Parshat Mishpatim: The ethics of goodness (II)

We have mentioned often that in Judaism, God is as a ruling principle that has ways and attributes by which He relates to His creation. Our Sages relates the Name El-o-him to the immutable laws of nature that function according to cause and effect, and we understand this as their ethical nature.

In other words, all actions bear results or consequences. This is applied to everything. From a simple chemical process with its reactions, to what we say or do, including what we don’t say and don’t do.

Our Sages also say that the Ten Commandments are a summary of the all the decrees, statutes, rules, ordinances and commandments contained in the Torah. Thus we understand that after the proclamation of the Decalogue by Moses, the Torah immediately proceeds to explain in detail the ways and attributes by which we must approach each other, in order to make goodness prevail in our midst. Thus we assimilate that goodness is an ethical principle, by which God commands us to live as individuals and as a nation.

“And ye shall be sacred to Me, therefore ye shall not eat any flesh that is torn of beasts in the field; ye shall cast it to the dogs.” (Exodus 22:30)

This verse is juxtaposed with the previous ones related to how we must care for each other. Hence we understand that goodness is what makes us sacred before our Creator, therefore we must live in, by, with and for goodness.

This commandment is presented in opposition to eating the flesh of a torn animal, as feeding ourselves from a violent circumstance that is more related to beasts. Later the Torah will engage in the laws of ritual slaughtering and kashrut, precisely to emphasize in the purity required to ingesting foods, as part of the commandment of being sacred to God.

“You shall not bow down to their gods, nor serve them, nor do after their doings; but you shall utterly overthrow them, and break in pieces their pillars.” (23:24)

This is another of the juxtaposed verses between the commandments that point out to the one we have been referring to. The reason for this one is similar to the previously quoted here. If we are chosen to be individually sacred in order to be a sacred nation, and serving God’s will for us being the light for the nations, we are not supposed to engage in anything contrary to what He calls sacred.

We are additionally commanded, not only to reject but also destroy wrong or false beliefs, represented by lesser “gods” and idols, along with their ways and doings. Thus we realize that goodness is an ethical principle that does not compromise or mix with anything different from is ways and attributes.

About the Author
Ariel Ben Avraham was born in Colombia (1958) from a family with Sephardic ancestry. He studied Cultural Anthropology in Bogota, and lived twenty years in Chicago working as a radio and television producer and writer. He emigrated to Israel in 2004, and for the last fourteen years has been studying the Chassidic mystic tradition, about which he writes and teaches. Based on his studies, he wrote his first book "God's Love" in 2009. He currently lives in Zefat.
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