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February 19, 2009 - Image 29

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 2009-02-19

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TORAH PORTION

Calling All Mentshen

Shabbat Shekalim, Shabbat
Mevarechim (Parashat Mishpatim):
Exodus 21:1-24:18; 30:11-16;
Kings 12:1-12:17.

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I

n trying times, to whom
flawlessness.
does God look? Who saves
Especially in difficult
us in times of trouble? To
times — when eco-
whom should we look when
nomic uncertainty may
faced with difficulty? Should
erode our hope and
God take on our travails alone,
self-confidence — God
as a solo Redeemer? Should
wants anshei kodesh.
God enlist the help of angels?
God seeks a relation-
Should God call on us?
ship with people who
In recent months, we have
will try to be better, try
Rabbi Eric
heard increased cries for help,
to do more and try to
Yanoff
from throughout our country
help others do more.
Special to the
and particularly in our com-
Also, perhaps there is
Jewish News
munity. Our Jewish institutions
a reason why this state-
seek to provide services to ease
ment appears in the
our concerns about our communal
midst of the first parashah that transi-
well being. In the realm of culture,
tions from the narrative to the more
the past two decades have brought a
legal ("mishpatim") sections of Torah:
number of popular songs (recorded by For angels, the concept mitzvah has
such artists as Jane Siberry and k.d.
little meaning. Angels do as God bids
lang, or Train) that plead, "Calling All
them to do. The entire notion of mitz-
Angels." In truth, to whom should we
vah, of commandedness, relies upon
turn with our hopes and expectations
the potential that we as human beings
for improvement in troubling times?
will not do what we are asked.
This week's Torah por-
Then, when we do
tion offers an answer
fulfill God's laws and
to this important ques-
expectations, when
tion. In the parashah, we
we — through our
receive many of the civil
choices and actions
laws that are to govern
— become holy
Israelite society, but in
humans (anshei
the midst of the list of
kodesh), we will truly
laws, we read,"V'anshei
bring redemption to
kodesh tih'yun li — You
our troubled times.
shall be holy people to
God is not "calling
Me" (Exodus 22:30).
all angels"; rather,
The Kotzker Rebbe understood these
God is calling on each of us — to help
words to indicate that we should
one another, to be a mentsh, and to
strive to be holy — but in a way that
strive to be just a little better in our
is human. As human beings, we are
(very imperfect, but very holy and
subject to temptations and faults. The
very human) lives.
Kotzker Rebbe taught, "God already
has enough angels."
Eric Yanoff is a rabbi at Congregation
Shaarey Zedek of Oakland County.
According to this interpretation,
especially as we confront challenges,
God does not want the simple per-
fection of the angels because angels
are beings with a single course of
Conversations
action and no choice in the matter.
Even though we are not perfect
or all-powerful, what can we do
God has enough angels. God needs
anshei kodesh — people, with all of
to help ourselves and others
our human flaws and tendencies and
face the challenges of these
days? Do we expect God (and
temptations. God needs human beings
who are striving toward perfection,
the angels) to "save" us? What
even with the full knowledge that we
can we do to help?
will never arrive at that far-off goal of

God needs
human beings
who are
striving toward
perfection.

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February 19 . 2009

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