We learned in school not to begin a sentence with the word “And,” yet the Torah does just that. The Parasha begins “V’eileh mishpatim”, literally “And these are the rules.” To what does the “And” refer? What came before it.
Last week’s Parasha contained the 10 Commandments that we learned were really the 10 Divine Utterances and contain many more mitzvoth than merely 10. They contain the most basic obligation of Judaism, the recognition and acceptance of God as One and True and as a divine force in our lives. Yet, the focus of the mitzvoth in this very next Parasha is on much more mundane and day-to day matters–our relationship with others in business and property matters.
Our Sages tell us that the juxtaposition of the civil matters to the special holiness that we ascribe to the powerful experience at Sinai teaches us that they are no less important. In other words, conducting ourselves honestly in business and being upright in our dealings with others has a sanctity no less important than “religious rituals”—not that you can have one without the other, but that the business, personal and religious areas of life are all intertwined and holy. Business ethics are themselves religious rituals.
We learn from the “And” that all of the mitzvoth were given on Sinai, not just the Big 10, that God cares about how we treat each other as much as how we treat God. Remember that we are all God’s creations, created in the image of God and each of us has that divine spark within—we need to be looking for it and honoring it.
This Shabbat, we are privileged to learn with Ruth Bergman. We will be focusing on the laws that concern the disenfranchised in society as the Torah sees it. 10:00 a.m. Come as you are. Stay as long as you like.