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Parsha Mishpatim

This week's parashah, Parashat Mishpatim, begins, ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם. Rashi explains that in this pasuk G-d instructs Moshe Rabbenu to teach the Jewish people all the laws of the Torah in a clear fashion so they'll be able to understand them and properly apply them in their daily lives.

Hashem placed us in a very challenging world, but He gave us the instructions which tell us exactly what we need to do to be successful. The Hovot Ha'levavot writes in the Sha'ar Ha'bitahon section (chapter 4) that one who makes his decisions in life based upon the Torah can feel fully confident without any shadow of a doubt that he made all the correct decisions. If we do what the Torah tells us to do, then we are, by definition, succeeding, regardless of whether or not we see results. The Hafetz Haim used to say that we are not here to accomplish, but rather to do. We should be telling ourselves, "I have to do what Hashem wants me to do, and what happens after that is not my business." If we live our lives according to halachah, then we never have to question our decisions.

I once read an article entitled, "Chronic Second Guessing Jeopardizes Mental Health." It states, "Those who constantly doubt their own judgment are especially prone to a wide range of psychological problems--such as mood swings, lower self-esteem, anxiety and depression." The article notes a study in which self-doubters exhibited low self-confidence, a need for the approval of others, and a tendency to procrastinate. We are so fortunate to have the Torah and the Hachamim to tell us precisely what we need to do, so we can always feel confident knowing we did what Hashem wanted, without having to worry afterward. If somebody had an opportunity to earn a lot of money dishonestly and he desisted, he never has to second-guess himself and worry that maybe he made the wrong decision. He can feel content with the knowledge that he did precisely what he was supposed to do, and Hashem is very proud of him for making the correct decision.

In the beginning of World War II, the Brisker Rav was in Warsaw, and bombs were falling all around. The people with him argued over whether it was safer to stay in the basement, protected from a direct hit, or if the basement was actually more dangerous, as one could get buried under the rubble. As the debate raged, the Brisker Rav was on the top floor of the building walking around perfectly calm and relaxed. The people wondered how the Rabbi could be so calm during such a tense time, and he explained, "The only thing in the world that I am worried about is doing the רצון ה'[divine will]. I was going back and forth in my mind deciding whether it is better to be here or in the basement, and I determined that the two places were equally dangerous, so it makes no difference where I stay. Now I am completely calm, because Hashem looks after me. I just have to make sure I am doing His will."

This is the attitude we should have. There will be many occasions in life when we will feel tempted to think, "I should have done this" or "I should have done that." This type of uncertainty and second-guessing can be very unhealthy. The more we base our decisions on the Torah and do what Hashem wants, the more confident we will feel knowing that we made all the right choices.

Following the revelation at Sinai, G‑d legislates a series of laws for the people of Israel. These include the laws of the indentured servant; the penalties for murder, kidnapping, assault and theft; civil laws pertaining to redress of damages, the granting of loans and the responsibilities of the “Four Guardians”; and the rules governing the conduct of justice by courts of law.

Also included are laws warning against mistreatment of foreigners; the observance of the seasonal festivals, and the agricultural gifts that are to be brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem; the prohibition against cooking meat with milk; and the mitzvah of prayer. Altogether, the Parshah of Mishpatim contains 53 mitzvot—23 imperative commandments and 30 prohibitions.

G‑d promises to bring the people of Israel to the Holy Land, and warns them against assuming the pagan ways of its current inhabitants.

The people of Israel proclaim, “We will do and we will hear all that G‑d commands us.” Leaving Aaron and Hur in charge in the Israelite camp, Moses ascends Mount Sinai and remains there for forty days and forty nights to receive the Torah from G‑d.

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