Parshat Mishpatim: Extraordinarily Speaking

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18 Feb 2009
Arts & Media

Let us, for a moment,

Play by the rules

& regulations:


We eat nightmarishly and sleep

Dreamlessly; we laugh out loud

And cry silently; we climb upward

And sometimes fall down; we work

For the future and, at times say, in the

Future we will work; we go through the

Routines and the routines go through us;

We make different changes, changes make us

Different, and differences are seen either as a

Uniqueness to be embraced or a weirdness to

Be embarrassed


There are many laws and bylaws (some inevitable,

Built into the DNA structure that is nature; others

Adopted by man, either as a fad, fashion or statement –

Or even a triangulation: a faddy fashion statement) and

With these does the physical world, the world we see with

Our eyes and know with our bodies, revolve and evolve.


No body lives beyond these rules – either we walk, run, or

Fly, either we jump, skip, or fall, either we believe, understand

Or deny…but no matter what our persuasion, we all live by

(At least some of) the rules.


We, as creatures with the necessity of invention, have always

Tried reaching beyond the rules, beyond the norm, beyond the

Ordinary into the



And these are the ordinances

That you shall place before them


Following the revelation at Mount Sinai

When the holiness of above reached for

The mediocrity of below, when the

Brilliance of heaven embraced the dullness

Of earth, when the simplicities of every

Day life were infused with the profundities

Of the eternal, everlasting pulse that is the


The question arises: it is one thing for heaven

To reach below and make everything profound –

After all, heaven can pretty much do anything;

But how can we, human beings of flesh and blood,

Ever take the profound and make it simple, take

Heaven and make it a part of our earthy, breathy,

Downtown existence…


And these are the ordinances


As the pen waxed poetic above, the body lives

By rules; the body does what it wants, yes, but

Within the gilded framework of life and living.


But the soul, how does the soul live, what does

The soul want – if the body wishes to eat, drink

And be merry does the soul wish it any less?


And now, post Sinai, when the gaps are bridged,

G-d says, here, these are the laws that will allow

You to reach beyond any limitation – the rules &

Regulations of the body make you ordinary but

The rules & regulations of the soul, now those

Allow for something extra…


That you shall place before them


How, you ask? Because these mitzvahs are not

Imposed upon us but a part of us, placed before

Us, within us, our essence one with the acts, our

Acts one with the essence…


One can follow a law, play by the rules

Without actually becoming them; one can

Do a mitzvah with the hand and not with the

Heart, one can light a candle with the fingers

And not with the mind – but the ultimate is when

The profound, the mitzvah, is integrated not only

In the minimum necessary but throughout the whole

Being, when the most profound becomes one with the

Most simple.


It is then that the ordinary truly does become extra-


Mendel Jacobson is a writer, poet and journalist living in Brooklyn. His weekly poetry can be seen at

The words of this author reflect his/her own opinions and do not necessarily represent the official position of the Orthodox Union.