Friday, February 24, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Mishpatim

       After the amazing spiritual high of last week’s parsha with Matan Torah, Parshas Mishpatim deals mostly with the more fundamental financial, business, and injury laws that make up day to day life. However, as we approach the end of the parsha, some more general topics emerge which follow a different theme.
       One of these topics is the introduction to the Shalosh Regalim, the three holidays when we are obligated to travel to the Beis Hamikdash and celebrate there. They consist of Pesach, Shavuos, and Succos. The Torah introduces them in an interesting way. First, we are told to celebrate the holiday of Pesach during the springtime, and then the pasuk continues with the other two. “חַ֤ג הַקָּצִיר֙ בִּכּוּרֵ֣י מַֽעֲשֶׂ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֥ר תִּזְרַ֖ע בַּשָּׂדֶ֑ה וְחַ֤ג הָֽאָסִף֙ בְּצֵ֣את הַשָּׁנָ֔ה בְּאָסְפְּךָ֥ אֶת־מַֽעֲשֶׂ֖יךָ מִן־הַשָּׂדֶֽה“And the Festival of the Harvest of the first fruits of your labor that you sow in the field; and the Festival of the Ingathering at the close of the year, when you gather in your work from the field.” (Shemos 23:16). All three holidays are written as being dependent on the circumstances of the harvest. Is this true? Do we only celebrate the holidays if we had a good harvest? Of course not! So why does the Torah make it sound as if our celebration is dependent on that?
       Rabbi Yaakov Kaminetzky uses this pasuk to teach a fantastic idea. There are several instances in the Torah where Hashem uses the success or failure of the crops as a sign of whether the Bnei Yisrael are following the Torah. One famous example is what we say every day in Krias Shema, “והיה אם שמע תשמעו אל מצותי... ונתתי מטר ארצכם בעתו“It will be that if you hearken to my commandments…then I shall provide rain for your Land” (Devarim 11:13-14). As long as Bnei Yisrael were living in Eretz Yisrael, Hashem would motivate them and inform them of their level of belief and observance based on the production of the crops.
       So while there were other reasons to celebrate the Shalosh Regalim, the harvest was a tremendous reason to celebrate as well. Not only was everyone happy that they had had a successful crop, providing sustenance and security for another season, they were coming to celebrate at Hashem’s house armed with the knowledge that they were successful in their observance of mitzvos as well.
       Perhaps we can also use this to understand the connection of the Shalosh Regalim to Parshas Mishpatim. While the more well-known, and more commonly studied, portions of the Torah, like Shabbos and Kashrus, may garner more interest and zeal in their observance, they are not the basis for our day to day lives in this world. It is true, those ideas provide the spiritual fulfillment we desperately need, but we live primarily a physical existence, and we need a Torah that requires us to respond to the physical challenges we face every day. And by our success in our daily endeavors we will be able to measure our success in following the guidelines set up for us in this week’s parsha, just like the harvest would do in the times of the Beis Hamikdash.
       At least, this is how it was meant to work. Nowadays, all too often we see successful people who appear not to follow many of the laws the Torah instructs us in. This is another degree of hashgachah pratis we have lost in our long exile. Let us pray for the day when we return to Eretz Yisrael and the hashgachah pratis we have the potential to tap into returns to its full capacity.

Shabbat Shalom!  

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