Vol 26.17 - Mishpatim 2             Spanish French Audio  Video

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(5744) Rashi (Ex. 24:1): "And to Moses He said". Explanation of the order of the parshiot and "the Book of the Covenant" (ibid 7)  



Rashi writes that the above was said the giving of the Torah in Parshat Yitro.

While he may have good reason for this statement (as Be'er Yitzchak argues) it nevertheless results in the Torah being written in a very perplexing manner.

According to Rashi, alter the Torah is given in Parshat Yitro, we then jump to the period when Moshe spent forty days and nights on the mountain, during which time the civil laws of Parshat Mishpatim were given over. Then, in current chapter, we switch back to before the giving of the Torah. And then, only twelve verses later, we jump back again to after the Torah is given. To make matters even more complex then leap to after the Incident with the Golden to read Parshat Terumah and Tetzaveh.  (Click on link to see table)

It appears to be no wonder therefore that Ramban and a host of other commentators found Rashi’s chronology much to swallow!

Is there any Way we could explain, according to Rashi, the motivating factor why these accounts were written in such a peculiar order?

THE TWOFOLD IMPLICATION OF TORAH: On the first occasion which Moshe ascended Mount Sinai, before the giving of the Torah (on the second of Sivan) G-d made the following "mission Statement" –“if you listen to Me and keep My Covenant, you will be a precious treasure to Me among all the peoples...” (Yitro 19:3).

Here we see that the giving of the Torah has a twofold implication:

  1. "If you listen to Me "—observance of the Mitzvot, which were given (initiated) by G-d
  2. "And keep My Covenant” – general commitment to G-d, initiated by man.

After this "mission statement" was made G-d divided the narrative of the giving of the Torah into two sections:

  • First He dealt with the Mitzvot and their observance. This included the giving of the Torah together with its preparations, and the list of Mitzvot in Parshat Mishpatim up to the end of chapter 23.
  • Afterwards, in the current chapter, He described the second element of the Giving of the Torah—the between the Jewish people and G-d.

For this, we must retrace the steps to the preparations for the giving of the Torah once again, to read how the Jewish people willfully accepted upon themselves their relationship with G-d (exclaiming, "All the words that G-d has spoken we will do! –v. 3). We then read (in v. 4-8) how they consolidated that commitment by offering a sacrifice. Thus, in the final analysis, the Torah did not write the narrative of the giving of the Torah in chronological order, as it wished instead to divide narrative into two parts which each stress a different aspect of the Torah's purpose: observance of the Mitzvot (G-d's initiative) and commitment to G-d (man's initiative).

Gutnik Chumash


A Tale of Two Portions

At the conclusion of Mishpatim — after almost an entire Torah portion that addresses matters not directly related to Mattan Torah , the giving of the Torah — Moshe is told: “Go up to G-d.”5 Rashi explains6 that this took place on the fourth of Sivan, prior to Mattan Torah.

Most of the preparations for Mattan Torah are described at length in the portion of Yisro. The fact that additional details are provided in Mishpatim indicates that a purpose must be served by describing Mattan Torah in two portions. What is that purpose?

Mattan Torah accomplished two things: a) G-d gave the Torah — its commandments and laws — to the Jewish people; b) G-d thereby entered into a “covenant of observance” with the Jews — “And you shall keep My covenant.”7 Jews thus became His servants, as the verse states:8 “You shall serve the L-rd upon this mountain,” and as Rashi notes,9 the Jewish people then became subjugated to G-d.

Herein lies the difference regarding the preparations for Mattan Torah as described in Yisro and the preparations described in Mishpatim :

Yisro deals mainly with G-d’s giving of the Ten Commandments. That is why the tale of the Jewish people’s preparation as related in Yisro deals with the commands that G-d gave them to prepare for Mattan Torah.

Mishpatim , however, deals with the covenant and servitude to G-d that resulted from Mattan Torah. This came about through the events described in this portion,10 namely, the Jewish people’s acceptance of the Torah by prefacing “We shall do” to “We shall hear” and writing the “Book of the Covenant.”

There is an even more profound reason for the details relating to Mattan Torah to be given in two separate portions:

The Midrash notes11 that at the time of Mattan Torah , two things were accomplished: “Those Above descended below” — “G-d descended on Mt. Sinai,”12 ; and “Those below ascended Above” — “And to Moshe He said: ‘Ascend to G-d.’ ”13 Man ascended to G-dliness.

The first portion speaks mainly about Mattan Torah from the perspective of those “Above”— “G-d descended,” “And G-d spoke.” Mishpatim, however, addresses the event from the perspective of those “below” — “Ascend to G-d,” “We shall do and we shall hear,” etc.

The difference between these two aspects of Mattan Torah is this: The tremendous degree of Divine revelation that descended from Above at the time of Mattan Torah was temporary; the ascent of the Jewish people, however, — becoming G-d’s servants and thereby becoming spiritually elevated — was permanent.

The reason why the second aspect of Mattan Torah endured was because it came about as a result of man’s own service. It therefore became permanently embedded within the Jewish people’s psyche.

Accordingly, we are able to understand why the command of building the Tabernacle — mentioned in the next portion of Terumah — follows the second aspect of Mattan Torah. For the special quality of Divine revelation that resulted from the construction of the Mishkan mirrored the service of man:14

The revelation of G-dliness within the Mishkan came about through the accomplishment of the Jewish people — “You shall make for Me a Mishkan.”15 Just as the Jewish people’s service at Mattan Torah resulted in their permanent spiritual elevation, so did the Divine revelation that resulted from the making of the Mishkan permanently sanctify its physical structure.

(From http://schneersoncenter.org/mobile/page.asp?pageID=%7B7B8E06AF-8BCD-4CE4-8071-EC60E7D46BE6%7D&displayAll=1. Based on Likkutei Sichos Vol. XXVI, pp. 153-159.)



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