The order of the Torah portion's contents are not happenstance. What happens in the portion is a window into what is happening in our lives spiritually and physically. Last week's portion included the giving of the Ten Commandments. The name and content of this week's portion is "Mishpatim", meaning "statutes".

There are three types of Torah commandments: chukim, eduyot, and mishpatim. Chukim are laws that are beyond a person's intellect to understand. The laws of Kashrut and shatnez (not wearing a garment of wool and linen) are two examples. We perform them simply because G‑d commanded them.

Eduyot are "testimonies". These are commandments that might not have been thought of on our own, but make sense. These include celebrating Pesach to commemorate and relive the Exodus; or Shabbat to cease from creating, just as G‑d stopped and "rested".

G‑d speaks to us through the present event!

Mishpatim are statutes that make sense to us from the get go, like "do not kill" or "do not steal". This week's portion is full of mishpatim. This portion about statutes follows the story of the giving of the Torah because the Ten Commandments were given to us by G‑d on Mt. Sinai and must be observed whether they make sense to us or not. Mishpatim, which appeal to our rational and moral senses, might only be observed since they appear ethical and reasonable. By placing Mishpatim adjacent to the Ten Commandments, we learn that even the statutes must be observed because G‑d commanded us.

We might sometimes forget that day to day events in our lives are Divine communications to us. Chasidut explains this idea from Rashi's commentary on another verse in this week's portion: "When an ox gores…." (Ex. 21:28) Rashi writes, "This applies whether it was an ox or any other animal [that gored, but] the Torah speaks of the present [common] event". When something happens, even a routine occurrence, like waiting on line or in traffic, one should consider it a way of G‑d speaking to them. Why did this happen to me just now? What course of action or attitude should I choose? Time and again we tend to think, "This is just a coincidence, ignore it." Rashi's words remind us that whether "an ox or any other animal" - what happens to us is a communication from G‑d. G‑d speaks to us through the present event!

Being a potentially good person is not enough….

Much of Mishpatim deals with the laws of property and theft. What can we learn from a thief? A thief is not made a thief because he has the opportunity to steal, but only if he does, in fact, steal. The same is true with a scholar, even a Torah scholar. Having the opportunity to study does not make a person a scholar; it is the act of studying that brings the name. The same is true of a chasid, a person who constantly seeks to live his life in a G‑dly manner, even above the letter of the law. Being a potentially good person is not enough. To be called a chasid, a person has to actually live in a manner befitting the title.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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