Beit Midrash

  • Torah Portion and Tanach
  • Mishpatim
To dedicate this lesson

Because I Said So!


Rabbi Stewart Weiss

Mishpatim, remarkably, is one of 19 consecutive Parshiyot of the Torah (29 if Vayakhel-Pikudei is read together as one Sedra, as it is this year) that all begin with the latter Vav! (Check it out yourself if you don’t believe me!). But it is davka this Sedra that Rashi chooses to
comment on the Vav – a word which means "hook" - & tell us that just as the 10 Commandments in the previous Sedra of Yitro come from Hashem, so do the 53 ordinances in this Sedra also emanate from the Almighty (as do all Mitzvot) & that is also why the Bet HaMikdash & the Sanhedrin had to be located right next to one another.

The point of this, of course, is that we should not err by thinking that the "big" commandments – e.g. Do not murder, Shabbat, idolatry, etc. – are what G-d really cares about, & the other, seemingly "minor" Mitzvot are of much lesser importance. The fact is, they ALL have a Divine origin & power of their own, & it is not up to the individual to pick & choose what he deems to be of value.

Do you remember the T-shirts mothers used to wear that proclaimed: Because I said so! In other words, "Don’t always press me for an explanation & a reason; just accept that I am the mother, you are the child, & what I say, goes!"

And so the Mitzvot. That is why the first of the 10 Commandments is not really a commandment at all. It just announces, "I am Hashem!
Everything I say from here on out, in this Sedra & following, is what I expect you to do - because I said so!"

When human beings decide it is up to them to choose which Mitzvot are relevant, it not only undermines the authority of G-d, it is a very dangerous business. Because, ultimately, the Torah’s laws are for our own good, & abridging or abandoning any of them will invariably diminish our well-being, or actually hurt us.

While working at the university newspaper back in my college days, I was asked to interview Mose Durst, who was speaking on campus on behalf of Sun Myung Moon & his Unification Church, trying to recruit more "Moonies" to the fold. He was born a Jew, & he told me he got involved in the church when he was invited to dinner & Moon himself "wined & dined him" to the cause.

"That would never have happened to me," I told him.

"How can you be so sure?" he asked me.

"Because I keep kosher! So I never would have accepted the invitation in the first place, & that would be that."

So the next time you start to waver in the face of this or that Halacha, just repeat to yourself, "Because I said so!"
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