Mishpatim 5760

Tora - Torah

Parshat Mishpatim 29th Shevat 5760 February 5, 2000

Tora Dojo Teachers and Parents: If you share and discuss the Tora-Torah with younger students, tell it in your own words at their comprehension level rather than try to read it to them or have them read it.

Let’s begin with a statement at the end of Parshat Yitro, last week. At the giving of the 10 commandments, we are told that the Jewish people “saw” the thunder and the sound of the shofar. Many commentators pointed out that this meant that the Israelites achieved a high level of prophecy to be able to see what normally could only be heard. The level of communication was so high that a new form of “hearing/seeing” was necessary.

Rabbi Ari Kahn discusses the difference between hearing and seeing: “a person can see an incredible amount of material at once, but may only hear and comprehend one sound at a time.” In other words, we can SEE the whole forest but we can LISTEN to only one tree at a time. Hashem first wanted us to “see” the whole Torah at once and then wanted us to “hear” them one by one with all the details.

This is related to the point I made last week about Mitzvot and their purpose: “When pointing at the moon, don’t confuse the finger with the moon”. The moon represents the big picture, the purpose behind it all: to be close to Hashem and to behave in such a way as to sweeten the world as we interact with others. The details, the Mitzvot, are the fingers pointing us in that direction.

This answers the obvious question as we read Parshat Mishpatim: why after the ultimate revelation at Sinai do we switch to the seemingly mundane affairs of damages and torts and laws about slaves? From so high a place, it would seem the story should continue about the level of prophecy of B’nai Yisrael, or the importance of sacrifices to get close to Hashem! Why begin with the most mundane rules and regulations of property damage, slave ownership, etc?

But the question is the answer.

Each mitzvah is a hidden fiber-optic pillar of light, a way to connect to Hashem. Our goal is to be a Godwrestler and a mentch. The purpose of each mitzvah is not only to DO the Mitzvah but to crack open its shell and reveal a deeper level of connection that is taking place.

Let me offer two examples (of a deeper lesson from a basic Mitzvah or statement) from this week’s Parsha.

First, the most fundamental law of kashrut: Don’t cook the calf in the milk of its mother. (Ex. 23:19)? Kabbalists teach that milk indicates kindness or chesed. Meat indicates force or gevurah. There are times to be kind and times to be strong. We must be centered enough to know the difference and to know which is necessary at a particular moment. Don’t blur the lines. Even with “tough love” that parents must sometimes use to deal with a problem child still has a clear delineation of each.

TaShih teaches that we must have a high respect for human life but also know when to fight. I remember (about 30 years ago) as a brown belt teacher, I once took several of my green belt students to the park to work out. Those green belts at the time include now-4th Degree Arthur Gribetz, 5th Degree Joel Comet, 2nd Degree Bruce Gribetz, and one or two others. We were doing Kata in a rather secluded spot in Central Park and suddenly found ourselves surrounded by five or six punks with chains and bottles, standing at a small distance, deciding whether we would be a good afternoon’s entertainment. We all became aware of it quickly and they all looked to me (the exalted Brown Belt!) to determine what to do. I decided “strength” was not the best approach… but neither was pure kindness. We were surrounded by kids who had weapons and knew how to street-fight. I told Ricky (the only non-teen in the group) to come at me with a strong punch and a loud kiai. I whispered to him that when I blocked and countered, he should “go with the throw”. When he came in, I did a major hip throw with a blood-curdling kiai and he went flying five or six feet and landed with a big grunt and apparent pain (somewhat overacted if you ask me). Within a moment, our visitors looked at each other and backed away. We went home safely and healthy with a well-learned lesson about strength and softness and when to use each.

Each time we eat milk and meat separately, we might meditate on the yin and yang of the world and how we must be masters of each in order to know what is called for by each situation. Isn’t’ that a new and different way of thinking about kashrut? It sort of gives a new way of looking at “kosher karate”, doesn’t it?

Tora torah: to be a balanced peaceful warrior, we understand we may actually have to use our ability if the situation demands. And the key is to know which ability to use and which not to use: Yin or yang, soft or hard, sometimes a word, sometimes a glare, sometimes a block-punch combination. If I say use your head, it may mean a head butt but more likely it means use your intelligence.

One other bit of Tora-Torah from this Parsha: And Hashem said to Moshe: Come up to me on the mountain and be there. (ve’h’yay sham) (Ex. 24:12-14)

If Moshe is on the mountain, why does hashem bother specifying “and be there”? R’ Menachem Mendel of Kotzk learns from this that even someone who gets to the top of the mountain may not “be there”. His mind may not be in it. In other words, ” being there” is not a physical thing but a mental and spiritual place. If so, why did Moshe need to go up the mountain at all? Why not just “be there” with Hashem? Because, it seemed Hashem knew that Moshe needed both the physical going up the mountain AND the mind/spirit to “be there” with Hashem. (Sparks Beneath the Surface. Kushner and Olitzky).

We need to do the physical Kata to climb the mountain. We need the mind control to “be there” in the moves if we want to make them come alive.

"Tora-Torah" is a weekly column on Parshat Hashavua with insights into the inner aspects of the Jewish martial arts as founded and taught by Grand Master H. I. Sober in the International Tora Dojo Martial Arts Association. The copyrighted 'Tora tiger' logo is used with permission of Prof. H. I. Sober.
"Tora-Torah" is written or edited by Michael Andron, PhD. Lao Shih, a Seventh Degree Black Belt in the Tora Dojo Association. He has been teaching Grand Master Sober's system for over 30 years.
Note that the Tora Dojo comments are highlighted in a different color. This should help teachers in their sharing Tora-Torah with younger students at their level of comprehension. If any of you would like to contribute some "Torah" from time to time, send your suggestions (keep 'em short and ... in by Sunday, please) to michael@kodesh.org. I'll try to keep it simple and with a good Tora Dojo lesson as well.
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