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Punctuate – Parshat Mishpatim

Punctuate –

Governments have forever struggled to find the perfect balance between ruling the people and giving people the space to live. The ability to synthesize regulation and autonomy has eluded leaders since the beginning of time. Over-regulation stifles our growth and not enough oversight allows for greed and corruption to flourish and thrive.

This week’s Torah portion is called “Mishpatim” which literally means judgments or rules. It contains a listing of G-dly rules dealing with civil law and how we are to regard ourselves, other human beings, our animals and our property. It is the source for much of Talmudic law and how a Jewish Court rules.
There is another definition to the word Mishpatim which is “sentence” as in a group of words which make up a coherent statement. What do the words – rules and sentence have in common that they share a singular Hebrew word?

What is the anatomy of a sentence? A sentence is constructed to convey a message. You have a thought or an idea that you think is important enough to write down or share with someone else, so you take a couple of individual words, add the correct punctuation and magic – you have the ability to share that thought. What would happen if you took those same thoughts and put them into words and either used the wrong punctuation or forgot the punctuation? Your idea would never reach the other person and your medium of communication is worthless.

The rules of punctuation take many unique variables and allow the words to come together creating an understandable nugget of information. Someone who comments on these rules as being “too top heavy” would be looked at as foolish for the simple reason that without them all the words written in the very same order would be a meaningless pile of gibberish.

Perhaps this is the reason why the Hebrew word for rules and sentences is the same. A sentence without rules is worthless and rules without a sentence are worthless. Put them together and you have created the ability to communicate.

The same is true with our lives. Living a “free” life without any structure can very easily lead to a life devoid of meaning or unfulfilled potential. We are given “rules” or structure by G-d only to punctuate the variables we enjoy and struggle with every day, and allow them come together to form a most meaningful and productive whole which we call  “life”.

February 12, 2015 | From the Rabbi's Desk | 0

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