Friday, February 8, 2013

Parsha Perspective

By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman, Dean, Cheder Chabad of Monsey

The intimate Jewish relationship with G‑d is expressed in the idea that G‑d Himself keeps the laws of the Torah. The Sages tell us they are called "G‑d's laws" because not only do they come from G‑d, but they are also observed by G‑d. The Zohar states: "G‑d, the Jewish people and the Torah are one.". Knowing  that, so to speak, both we and G‑d keep the very same laws of the Torah, helps us understand how we are closely and truly bonded together with the Divine at every step and  moment of our lives.

This week's Torah portion—Mishpatim (Shmos [Exodus] 21:1-24:18). presents us with many laws, most of them concerning relationships with other people. One of these laws teaches about lending money to the poor. "If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you..." (22:24). The Sages of theTalmud comment that the word 'If' is not to be taken literally. It is not optional. There is a duty and a requirement to lend money to the needy person.

This has become  the underlying motivation why in many Jewish communities today, there are interest-free loan funds, which help an individual or a family deal with the constant pressures of life.

How does G‑d Himself keep this law? He 'lends' each of us everything we have. Our physical bodies, our skills and talents, our minds and intelligence, our homes and our possessions. This is a Divine loan which we are able to enjoy – yet we also have to repay it.

And how do we pay back the loan? By using all that G‑d has given us in order to fulfill His objective - to make this world into a dwelling for the Divine, through keeping the laws of the Torah.

There are two types of loan. If you borrow someone's watch, you have to give the same watch back to its owner. The borrower never truly possesses the watch. However, if you borrow money, you do not have to give back the same banknotes, just the equivalent amount. The original banknotes fully become the property of the borrower.

G‑d's loan to us is of the second type. Everything that G‑d gives becomes ours: our physical selves, our skills, our minds and our possessions. Yet - ideally - we should use all of this, in every aspect of our lives, for a sacred purpose, guided by the teachings of the Torah. In this way we try, to the best of our ability, to repay the Divine loan,

Someone might ask: "How much does one owe?" Answer:"Everything!"

(Excerpts from Chabad.org - from Rabbi  Tali Loewenthal)

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