do or even say can make a pit – a danger to other people lives or property. And so we should be careful not to create bad circumstances to others. A pit can be a physical thing but also any kind of thing that can mislead a fellow human.
In the case of the man that lets his animal loose and it eats in another's field. This represents a human behavior of not differentiating between what is for us to eat and what we should not eat. There are times on which we would just eat everything without differentiating between good or evil. The eating we are talking here about is not necessarily a physical eating. What we are influenced from is also a sort of eating. We feed our soul as well. Whether it is with things we see or hear. We can be influenced from things we should not be influenced from. And When we are not cautious in what goes inside us, it is possible we will become a bad influence on others as well.
In the case of igniting a fire that consumes someone else field - the one who ignited the fire shall surely pay. The fire here represents a human state of rage or anger. Those can consume us but also have the power to heart others. Whether it’s with things we say when in this state or the way we act. We must be careful never to ignite our feelings to the point where they could hurt someone else or damage someone else property. A property for that matter can also be a state of mind. Another person’s state of mind is his property. We can completely destroy a person’s day if we treat him unfairly just because he met us in a state of anger.
Another beautiful example from the portion: If you see your enemy's donkey lying under its burden would you refrain from helping him? You shall surely help along with him. The Hebrew word for a “donkey,” chamor, also means “material.” Thus, this verse instructs us as to the proper attitude toward the body or physical state – the material. Whether of us whether of others.
“When you will see the chamor of your enemy” The enemy is always a form of evilness, and so that means that when you see the body, the material existence or the physical self of you friend who is under the influence of evilness – ‘lying under its burden’ – The body is under the burden of the ‘evil’ inclination. Whether it is loss of its livelihood, some sort of a sickness or any trouble. You should help him. How will you help him? Here the teachings of the Baal Shem Tov will help us as well.
In Hebrew the verse say AZOV TAZOV EMO. The Hebrew word for AZOV means - to let go.
What does it mean?
According to the Baal Shem Tov if you see a man, his body or physical being, fails in any kind of evil inclinations, however he still consider those as burdens, meaning, he still believe in Torah and the divine path, but he is only stray along the way – meaning, That his work or words do not make as a constructive path for him as a believer, still the Divine light can return him to good. You must help him because he needs your help. Do not let his Torah and goodness to dissolve into evil doings but rather give him an alternative. Show him there is a better way.
However, if you see him – his physical being consumes with evil inclinations, but in a state of when it is of a strong and steady existence of hate towards sages – making jokes at their study or on the Torah or G-d commands, if he hates G-d and Torah in his heart, you should not help him. VEHADALTA MEAZOV LO. You should stop from trying to help him. The Baal Shem Tov say a person should be careful from engaging with people that will harm him. There, the advice of G-d is - AZOV. To let go.
Another option the Baal Shem Tov gives us "To let go" means to let go of any negativity you may have in your heart towards him or the path that he chose to walk in, and only genuinely love him with all your heart from a safe distance. A distance that will keep you away from evilness or selfish inclinations.
Another way of looking at this verse would be as a mirroring verse towards ourselves. Meaning. “When you will see the chamor of your enemy” — if you are observant enough to be aware of your friend’s attraction toward material existence alone, initially you will see your material self as your enemy, as something that obstructs and hinders your spiritual growth. “Collapsing under its burden” — in such a state of animosity between body and soul, that the body resists the Torah and its commandments, making them an unbearable burden for it.... One’s first inclination may be “to desist from helping him” — to suppress the body’s instincts and deny its wants. Says than the Torah: “You shall surely help along with him.” Aid the material self with its “burden,” by training it to recognize that the Torah is the vehicle for its own refinement and elevation.
As we can see, Rabbi Israel Baal Shem Tov’s approach and teachings when it comes to this dry list of commands in our portion is quiet different then we would expect. Not only it is not dry, it is actually very important to our spiritual being, for our living. It is actual pragmatic instructions when it comes to our emotions or feelings. To the challenges, we have within ourselves or with others. Inside every command that is aimed towards the body, there is a ray of light in understanding also the correct observant spiritual sense of material aspects.
The Lubavitcher Rebbe on this portion gave a Drasha (a Torah lesson) on the life and work of Rabbi Schneor Zalman of Liadi. The founder of Chabad Chassidism, because the 24th of Tevet is the anniversary of the passing of Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi.
Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi was born in Russia and formulated “Chabad” philosophy and approach to life, in his Tanya book. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi approach can help us understand better the connection and relations between spirit and matter inside ourselves.
In his Tanya book, he describes a perpetual struggle between the spiritual and the material in man and in creation.Within the human being, this conflict takes the form of a battle between the “animal soul” and the “G‑dly soul.” The animal soul is our physical self — the drive to be an accomplished person, the instinct for self-preservation, self-fulfillment and self-enhancement. The G‑dly soul is the source of our spirituality — our drive for self-transcendence, our yearning to escape the confines of our material existence and connect to the infinite and the eternal. Life is the war between these two opposing drives: Every act we do, every word we utter, even every thought we think is an outcome of this inner struggle - representing the victory of one of the two selves trying to express itself and further its aims via the body and faculties which they share.
On the cosmic level, there is the conflict between the spiritual essence of creation – the sparks of holiness at the core of every created thing, and the mantle of material that embodies, obscures and imprisons them. We redeem these “sparks of holiness” by utilizing the material objects and resources of our world to serve G‑d, by transforming them from material things into spiritual things. Meaning, transforming them from things that exist for their own sake to things whose sole purpose is to serve a higher end.
Tanya instructs us to sanctify even our material belongings and human actions such as eating for example. By eating for the purpose of utilizing the energy we derive from our food to serve G‑d – by sanctify what we eat and bless G-d for given us the food. In this way, the act of eating becomes a holy act — an act that expresses, rather than controverts, the exclusivity of the divine. The Tanya charts a program for life to achieve this end: to dethrone the material self from its natural station as the seat of our identity and the prime motivator of everything we do, and establish our spiritual self in its place; to transform our every deed from an act of self-perpetuation to an act of self-transcendence. To actualize the spiritual essence within every creation and free it of its corporeal body and prison, by enlisting it in the endeavor to serve G‑d.
As Rabbi Schneur Zalman writes in a key passage in Tanya, “The foundation and root of the entire Torah is to raise and exalt the soul over the body.” Each of us must deal with this conquest. One would presume the moral tone of such an approach toward life, would be a contempt for the material world and for all things that are physical. Yet the Tanya is far from this approach. It does not call for a denial of the body’s needs, or even for a rejection of physical pleasure. While it condemns indulgence in the material for its own sake — it sees the potential for sanctification even in a physical activity such as “eating’ – When it serves the purpose of “giving oneself an expansive state of mind in which to serve G‑d. The Tanya goes so far as to declare the physical world to be the ultimate objective of G‑d’s creation, and the only environment within which His desire for a world can be satisfied. All other dimensions of creation—including the most lofty of spiritual worlds and realities — were created solely to facilitate the creation and the continued existence of our physical world and its actualization of the divine desire for a “home in the lower realms.” Indeed, as Rabbi Schneur Zalman points out in numerous discourses, virtually all the mitzvot of the Torah involve the utilization of some material substance to fulfill the will of G‑d. For it is through conquest of the material that the true supremacy of the spirit is revealed. Just as the intensity of a lamp is measured by the farthest point its light can reach, So is the divine most powerfully expressed when a material substance — the least transcendent of G‑d’s creations — is made to serve a G‑dly aim or a cause.
In other words, the paramount role that physical reality plays in the divine purpose in creation, is as a vehicle of choice to reveal the infinite reach and scope of the divine truth.
With reality we can achieve a dialog with the Divine. Rabbi Schneur Zalman of Liadi discourses and his Tanya book opened an entirely new perspective on the material reality. And as we can see, in Chasidic traditional teachings the great lie of the material reality becomes also a great truth. It is a great lie, because it presents itself as a true existence when the only true existence is G‑d. It is a great truth, because the truth is so falsely represented through its imprint that the only thing that we can actually believe in - is the truth of its Creator. If we delve deeper into the material world essence and origin, it is the ultimate confirmation to G-d’s truth. In the final analysis, physical matter is the most divine of G‑d’s creations.
So this portion and its dry laws and commands in regards to our behavior and relations with fellow humans is actually very spiritual. We should read those carefully and try to become what we are supposed to be as hard as it is. As unnatural, it is for us. Because by conducting a healthy relationship with others we giving room for Hashem to express Himself. These laws are not dry at all. These legal matters are actually very spiritual. We are given divinity the option to come forth from the spiritual realms to those of the physical and material. So lets try and have a dialog with divinity by following them.