From the very first verse, all of the parshios we have read thus far may be seen as a long process culminating in matan Torah. The unimaginable fire of parshas Yisro, reminiscent of a tremendous gush of love and yearning toward Hashem finds expression throughout the parsha from the very beginning to the very end. The parsha opens with Yisro, professional idol-worshiper, abandoning the impurity of his old ways to jump to the greatest levels of holiness in joining the Jewish nation. It closes with the commandment for a ramp to be built for the Mizbeiach instead of stairs. Stairs are for walking slowly and deliberately, while a ramp is for running. With Matan Torah as its central feature, during which the souls of the Jewish nation literally jumped out of their bodies upon hearing the declaration of “Anochi Hashem Elokecha”, the spirit of last week’s parsha was one of transcendence – casting away the physical to reach for the spiritual realms beyond, running up the ramp of avodas Hashem and leaping into flight.

Suddenly, with no warning, we move into parshas Mishpatim. Here, we read about civil disputes, fraud, damages, goring, and thievery. Laws dealing with the base and mundane nature of our humanity, guidelines relating to the most impure desires and lowliest activities of our corporeal condition. The question is, what happened? How is it that the Torah moves so swiftly from the great lights of Matan Torah into the nitty-gritty laws which treat the most mundane of situations? Shouldn’t there be some sort of buffer, something to ease us in, to bring us down from our spiritual high?

Perhaps we may suggest an answer which touches the very essence of our holy Torah and what it means to be a Jew: This ability to instantly shift from the most transcendent spiritual heights to the mundanity of our physical reality encapsulates the Torah’s way of life. All of Judaism is an exercise in being able to maintain, at all times, a synthesis of Yisro and Mishpatim, of what the tzaddikm refer to as “Ratzo – Running” and “Shov -Returning”. While Hashem desires that we get in touch with our neshamos and strive to reveal our true inner essence through tefillah, hisbodedus, hisbonenus, p’rishus, and yearning to escape the physical bonds that hold us back, He also desires that we fully engage with the perception of a physical reality with which we are endowed – seeking not to negate, but rather to elevate the intensely human component of our existence in this world. In so swiftly transitioning from the great spiritual energy of parshas Yisro to the mundane topics of parshas Mishpatim,  the Torah is teaching us that living life as a Jew means to strive for this synthesis of body and soul, to be able to possess an unbearable passion for the divine and yet channel that passion toward expression in the mundane realities of the human experience; relationships, responsibilities, the heartbeat of daily life- sanctifying the “Mishpatim” of our lives; our eating, our sleeping, our business dealings, our family time, our relaxation by maintaining a deep connection with the “Yisro” of Hashem’s underlying will.

Hashem desires that we serve Him without humanity; elevating, not negating the mundane realities of the human condition.

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R’ Yaakov Klein is the founder of the Lost Princess Initiative, an author, musician, and lecturer devoted to sharing the inner light of Torah through his books, music, and lectures.

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