In parshas Acharei Mos, Hashem states: “Ushmartem es chukosai v’es mishpatai asher ya’aseh osam ha’adam va’chai bahem ani Hashem” – “You shall keep My statutes and My laws, by the pursuit of which man shall live: I am Hashem.”

The Degel Machaneh Ephraim teaches that while the mishpatim-laws of the Torah refer to those mitzvos which are understandable (at least on some level), such as the prohibition against thievery, and the mitzvah of honoring one’s parents, the Torah’s chukim-statutes refer to the mitzvos which are impossible for the human mind to rationalize, such as the concept of Parah Adumah which even Shlomo Hamalech, the wisest of men, was unable to grasp.

The Degel explains the fundamental difference between these categories of mitzvos with the following analogy. When a doctor treats a minor ailment such as a cut or a sprain, it is simple for the layman to understand the nature of the treatment and the way it brings healing. However, in a more severe case such as an illness which requires a complex surgery, it will be far more difficult for the uninitiated patient to understand the process. He will simply need to submit to his trust in the doctor’s training and rely on the Master of the world Who heals through the hands of men.

In the same way, the Degel explains that while the mishpatim, which we can understand, are rooted in a lower place and thus rectify the three elements of our soul which come to expression in our experience – Neshama-Thought, Ruach-Speech, and Nefesh-Action, the chukim, whose rationale transcends our limited intellect, have the power to heal and rectify the upper two elements of the soul, Chayah-Life force, and Yechidah-Essence; elements so lofty that they can only hover above the body without manifesting within our lives in an identifiable way.

Based on this deep idea, the Degel explains our verse in a most remarkable way: “Ushmartem es chukosai v’es mishpatai”: When a Jew heeds all the mitzvos, both those he can grasp (mishpatim) as well as those which transcend our understanding (chukim), “asher ya’aseh osam ha’adam”: the entirety of the spiritual structure of his personality will receive life and healing. The “heh” of “ha’adam” symbolizes the five levels of the soul (Nefesh, Ruach, Neshama, Chaya, Yechidah) which are rectified through the combination of chukim and mishpatim. “V’chai bahem”:Indeed, when a Jew embodies both categories of mitzvos, it is not only the lower elements of his being which will receive rectification, but guarding the chukim will ensure that “v’chai”; even the levels of Chayah and Yechidah (whose opening letters spell “chai”) will be healed. “Ani Hashem”: And this holistic healing will reach the loftiest levels of existence, revealing the deepest Oneness of Hashem.

By heeding both the Torah’s Chukim and Mishpatim, all five aspects of our soul are healed with the Oneness of Hashem.

Rebbe Ephraim of Sudlykov
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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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