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Mishpatim - 5779: “Elevated Service"

This week I was challenged by two different people from different worlds, different angles-both with the same complaint: They each thought I sometimes am too analytical, intellectual about things, not tapping enough into my spiritual side, the deeper, esoteric, “emotional” aspect of my nature. As an example, one friend pointed out how excited I get coming up with a Talmudic explanation for interpreting a verse from the Torah, observing that in “intellectualizing” on the text, I may have missed an overall deeper, esoteric and spiritual message hidden in the verse. To illustrate this concept, he shared with me how he viewed his day yesterday, as it turned from Thursday into Erev Shabbat: It was pouring rain, with thunder and lightning exploding everywhere. It was a dark, gloomy day-and for us Southern Californians, depressing. With that frame of mind, and with an air of despondency, instead of going about his business day, my friend ended up checking in on our Shul, and soon found himself wrapped in Tefillin, and reading this week’s Torah portion out of the Chumash.

Arriving home later that day, settling on the porch and looking out, an overwhelming sense of renewal and peace came over him. The sky was perfect and beautiful, over a glorious and awe-striking ocean. A gorgeous sunset, palm trees swaying, fresh crispy and clean air-it was like a rebirth occurred, right on the heels of such a dark and gloomy start! Yes, science and the weather people can explain how all this happened so soon with perfect logic. But my friend saw something else happening. He saw the bigger message: We can face dark, gloomy and broody times. But we stumble onto encounters with the divine often (if we choose to see G-D in our journeys) -as he walked into Shul. We can take the time to engage with our spiritual side, we can connect to Hashem. And not long thereafter, Hashem shows us how that engagement, that “wrong turn” we took stepping away from our mundane, plants the seed for growth renewal, sunshine and rebirth-all as depicted in that gorgeous picture above, the image my “conscious” friend ended his day with.

Reflecting on my friends’ gentle criticism asking me to view things a bit more “spiritually” and internalizing his personal story, I opened the Chumash myself today, and saw the words our Parasha begins with in a way I never have before. The Parasha starts: “And these are the Statutes you shall place before them”. If you acquire a Bondsman (Indentured Servant), a Jewish one, he shall work for six years, and in the seventh he shall go free, with “no ties” (obligations, cost)”. So, the Torah is introducing to us the “Statutes”. The world of civil, “how to live on earth as humans in society” law. Why does the first thing we are taught have to do with the “Eved”, the servant, the bondsman who goes free after seven years? Here is how I read the Passuk, the verse with today’s enlightened, spiritual outlook, my “Chasidic Chiddush”:

“Here are the rules of how to live in a mundane world-in the non-angelic domain of humans, where it often is dark, devoid of open purity and holiness. Where you might have to mingle and dabble with the impure, the lowly, focusing on tasks and experiences that might pull you down to the ground and not draw you up high towards heaven. If you indeed are like most of us who acquire “servitude”-who have to live a life according the curse of Adam “with the sweat of your brow shall you eat bread”, then do so as a JEW. Do so with the attitude of a Jew who seeks to elevate his/her existence. And how do you do that? Live a “life of Shabbos”. Yes, you must rummage and toil in the dreary world of earth, with all its thunder, rain, darkness and gloom. But that’s just for SIX. On the SEVENTH, be FREE. Just like during the week-it’s six days of work and then Shabbos, your years on earth should be permeated with the same attitude. All our time is a prelude and preparation for the “Shabbos” time, the time we can sit back on our porch, and see the growth, the air, ocean, palm trees, and bask in the sun and radiance of heaven, of spiritual bliss. Elevate our “Mundane Domain”, and you will enter the world of peace, harmony bliss and holiness, enjoying a transformed life.

With THAT reading of the Parashah’s beginning, I wish you all a Shabbos of revival, where our bodies and souls are elevated, so that we can experience the true beauty of life we were meant to enjoy-not just today but for eternity!

Shabbat Shalom Umevorach~A Gutte

Shabbos to All!

Shalom Rubanowitz,at the "Shul on the Beach, Venice, California.


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