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A World Fit For G-d
Sichos in English

Shabbos Parshas Mishpatim, 29th Day Of Shvat

1. This week brings together several events, each of which provide important lessons in the service of G-d:

a) 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.”

b) 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.

c) 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 prayers).

The 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.

The 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.

The 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:

a) Service with mundane matters, e.g., our service during the week, when we are involved in the 39 labors necessary to provide our needs.

b) 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.

The 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 Him.

Though 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 nature.

We 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.

These 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 that holiness.

The 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.

Parshas 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.

[Because 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.]

Parshas 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 property.

This 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.

Thus, 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.

The 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.

This, 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 concerns.

This 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.

To 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.

Thus, 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.

This 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 services.

The 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.

The 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.

Conversely, 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 atonement.

2. 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 action.”

In 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.

To 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.

On 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.

Rosh 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 world.

There 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.

The 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 higher realms.

This 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.

3. 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 beings.

Accordingly, 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.

This 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.

This 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.

It 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 each individual.

May 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.



The service of Mishpatim allows the world to become a dwelling for G-d within its own sphere of reference.





The leaders of the Jewish people  “saw G-d, and ate and drank.” In a positive context this means that their vision of G-d permeated and influenced their physical activities.



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