Ariel Ben Avraham
Ariel Ben Avraham

Parshat Mishpatim: The laws of God’s love

This portion is juxtaposed to the giving of the Ten Commandments, and the laws that follow remind us that everything in this material world is about how we relate to our fellow humans and God’s creation.

“And these are the laws (mishpatim) which you [Moses] shall set before them [the children of Israel].” (Exodus 21:1)

In the oneness that God is and we must comprehend, all in His creation is connected and related to each aspect and dimension comprised by it. Complying with His laws is an essential part of our connection to the Creator. There are inner meanings we may not grasp in how we relate to the material world, but it is essential to follow His laws as explained and taught by our sages throughout Israel’s history.

“If you purchase a Hebrew slave (…).” (21:2)

We have said that the children of Israel, in their multidimensional facets and qualities, form the unity that reflects the ultimate unity the Creator is. In this encompassing identity and spiritual unity we as Jews are not enslaved to anybody or anything different to our own common identity. This means that we have to serve each other in our common reality and destiny.

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We are the image and likeness of the Creator, and our existence must reflect His ways, attributes and deeds. Our dages explain that the six years of servitude correspond to the six days of God’s creation. In this time we create goodness and abundance in the material world in order to achieve the ultimate awareness of God in the seventh day, the Shabbat.

There were times of slavery or servitude within the people of Israel which derived from circumstances when, according to our sages, not everyone was fulfilling their responsibility to themselves, to their fellow Jews, and to the laws of the Torah.

This lack of commitment leads to transgressions that can only be corrected through “forced” guidance and education among the people. This educational process is aimed for the well being of the people as a whole to maintain their united peace, love and harmony.

We must understand Hebrew slavery or servitude within the people of Israel as a social and educational mechanism to guarantee the permanent Covenant with the Creator. Our sages teach that the intention of both the written and the oral Torah is to forge in every Jew (regardless of his/her social, economical or educational condition) the highest possible knowledge and awareness of the Creator. This includes their individual and collective attachment to His love, His ways and attributes.

In these laws or decrees compensation is the primordial expression of care and protection demanded from any form of transgression caused by a person to another. Any form of retaliation or vengeance is completely forbidden because these are precisely the opposites of what compensation means. In the same vein, lending money without interest to a fellow Jew must also be understood beyond the material aspect of it.

Lending money must be equalize to manifest brotherly love for those who have depleted their own self-love, self-esteem and self-appreciation. As we have indicated, living in the darkness of material fantasies and illusions is the most typical way to deplete love in our lives. Love is what sustains all our spiritual and physical endeavors, including ego’s materialistic and potentially destructive desires.

Love is the main “capital” that God entrusts us because His love is what He gives us to sustain life in the material world. Hence we have to care for this capital and expand it by investing it in love’s ways and attributes: good deeds, enhancing tasks, positive works, uplifting thoughts, speech and actions for our individual and collective well being. This is the capital we have to lend free of “strings attached”, because it is about renewing love in our fellow’s heart and soul.

Love is also returned as love from the receiver to the giver as the dynamic process the Creator conceived for us. Thus we have to return to Him what belongs to Him: Love with which He created us. In this context it is about being and manifesting love’s attributes for our own sake, and for the sake of our fellow humans who are in need under the darkness of their materialistic illusions.

Love, as the material manifestation of God’s love, is our redeemer. Love liberates us from Egypt’s consciousness, and brings us out and up to the richness of the awareness of God’s love. Our love for each other is the freedom from the darkness of negative traits and trends because love is the strength and sustenance that keep our spiritual and material well being as we are born and destined to be.

In this process we must not sale our consciousness to the idolatry of ego’s fantasies and illusions. Instead we must live in love’s ways and attributes as the dynamic revitalizing forces they are.

“You shall not prostrate yourself before their gods, and you shall not worship them, and you shall not follow their practices, but you shall tear them down and you shall utterly shatter their monuments.” (23:24)

This is also reminded earlier.

“Concerning all that I have said to you, you shall be aware, and the name of the gods of others you shall not mention; it shall not be heard through your mouth.” (23:13)

Only God’s love is our life and sustenance through His blessings.

“And you shall worship [serve] the Lord, your God, and He will bless your food and your drink, and I will remove illness from your midst.” (23:25)

The portion ends with these two verses:

“And the appearance of the glory of the Lord was like devouring fire on the top of the mount in the eyes of the children of Israel. And Moses came within the cloud, and he went up to the mountain, and Moses was upon the mountain forty days and forty nights.” (24:17)

Divine glory is described here as a devouring fire, because with God’s love we are empowered to “devour” and shatter the illusions of the material world. This empowerment is achieved through the awareness of God, and we know that Moses represents such awareness. This allows him to “go up” and be in permanent connection to God.

Allegorically, we have to ascend to the top of the mountain as our individual highest level of consciousness in order to be able to “see” and “know” what God’s love is. Then we allow His fire to transform every aspect, level and dimension of our existence in order to fulfill our collective destiny: to create a place in the material world for our Creator to dwell among us.

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 Kochav Yaakov.
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