World Fit For G-d
Sichos in English
Parshas Mishpatim, 29th Day Of Shvat
This week brings together several events, each of which provide
important lessons in the service of G-d:
The weekly portion, Parshas Mishpatim, which continues the revelation of
the giving of the Torah as our Sages declared, “Just as the first
(commandments) were given at Sinai, these were given at Sinai.”
Parshas Sh’kalim, the first of the four portions read in preparation
for Pesach. Parshas Sh’kalim describes the half-shekel, originally
given by each member of the Jewish people to make the sockets for the
structure of the Sanctuary. Subsequently, the half-shekel was given each
year to purchase the communal offerings.
Today is also the Shabbos that blesses the month of Adar. Furthermore,
it is the eve of Rosh Chodesh (which influences the Shabbos, evidenced
by not reciting “Tzidkas’cha Tzedek” in the Mincha
month of Adar is associated with the holiday of Purim, when the Jewish
people reaffirmed their commitment to the Torah, as our Sages commented
on the verse, “And the Jews carried out and accepted.” Our Sages
explained that, at the time of the Purim narrative, the Jews carried out
what they had accepted at Mount Sinai.
fact that these three events fall on the same day implies that they
share a connection. Although on the surface, the concepts of Mishpatim
and Sh’kalim may appear diametrically opposed, there is an intrinsic
bond between them.
Mishna defines a Jew’s purpose in life, stating, “I was only created
to serve my Maker.” That service involves establishing a dwelling for
G-d in the lower worlds and is characterized in two basic ways:
Service with mundane matters, e.g., our service during the week, when we
are involved in the 39 labors necessary to provide our needs.
Service in the realm of holiness, e.g., the service of Shabbos, which
does not involve effort in mundane activities. Rather, our energies are
focused on holy matters, study and prayer. Even the physical activities
carried out on Shabbos, eating, drinking, etc., become expressions of
holiness, for they represent the fulfillment of a mitzva, taking
pleasure in the Shabbos.
39 categories of labor forbidden on Shabbos are derived from the
activities that were carried out in the Sanctuary. This implies that all
of a Jew’s mundane activities are intended to make a sanctuary for G-d
in the world at large, i.e., to transform the world into a dwelling for
these efforts involve the material substance of the world, there is no
implication that the nature of the material substance changes. On the
contrary, the intent is that physical matter and mundane affairs be
refined so they are not a contradiction to holiness. Nevertheless, even
when this service is completed, they remain material and mundane in
see this concept exemplified in the construction of the Sanctuary in
that a certain portion of the Jewish people’s gold, silver, etc., was
donated and became part of the Sanctuary. The majority of the wealth
they possessed, however, remained theirs. Similarly, although some
physical objects become transformed into articles of holiness, e.g.,
leather becomes fashioned into tefillin, the majority remain
mundane in nature.
two aspects of service are alluded to in the expression “Turn from
evil and do good.” Turning from evil implies that the material
substance of the world will not interfere with the service of holiness;
doing good implies that the material entities themselves will express
above applies during the week when a person is involved with mundane
activities. Shabbos, in contrast, is characterized by an
all-encompassing atmosphere of holiness; even one’s physical
activities are mitzvos.
Mishpatim and Parshas Sh’kalim reflect these two approaches to Divine
service. Parshas Mishpatim deals primarily with the laws governing human
relations, laws involving disputes between a person and a colleague. It
is concerned with mundane matters and is intended, primarily, to negate
the possibility of disputes and other undesirable occurrences. It
parallels the service of “turn from evil.” It ensures that the
mundane activities will be carried out according to the Torah, but they
remain mundane and worldly.
of the worldly nature of these laws, human intellect can comprehend
them. Indeed, human intellect obligates that such laws be enacted.
Therefore, the Torah must emphasize that these commandments were also
given at Mount Sinai and are G-dly in nature.]
Sh’kalim represents the other approach. The half-shekel was a material
coin. It was an inanimate object, the lowest form of existence in this
world, in which even the potential for growth was not revealed.
Nevertheless, the half-shekel itself became a holy entity. The
half-shekels mentioned in the Torah were smelted down and used as the
sockets, the foundation of the Sanctuary. Similarly, in subsequent
years, the half-shekels were used to purchase the communal offerings.
Furthermore, the half-shekels themselves were considered consecrated
concept can be further developed in the light of a halachic
principle. The half-shekel “may not be given in installments; i.e.,
today, one gives some – tomorrow, some more.... Rather, it must be
given all at once.” The half-shekel is considered a single entity that
becomes consecrated in its entirety, without a portion remaining for
mundane use. Furthermore, the manner in which it is given, “at one
time,” implies a service above a human being’s usual potential. In
general, a person proceeds step by step, ascending level by level. In
contrast, the giving of a half-shekel represents a radical change, an
immediate and total transformation.
the service of Sh’kalim appears to be the direct opposite of the
service of Mishpatim, which involves mundane matters. The contrast
between the two is emphasized by the fact that, unlike the laws of
Mishpatim, the obligation to give a half-shekel is not self-understood.
Even after he received G-d’s command, Moshe, who represents the
ultimate of intellectual achievement in the sphere of holiness, remained
puzzled about this command until G-d showed him a coin of fire –
actually demonstrating how the mitzva should be fulfilled.
combination of the lessons of Parshas Mishpatim and Parshas Sh’kalim
on a single Shabbos teaches us that these are two stages in the service
of G-d. In the initial stages of service, one is primarily involved in
turning from evil. One must first ensure that his mundane activities are
not in contradiction to holiness. Afterwards, one proceeds to a higher
level – doing good – service within the realm of holiness itself.
however, is not the entire lesson to be derived from the combination of
these two parshiyos. Even a person who finishes the first stage
of service, e.g., a tzaddik, is not totally involved in holiness.
Rather, he must devote a certain portion of his activity to material
demonstrates that these two services are complementary. Each makes a
contribution that could not be achieved through the other service in the
task of making this world a dwelling for G-d. One might assume that
transforming the mundane into the holy is what is essential for a
Jew’s service. Though necessary, for a Jew’s service to be complete,
it must also include involvement in mundane worldly activity.
explain: The service of Sh’kalim has an advantage because it
establishes unity between man (and the world as a whole) and the level
of G-dliness that transcends creation. In contrast, the service of
Mishpatim involves only levels of G-dliness invested in the creation.
There is, nevertheless, an advantage to the service of Mishpatim.
Through this service, unity is established with G-dliness in the mundane
realities of the world. In contrast, the perspective of Sh’kalim
requires a person to rise above the context of worldliness, to nullify
himself to the influence from above.
the service of Sh’kalim establishes the dwelling for G-d from G-d’s
perspective alone. In contrast, the service of Mishpatim allows the
world to become a dwelling for G-d within its own sphere of reference.
The establishment of a dwelling for G-d must combine both services. It
must reflect G-d’s desire for a dwelling, a desire that
transcends the limits of intellect. Simultaneously, G-d wills this
desire to permeate and be invested within the intellect, so that the G-dliness that transcends creation can become one with the world itself,
on its own level.
is possible only through the influence of G-d’s essence. G-d’s
essence has no limitations. It is able to fuse opposites, which is
necessary to establish a dwelling, a place where the essence of G-d is
revealed, in the lower worlds. Thus, the combination of the parshiyos
Sh’kalim and Mishpatim reflect the fusion of these two essential
combination of these two services is reflected within each of the parshiyos
themselves. Our Sages emphasized that the laws of Parshas Mishpatim are
a continuation of the revelation of Mount Sinai. Even those concepts
understood by human intellect must be influenced by the
self-transcendence and self-nullification which characterized the
reception of the Torah at Sinai.
same concept is alluded to in the conclusion of the parasha,
which describes how the leaders of the Jewish people “saw G-d, and ate
and drank.” This can be interpreted in a positive context: their
vision of G-d permeated and influenced their physical activities.
Parshas Sh’kalim relates how G-d showed Moshe “a coin of fire.”
Through sight, he was able to grasp the concept, and then through his
efforts, the Jewish people were able to do so. Similarly, the gift of
the half-shekel brought about atonement for the sin of the golden calf.
It refined the lowest aspects of our beings and brought them complete
The fusion of the concepts of Sh’kalim and Mishpatim is further
emphasized this year when they are read on Erev Rosh Chodesh. Rosh
Chodesh is an intermediary between the weekdays and Shabbos. Although
work is permitted on Rosh Chodesh, it is not referred to as “a day of
Kabbalistic terminology, the concept can be explained as follows: During
the week, the sfira of malchus receives influence from Z’eir
Anpin (G-d’s emotional attributes). On Rosh Chodesh, malchus
receives influence from the sfira of chochma (wisdom), a
higher level. On Shabbos, malchus ascends to its source which is
higher than chochma.
explain these concepts in Chassidic terminology: During the week, our
service focuses on revealing the G-dliness invested within the world,
and is expressed through the ten utterances of creation. This level of
G-dliness leaves room for the perspective of worldliness and, therefore,
our service is focused on mundane matters.
Shabbos, however, the level of G-dliness associated with the natural
order is elevated and the transcendent levels associated with the name
Havaya are revealed. Since the worldly aspects of existence are
nullified, it is forbidden to do work, even work that is associated with
the refinement of the world. On Shabbos, there is no place for the
mundane; the environment is one of all-encompassing holiness.
Chodesh represents a fusion of these two aspects. The aspect of G-dliness transcending the world (revealed within the level of chochma)
is drawn down into the world (through malchus). It is unlike the
weekdays when only the aspect of G-dliness relating to the world is
revealed; nor is it like Shabbos, when the revelation of transcendent G-dliness
causes the mundane aspects of reality to be negated. Instead, on Rosh
Chodesh, the transcendent aspects of G-dliness are revealed within the
is another dimension of Rosh Chodesh relating to the fusion of the
mundane and the transcendent. In the Musaf service of Rosh
Chodesh, we recite twelve expressions of blessing, reflecting how each
Rosh Chodesh is associated with the other eleven Rashei Chadashim of the
year. Thus, there is a connection between Rosh Chodesh Adar and Rosh
Chodesh Sivan when the Jewish people camped before Mount Sinai, prepared
to receive the Torah.
giving of the Torah represents the nullification of the decree
separating the higher realms from the lower. Not only will the lower
realms become negated and transformed to a higher level of existence,
but in the lower realms themselves, unity will be established with the
union is reflected in Rosh Chodesh, which, is not “a day of action,”
i.e., there is a revelation of the G-dliness that transcends the world.
There is, however, no prohibition against work, demonstrating how that
revelation permeates the creation as it exists itself.
The above shares a unique connection with the coming month, the month of
Adar. As explained above, the central feature of the month of Adar is
the holiday of Purim, which is associated with the giving of the Torah.
When the Torah was given, there was a great G-dly revelation, compelling
the Jewish people to accept it. Thus, there was a question regarding
their real commitment to Torah. The Jewish people’s connection to
Torah came because of the revelation from Above, and was not brought
forth from their own existence. In the Purim narrative, however, the
commitment shown by the Jewish people that brought about the Purim
miracle came when there was no Divine revelation. This demonstrates that
their self-nullification came willingly, as an expression of their own
the celebrations of Purim also permeate worldly existence, as evidenced
by the absence of prohibition against work. The celebrations of Purim
surpass the celebrations of other festivals, lifting a person beyond the
limits of intellect, as our Sages declared, “A person is obligated to
become so intoxicated on Purim that he does not know the
difference…” This reflects the revelation of the highest levels of
G-dliness in a manner in which they permeate the limits of our world.
Accordingly, in the Messianic age, when the celebration of all the other
holidays will be nullified, Purim will continue to be celebrated. This
reflects the revelation of G-d’s essence, which is associated with the
complete mesirus nefesh shown on Purim, a commitment emanating
from the level of yechida. This concept is related to the name of
the holiday, Purim, which means “lots.” In Chassidic thought, it is
explained that a lottery reflects a revelation of the utter
transcendence of G-d’s essence.
revelation begins on the Shabbos on which the month of Adar is blessed
and is intensified throughout the month, as our Sages stated, “From
the commencement of Adar, we increase our celebration.” This concept
is particularly relevant this year, when after Shabbos comes erev
Rosh Chodesh Adar. There are three successive days (Shabbos and the two
days of Rosh Chodesh) when the happiness of Adar is emphasized. This
creates a chazaka, a presumption accepted as established fact,
regarding the happiness of the days that follow, until the ultimate of
happiness is reached on Purim.
happiness should be reflected in an increase in the study of Torah,
which is connected with happiness, as the verse states, “the statutes
of G-d gladden the heart.” In particular, increases should be made in
the three services of Torah, prayer, and deeds of kindness.
is worthy to mention the importance of working to provide every Jew
(beginning with those nearby and including even those in distant areas)
with everything that is necessary to celebrate Purim in a complete
manner. This, in turn, will increase the blessings which G-d will grant
the joy we experience in these days, the last days of exile, hasten the
coming of the ultimate joy, the coming of Moshiach. May we “join one
redemption to another,” and connect the redemption of Purim to the
Messianic redemption. May it come in the immediate future.