Sinai Revelation reverberates in world through us

Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose is the Rabbi Bernard Lipnick Senior Rabbinic Chair at Congregation B’nai Amoona. Rabbi Rose is a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the d’var Torah for the Jewish Light. 

By Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose

In Parashat Mishpatim, which we will read this coming Shabbat, we find ourselves situated between a mountain (Mount Sinai) and a Mishkan (the portable desert Tabernacle). The juxtaposition of the other-worldly grandeur of the Sinaitic revelation and the very earthly architectural plans for a mini-Temple, is jarring to say the least. So, how are we contemporary readers to understand the positioning and purpose of our Parashah?

To my mind, Parshat Mishpatim comes as a way to help us synthesize and integrate the epiphany at Sinai into our everyday, mundane lives. It comes to teach us how the power of Sinai can guide our existences even millennia after we gathered at the foot of the sacred mountain upon which the Holy One revealed the Decalogue. And Parshat Mishpatim is an attempt at integrating the intense pyrotechnics of Sinai into our often mundane and routine daily lives and routines. 

It should, therefore, come as no surprise that our Sidra includes dozens of individual Mishpatim -— laws and statutes -— that come to consciously regulate and mandate daily life. In fact, Parshat Mishpatim includes four entire Prakim of rules and regulations and in this way, stands in sharp contrast to the terse Ten Utterances we find in our previous Parashah of Yitro. Our teacher, Rabbi Lipnick (Z’L), once remarked to me on the bimah that Mishpatim was the “CliffsNotes for the Ten Commandments, which makes it as important — if not more important — than the Decalogue itself. For everybody knows that though holy matrimony begins with the hoopla of the chuppah, married life is truly tested in the crucible of the lived mundane experiences of the passing years”.  

It is noteworthy that our Parshah begins with the words: “VeEleh – AND these are the rules that you shall set before them.” (Exodus 21:1). The little Hebrew letter Vav — which appears unnecessary in this verse — comes as a way to remind us that though our relationship with the Almighty began on a mountaintop, it is operationalized and lived out not in some transcendent realm, but rather here on earth. Our loftiest of goals and aspirations, as noble as they might be, can only be realized when married to the realities of our lived experience. Sinai was the moment when Divinity erupted into the human realm. However, this Holy Otherness can only be acted upon if it has earthly containers in which to reside.  In the wilderness, it was the Mishkan that served this purpose, and in our era, dear friends, it is we who are called upon to be these vessels. 

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May we have the insight and fortitude to make ourselves into such repositories so that the profundity of the Sinai Revelation continues — through us — to make positive impacts on our own lives, the lives of our communities, and the lives of all who sojourn on this earth. Amen!

Rabbi Carnie Shalom Rose is The Rabbi Bernard Lipnick Senior Rabbinic Chair at Congregation B’nai Amoona and a member of the St. Louis Rabbinical and Cantorial Association, which coordinates the d’var Torah for the Jewish Light.