Following the revelation at Mount Sinai we move to a detailed listing of laws.
Here are a few of the many laws and mitzvot listed in this week’s parsha.
Some make sense and others appear outdated.
There are the logical and the mysterious.
Most of the laws fall into the category of mishpatim,
laws whose reasons are obvious
as opposed to hukkim,
laws whose reasons are mysterious.
• The portion begins with laws concerning the treatment of slaves.
It begins with the outdated.
• Then there are laws about manslaughter and murder.
The Torah establishes asylum for a person who accidentally kills another so as to prevent the seeking of vengeance.
• The death penalty is prescribed if you hit or insult your parents.
Perhaps the parent of a teenager wrote this one.
• You shall notdo wrong to the stranger, orphan or widow.
• You must not take bribes.
Many of these laws were constructed to help build a just society.
The Torah is not just worried about how we approach G-d but also about building a community that cares for one another.
• There are laws regarding the lending of money and charging interest.
• Observe Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.
• you shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.
This is one of the classic examples of those laws called hukkim, laws whose reasons are mysterious.
There are many attempts to explain this law.
This verse is obviously the basis for the prohibition regarding the mixing of milk and meat.
The most common explanation for this observance is that
we must not mix what gives life with the life that was taken.
Not mixing milk and meat is a discipline that brings Jewish consciousness to the everyday.
It makes you think about your Jewishness even when you are preparing food.
So it can’t all be about what our minds are capable of.
It can’t all be what our heads can explain or reason can understand .
And so we have come to think that we must recover mystery.
That is what not mixing milk and meat is about.
It is a daily affirmation of the fact that sometimes we must do things that cannot be adequately explained.
Mystery must be a part of our lives
just as much as reason.
Wondering why must always be a part of our Jewish lives.
I do believe that we must recover mystery.
Not every Jewish thing that we do can be explained by reason.
All plans come to a crashing halt.
You can plan and schedule all you want.
We don’t control everything.
We don’t understand everything.
Some things are just beyond our control.
Jewish tradition suggests that the highest reason for doing a mitzvah is not for a promise of reward or even because you find its reasons compelling,
but instead because it is G-D given. Because the reason is beyond our understanding
we do the mitzvah for its own sake.
We do things for the sake of mystery.
On this Shabbat I would like us to work to restore mystery to our lives.
The search for answers and reasons must always continue.
But unresolved questions do not mean giving up the quest.
It means instead affirming the mystery of our lives.
It means praising the mystery in our lives.
Among all of these laws in this week’s portion we find of course the quest for a just society,
but also this affirmation of mystery.
And with such mystery comes peace and contentment.