Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Judgments to the Side of Merit

Parshas Mishpatim
Judgments to the Side of Merit
By Rabbi Pinchas Winston
Friday Night:

Talk about anti-climactic! Of all the parshios to come after Parashas Yisro, and the spectacular episode of the giving of Torah at Mt. Sinai, why this one? It's so technical, and it talks about laws dealing with slaves, and ...

One of the reasons the commentators give for the laws of slaves coming so close to the giving of the Torah is to remind the Jewish people that freedom means serving G-d, not running away from Him. Another reason they give is to tell the Jewish people, while Egyptian slavery was still fresh in their mind, not to forget what slavery was like and end up mistreating those who may end up serving them.

Another reason for such a technical parsha so close after the Sinai Event might have to do with the way people relate to spirituality, especially today.

People are into experiences. They want to feel what they are going through, and if they can't feel it, then it is not a real experience for them. And if it is not a real experience for them, they'd just as soon pass it up, G-d or no G-d. They don't appreciate that often you have to create your experiences by using your mind.

This is one of the reasons, in the words of one psychologist, why the divorce rate is so high. Sometimes throughout the course of everyday life feelings get confused and even battered by the nerve-wracking stress of daily life. Then the same emotions come home and confront a less-than-perfectly-happy life at home, and feel even more stressed out. As time goes on, people have difficulty feeling love for one other, something that is hard to when you are feeling negative emotions simultaneously.

What they have to do is re-focus themselves on each other's virtues to re-create the proper emotional atmosphere, so the love can return. Sometimes it might mean just getting dressed up and going out for a quiet dinner together, or even just a peaceful walk. Unfortunately, many couples don't realize this and just assume that if the feelings aren't there, neither is the relationship.

The same is true when it comes to the religious "experience." People want to feel loved all the time; they want to feel "up" on an ongoing basis. In the words of one woman who wanted to abandon Torah, "Judaism just doesn't work for me, so I'm going to try something else."

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