Rules, Rules and more Rules! Who Needs Them?
This week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, Shemot / Exodus 21:1 – 24:18 is filled with rules. Before we jump to conclusions and say they don’t apply today let’s look at some category’s of relationships. There are paid employees with a job, volunteers with a job, people that pay to borrow (i.e. rent), people that borrow with no fees. Would each of these groups of people have the same responsibility and culpability in your home? Is there a standard and who would decide?
Those coming out from Mitzrayim or Egypt had the Pharaoh’s rules to obey as slaves. Other societies’ had rules that were cut and dried with no exceptions. The mitzvot or commandments set into place rules that ease the social fabric and tension. It creates humanity where there was little humanity in other cultures. This people coming from a mixed multitude had to have rules that all would be bound to following and obeying.
The mitzvot do have relevance today. Instead of looking at individual commandments let us consider who we each are in our lives. Am I an employee responsible for a product or process, if so I have a higher degree of culpability than a volunteer doing the same work because I am compensated already for my time? A volunteer’s responsibility is to watch out for the obvious pitfalls, and protect against them, but no gain from doing, so less culpability. A borrower carries more responsibility than a renter because he is to return it as it was given. Someone who rents an item pays for its wear and tear, but not its abuse.
What does this mean to us? Am I an employee or a volunteer at my work, in my family, in my clubs? What do I expect and what is expected of me?
Do I rent or borrow? Do I use things up before returning them without honoring those I borrowed from or paying the rental fees? What about those library books?
Rules place boundaries and value on ourselves, our work, our responsibility, culpability. If compared to Hammurabi’s Code these rules and mitzvot are life-giving and demonstrate much freedom. Do we need rules? Yes, rules give us freedom. Especially when the rabbis are encouraged to thing through the implications and applications of thorny issues with the mitzvot.
So do I behave like an employee at home, and a volunteer at work? What imbalances could this bring to my life and home? How do I treat my kids cleaning house, or a maid? How do I treat my pets? What happens if my pet harms another person?
Do I own, rent or borrow items? Does one really borrow a cup of sugar when you don’t get that cup back, but a different cup of sugar? How do these concepts affect me in my daily life either owning, loaning, renting or borrowing?
The reality is this who gave us these rules and why? The answer is found in Shemot 24:12, “HaShem said to Moshe, "Come up to Me on the mountain and wait there, and I will give you the stone tablets with the teachings and commandments which I have inscribed to instruct them."”
Avenui Malkeinu, Our Father and King who knows us, created us, and is ruler of this earth. It is a case of “Father knows Best”, some days an old TV show may imitate life and truth.
Tags: boundaries, coming out, conclusions, culpability, cultures, exodus, higher degree, library books, mitzvot, multitude, no exceptions, pharaoh, pitfalls, relevance, renter, slaves, social fabric, torah portion, volunteers, wear and tear
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