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גרעין קהילתי וקריית חינוך ע"ש מאיר והראל הינה עמותה שמפעילה תוכניות ופרויקטים בתחומי ישיבה, קהילה, זהות יהודית חברה, צבא ורפואה

The Covenant test of the postmodern Jew

The Parasha in our everyday life - Mishpatim 5782

Rabbi Eliezer Shenvald - Rosh Yeshivat Hesder 'Meir Harel' Modi'in

The human psyche is complex and has tensions and contradictions between opposing trends and desires. Sometimes they affect the interaction between one person and another, and the ability to cooperate and help each other.

On the one hand:

נִבְרָא אָדָם יְחִידִי... וְאֵין אֶחָד מֵהֶן דּוֹמֶה לַחֲבֵרוֹ.

 "Adam the first man was created alone… and not one of them is similar to another" (Mishna Sanhedrin 4).

This differences cause opposing needs and desires between different people. It also causes a person to tend to individualism, to focus on his unique self, his own needs and interests, without considering the needs of others, and without committing to them at his own expense.

On the other hand,

כבר התבאר תכלית הבאות שהאדם - מדיני בטבע ושטבעו - שיהיה מתקבץ

"it has already been fully explained that man is naturally a social being, that by virtue of his nature he seeks to form communities…" (Guide for the Perplexed Part 2 40). He cannot provide for himself, all the basic needs for his existence. Likes to be in society, especially among those who are similar to him.

These two poles: individualism and dependence on society, create contrast and tension.

There are several ways to regulate stress. One, to regulate interpersonal and social relations with the framework of laws, decrees and rules of morality, which curb personal desires and create a common and agreed-upon platform. Some of them are quoted at the beginning of our Parasha, and therefore it is called 'Mishpatim'.

Another way, is to state the interpersonal relationships and collaborations in contracts and alliances that define the needs of each party and the mutual commitment; what is each one obligated to, even if difficult, even if it does not fully match his desires, to receive what he needs. 'Give and take'. Alliances and collaborations are forged between individuals and nations. The aspiration is that the alliance will last, even when the interest of one of the parties changes. To strengthen its validity, it is anchored in guarantees and sanctions. The test of alliance and strength is set in 'times of crisis', when it is not profitable for one of the parties anymore.

There are alliances of a different kind. They are an expression of a deep commitment, which does not come out of self-interest. Like the marriage covenant that the couple makes between them. A covenant of loyalty and mutual commitment:

וְהִ֥יא חֲבֶרְתְּךָ֖ וְאֵ֥שֶׁת בְּרִיתֶֽךָ׃

though she is your partner and covenanted spouse". (Malachi 2:14). "

An alliance designed to be maintained until their last day, and to withstand any crises that may be in the way. A deep and demanding alliance of devotion and love, which is not just a partnership of interests.

Above all, there is man's covenant with his G-d. Man's loyalty and commitment to his Creator, to walk in His ways and keep His commandments out of devotion and love, as G-d keeps His covenant with us.

Like at Brit Ha’aganot (basins): A Covenant between Israel and G-d, on the observance of the Mitzvot at the end of the Parasha.

וַיִּקַּ֤ח מֹשֶׁה֙ חֲצִ֣י הַדָּ֔ם וַיָּ֖שֶׂם בָּאַגָּנֹ֑ת ... וַיִּקַּח֙ סֵ֣פֶר הַבְּרִ֔ית וַיִּקְרָ֖א בְּאׇזְנֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֣אמְר֔וּ כֹּ֛ל אֲשֶׁר־דִּבֶּ֥ר ה' נַעֲשֶׂ֥ה וְנִשְׁמָֽע׃ וַיִּקַּ֤ח מֹשֶׁה֙ אֶת־הַדָּ֔ם וַיִּזְרֹ֖ק עַל־הָעָ֑ם וַיֹּ֗אמֶר הִנֵּ֤ה דַֽם־הַבְּרִית֙ אֲשֶׁ֨ר כָּרַ֤ת ה' עִמָּכֶ֔ם עַ֥ל כׇּל־הַדְּבָרִ֖ים הָאֵֽלֶּה׃

"Moshe took one part of the blood and put it in basins… Then he took the record of the covenant and read it aloud to the people. And they said, “All that Hashem has spoken we will faithfully do!” Moshe took the blood and dashed it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that Hashem now makes with you concerning all these commands.” (Shmot 24:6-8)

Sages in Mekhilta and the commentators have a disagreement: Is this the proper order to understand this chapter? Should this Covenant follow the Revelation of the Torah on Sinai or should it be thought of as happening prior to the Revelation? Some believe that only after the Revelation of the Ten Commandments and Moshe teaching the people all of Parashat Mishpatim did they respond “Na’aseh VeNishma” - we will do and we will hear (Rashbam, Ramban, etc), others think that these events occurred before the Revelation at Sinai, applying the rule “Ein Mukdam U’Meuchar BaTora” -one cannot assume that the Torah is written following chronological order. (Rashi, Chezkuni, Rabbeinu Bahya, Haamek Davar).

We are commanded to keep the covenant forever:

וַאֲנִ֗י זֹ֣את בְּרִיתִ֤י אוֹתָם֙ אָמַ֣ר ה' רוּחִי֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר עָלֶ֔יךָ וּדְבָרַ֖י אֲשֶׁר־שַׂ֣מְתִּי בְּפִ֑יךָ לֹֽא־יָמ֡וּשׁוּ מִפִּ֩יךָ֩ וּמִפִּ֨י זַרְעֲךָ֜ וּמִפִּ֨י זֶ֤רַע זַרְעֲךָ֙ אָמַ֣ר ה' מֵעַתָּ֖ה וְעַד־עוֹלָֽם׃ 

“And this shall be My covenant with them, said Hashem: My spirit which is upon you, and the words which I have placed in your mouth, shall not be absent from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your children, nor from the mouth of your children’s children—said Hashem—from now on, for all time”. (Yishayahu 59:21)

Yet the tests of time challenge man in the face of the trust and commitment of the eternal covenant, and not always successfully.

In the future G-d will renew the Covenant and we will accept it according to our situation:

הִנֵּ֛ה יָמִ֥ים בָּאִ֖ים נְאֻם־ ה' וְכָרַתִּ֗י אֶת־בֵּ֧ית יִשְׂרָאֵ֛ל וְאֶת־בֵּ֥ית יְהוּדָ֖ה בְּרִ֥ית חֲדָשָֽׁה׃ לֹ֣א כַבְּרִ֗ית אֲשֶׁ֤ר כָּרַ֙תִּי֙ אֶת־אֲבוֹתָ֔ם בְּיוֹם֙ הֶחֱזִיקִ֣י בְיָדָ֔ם לְהוֹצִיאָ֖ם מֵאֶ֣רֶץ מִצְרָ֑יִם אֲשֶׁר־הֵ֜מָּה הֵפֵ֣רוּ אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֗י וְאָנֹכִ֛י בָּעַ֥לְתִּי בָ֖ם נְאֻם־ה'׃

"See, a time is coming—declares Hashem—when I will make a new covenant with the House of Israel and the House of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their fathers, when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, a covenant which they broke, though I espoused them—declares Hashem”. (Yirmiyahu 31:31-32)

“This covenant will never be violated” (Radak ibid). A covenant out of full choice and internalization and not out of coercion:

Not as a covenant that I made with their fathers - then they were not yet ready for perfection and correction... Because this is the covenant... that they will keep my Torah for its common sense until it becomes a natural thing to be found within them, and it will be written on their hearts - will not be necessary to write it on a book with ink because it will already be in their hearts” (Malbim ibid)

In the postmodern generation there is a special challenge of trust and commitment, and of sticking to them throughout time, especially when we are lacking interest. This is a special test of our generation, both in relation to the Covenant of marriage and also in relation to the Covenant with G-d.

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