Shalom and welcome back. “And these are the mishpatim that you will place before them.” (Shemot/Exodus 21:1) Rashi explains the word “ואלה”, “and these” it adds on to the first [words]. Just as the first ones ( the Ten Commandments ) are from Sinai, so too these are from Sinai. The Torah is telling us that the 52 mitzvot given in this parshah are given directly from HASHEM, like when we heard him speak the Ten Mitzvot (commandments) at Mt. Sinai.
So what does this mean? These mitzvot appear to be exactly like the civil law of any other nation, but the Torah is telling us that we received these laws from a Higher Wisdom, then what mankind has created. One example of an extremely misquoted mitzvah is, “But if there will be a fatality then you will give a life in place of a life; an eye in place of an eye, a tooth in place of a tooth, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot.” (Shemot/Exodus 21:23-24) The Torah shel ba’al peh explains that there is five kinds of monetary damage. There is (loss of income) שבת, (medical expenses) רפוי, (embarrassment) בשת, (pain & suffering) צער, (damages) נזק.
It may be shocking for some people to learn that these modern legal concepts of compensation, were given in a mitzvah over 3000 years ago. But still it must be something even greater than this, the Torah is teaching us. Even though many of these mitzvot resemble the civil laws of other nations, they are more spiritual in nature. These laws not only teach us how to get along with each other, but they also teach us how to relate to HASHEM.
Mankind can create laws that will help establish an orderly society. But the Creator and Sustainer of all life, can teach us what life was created for. It can expand our perspective of life, and of a higher justice than what is easily visible. With the knowledge that these laws are they very blueprint by which the Universe was created, we can start to understand how the world works, and why it was created.
Civil law can try to administer justice in a civilization, some times successfully, sometimes not. But if the laws are created by an Infinite Being with a more expansive perspective, than a infinite amount of good can be given to all of mankind. Study of the mitzvot begins to explain why seemingly good things happen to the bad, and bad things happen to the good. HASHEM created the world and mankind with an infinite good. To the extent that even a thief who steals a sheep instead of a cow, has to pay a lower compensation; because it was embarrassing to carry the goat on his shoulders. HASHEM wishes to give the best to each person, even if they choose to do evil; and can give and even greater reward if they choose to do good.
Each man is in a constant war internally, between evil and good. It is not always easy to bring perfect good and perfect justice to others. Most of us constantly battle against our own prejudices, weakness, sickness and lack of clarity to achieve true justice. The Torah is trying to inform us that not only was the world created with the highest good, but it is administered with the highest good everyday. Even though it may not appear that way. I look forward to any comments anyone may have about this concept.
Have a great Shabbos,
23rd Shevat, 5771