Friday, February 1, 2008

Parashat Mishpatim - 2008

Sitting in Café Aroma on Thursday, the young girl energy produced by Mira and Amalya was increasing as the sugar from the hot chocolate / decaf milk and sugar coffee was kicking in. It grew so quickly that Elan escaped back to the apartment on his own. Mira and Amalya and their friends, Hannah and Abigail were drawing looks from the emergent adults at the surrounding tables – looks that were not of aggravation but more of the “oh…they are SO cute” category. As they chatted away, Judah and I were able to maintain some semblance of complete sentence, “grown-up” conversation.

So, there we sat, discussing the upcoming parashah, Mishpatim, especially in relation to last week’s portion, Yitro. The center piece of last week’s reading was God’s revelation to the Children of Israel at Mt. Sinai, both revelation of the Divine Presence and of the Ten Commndments. Power, mystery, thunder, and lightning frame the drama of the moment. Fast forward to this week, ואלה המשפטים – And these are the laws… - a compendium of rules, one after the other, completely absent of drama. At the time, I noted that I loved that the Revelation at Mt. Sinai was followed by a more mundane, or seemingly mundane, set of rules. For me, this represented the reality that not every moment in every day was going to have the power of the Revelation, that some moments in life, in fact the majority would be mostly mundane.

Thinking about it today, however, I wish to amend my thoughts from yesterday. The fact that Mt. Sinai and the Ten Commandments is followed by day-to-day civil law actually comes to remind us that every moment of every day can be imbued with kedushah – with sanctity and specialness; that every human interaction we have contains within it the potential to encounter the Divine – literally to meet God; that each mitzvah we do brings a modicum of tikkun, of repair, to the world. Moreover, Mishpatim reminds us that the earth need not rumble, the heavens need not cry out in thunder or burn in lightning, for every day moments to be Revelatory in nature.

How we relate to the “other,” to the person for whom we do not particularly care, for personal property, therefore takes its place together with the laws of sacred time – Shabbat and the Yom Tovim – as equally important in meeting God in this world and of even greater import in bringing God into more places in this world.

So…as you traverse the minutiae in this week’s Torah reading, remember that these are guide posts to remind us that even our smallest choices bring us into interaction with God and turn the most mundane moments into those that are as powerful as the thunder, lightning, and Divine voice at Mt. Sinai.

Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi Loren Sykes


We had a wonderful, though cold, trip to Ein Gedi. We arrived on Sunday and after dropping things off at the hotel, we went down to the Dead Sea. Mira was brave and went into the water despite the waves, wind and cold. We then retired to the hot mineral pools in the spa which were gevaldic until we emerged with bright red rashes all over our bodies.

On Monday, we hiked in Nahal David, a beautiful spring and waterfall area just beyond our hotel. Again, the cold got the better of us and after one swim in the pools, we were out and moving on, first to the ancient synagogue floor and then to lunch. In my brilliance, I decided that we should drive to see the end of the Dead Sea, which, of course, REALLY excited Mira and Amalya, and which also meant that they needed to make a pit stop at precisely the moment when there was no gas station to be found. Brilliance I was only exceeded by brilliance II which was driving to what the map showed as towns where we might find bathrooms which really meant tiny villages where we found none.

Tuesday, we left Ein Gedi early to make it to Tel Aviv. We wanted to avoid Jerusalem because of the heavy rains and so once again headed to the end of the Dead Sea toward Arad. The drive was really glorious. The road takes you back above sea level and into the desert where we met wild camels in the middle of the road. We made our way through Arad to the coast and then to Tel Aviv, where we stopped at the Azrieli Towers for lunch and shopping.

We made it home before the snow started and Burger’s Bar was waiting for us just after we arrived!

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