Mishpatim – Covenant, Just Wanting to Be Close

Mishpatim – Covenant, Just Wanting to Be Close

The Piazetzna Rebbe writes: 

“Perhaps this is why Moshe sprinkled half the blood of the people’s sacrifice on the alter before they answered “We will do and we will listen,” and the other half after they made their declaration (Shemot 24:6-8). The sprinkling of the blood on the people was the sealing of the covenant, as Moshe said, “This is the blood of the covenant that HaShem is making with you regarding all these words.” (ibid.) HaShem was binding Himself in an irrevocable covenant to rescue the Jewish people whether they were deserving of His salvation or, God forbid, they were not – and we were committing to observe the Torah even when we had the right to protest that we were being coerced.

The Covenant is always reciprocal…. And whether we are bound to do so or have the right to protest, we will always worship HaShem.” – Aish Kodesh Mishpatim 1940

There are times when one may feel that HaShem is, as if, not “keeping up His end of the deal”. We seem to be doing the best we can, keeping mitzvot, doing and being good and somehow we are still faced with the illogical challenges of life. 

The classic question comes to mind “Why do bad things happen to good people”? But this question does not satisfy the heart and mind of one that truly does believe in HaShem’s Kingship and sovereignty over our lives. 

The Piazetzna Rebbe says “In all their pain is His pain,” and as we learn in Mesechet Chagigah 15b, in the name of R. Meir, “When a person suffers, to what expression does the Shechinah give utterance? ‘O woe! My Head, O woe, My arms.’” In sacred literature we learn that HaShem, as it were, suffers the pain of a Jew much more than the person himself feels it.” ~ Aish Kodesh Mishpatim 1942

So what of our mutually binding covenant that we have with HaShem. The formula reads out that we will do what He has commanded and He will bless us and give us freedom, etc. and if we don’t He won’t. How does it seem that this formula doesn’t really manifest in our day to day lives. Why doesn’t it work, so to speak that if I do XY & Z that my circumstances will change? 

 If He is in control of our circumstances how come our efforts to serve Him at times seem to go unnoticed and don’t change the difficult situations of life that we face.

Rav Soloveitchik speaks of men of fate and men of destiny in his work Kol Dodi Dofek. He quotes M. Avot 2:29 “Against your will you are born, and against your will you die” “the ‘I’ of Fate emerges as an object. He is acted upon through his passive collision with the world around him.” He goes on to say “The slogan of the ‘I’ of destiny is: ‘Against your will you are born, and against your will you die”, but by your free will do you live. Man is born as an object and dies as an object, but it is within his capability to live as a subject – as a creator and innovator who impresses his individual imprimatur on his life and breaks out of a life of instinctive, automatic behavior into one of creative activity. According to Judaism, man’s mission in this world is to turn fate into destiny.”

When we are able to understand the nature of our purpose here, maybe we can understand the nature of our covenant with HaShem. If our purpose here is to refine our souls to the place where we are transformed from a passive existence, where we measure the value of what we do against the perceived reward or punishment. To a place of confident yishuv hadaas and lev where we choose how we react to our circumstance, then we are elevated to people of destiny. Co-creators in bringing the light of HaShem to the world in spite of our comfort or pain but using circumstance to refine our reactions, to refine our free will and freedom.

With that maybe we can understand our relationship with the covenant made at Har Sinai in a new light. We are saying to HaShem, “We trust and believe that in your infinite wisdom you will give us the circumstances we need to become a people that can bring your light into the world through freedom from the chains of emotional and physical reactivity. And, as if, HaShem is speaking to us saying through your commitment to continue to serve me and to be vessels of my divine light in spite of the external circumstances of this world I will bind myself to you always and give you what you need to accomplish that mission” and we can maybe understand the Piazetzna Rebbe’s words in 1942 “In all their pain is His pain” to mean that when we suffer because we are driven and tossed by our emotional reactivity to the world around us, that HaShem, as it were suffers more greatly because his light is not able to flow through us bringing both redemption to us and to the world into the world, which is the purpose of the covenant he made with us.

The covenant at Sinai was about an unconditional love and yearning between HaShem and the Jewish people. The conditions could only be understood through the lens of unconditionality – this is the seeming dichotomy that is necessary to be at peace and to continue to serve HaShem with strength and focus to fulfill our purpose in this life.

Tefillah – HaShem, Lover of my Soul, I desire your will. I desire to be a man of destiny and to do my very best to bring your light into this world. Please help me to use every circumstance that you give me to strengthen my commitment to Torah learning and mitzvot and to use them to refine my free will. Help me to be a man of stillness and thoughtfulness, help me not to react unconsciously. Give me the strength to feel your unending love and unbreakable commitment to me and help me use this to strengthen myself to do the work that you woke me up to do today. I am grateful for each detail of my life, help me to see through pain and fear, and to recognize the gifts. Above all else know that you are giving me in love everything I need to partner with you to bring your light to all men and the ultimate redemption in our day, Amen.

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