My good friend Reb Jeff put up two posts recently about this week's Torah portion, Mishpatim. Here's a taste of one:
The rabbis loved the Torah so much that they struggled to find meaning in it, even in the places where it seems harsh or difficult.
We do the same thing with the people we love. When you love someone who has a difficult personality, you take extra pains to know that person more deeply, to understand the experiences that have shaped him or her so you can respond compassionately and with forgiveness, even when that person is being difficult. The Torah is like that, too. It was raised in an age when slavery was common, when men had tremendous power over women, and when most people had little control over their destiny. The Torah is shaped by those experiences. Because the rabbis loved the Torah, they probed it deeply to understand it and to read it compassionately as a text that brings deeper spirituality and meaning into life.
In our own day, we continue the process of interpreting the Torah. We don’t need to reject Torah to deal with its difficulties. In fact, we embrace the idea that Torah should be difficult. It should challenge us to find meaning in our lives. Life, we know, is not easy and we need to learn how to negotiate life’s challenges and hardships while maintaining our ability to find joy in it.
Read the whole thing here: Mishpatim: the Purpose of the Torah.
The other is a Torah poem, called simply Mishpatim. Here's a taste of that:
The legal jumble wants to be sorted
Like a box of samples and scraps.
What is cherished, what discarded,
What left-overs are sewn into my
Patchwork acceptance of the yoke?
Both are really worth reading. Thanks for your Torah teaching, dear Reb Jeff.
(And for those interested in Torah poetry, here's the poem I wrote out of this portion a few years ago: Like a feast. It also appears in 70 faces, though I think I revised it before publication there.)
Shabbat shalom from south Texas!