This week's parsha, Mishpatim, contains a whole range of different commandments. Straight after the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai, we are introduced to a big chunk of our mitzvot. In fact, the name of the parsha, mishpatim, means just that - laws.

One of the mitzvot, is to set up 'Arei Miklat', or cities of refuge. These cities are to handle a situation where someone accidentally kills another guy. For example, one guy was chopping down a tree and the axe handle flies off the actual axe and smacks the guy standing nearby and kills him. In such an event, the relatives of the murdered man are likely to chase down the murderer and do him in. These cities, we are told to create seven of them throughout Israel, are

supposed to be places that an accidental murderer can flee to, and the mad relatives of the person he accidentally killed are not allowed in, so the accidental murderer is safe. The truth is that Arei Miklat, cities of refuge, are a whole topic in and of themselves, but I don't know too much about them. There was a guy in my yeshiva recently, he only came for a few months, who was a law lecturer in one of the top universities in America, and he has actually published a few articles in law journals. He told me that one of these articles was comparing the jail system in America to the Arei Miklat, cities of refuge, that the Torah prescribes. I said to him "Wow. That sounds really interesting. Can I read it?" He replied "well....its 60 pages." I said "Oh. Don't worry about it then." In short, I don't know all the details about these cities, but you get the general idea.

What is interesting is the following: In the fourth chapter of Devarim (4th book of the Torah) we are told of the setting up of these cities. Moshe set up the 3 that are on the eastern side of the Jordan river, but he didn't manage to set up the rest, because he didn't actually get to cross over the Jordan and entire the Land of Israel. Joshua, his successor, took care of setting up the other four cities of refuge The interesting thing is that straight after we are told of Moshe's setup of these 3 cities of refuge, we find the famous passuk (verse) that we sing in shule when they do hagbah whenever we put the Torah away "This is the Torah that Moshe placed before the Children of Israel."

Why is this verse here? Put it at the end of the Torah! Or the beginning! I don't know....somewhere! But what does it have to do with Moshe setting up these three cities of refuge?

There is a deep lesson here. The commandment of the cities of refuge was to set up seven. Moshe would never be able to complete this mitzva! He knew he wasn't entering the Land of Israel! He knew he would never be able to set up the other 4 cities! So why did he set up any at all? He hasn't accomplished anything. He hasn't fulfilled any mizva. If you shake half a lulav you haven't done anything. If you say every second word in kiddush you havent made kiddush! So why did Moshe bother?

Because when you love someone, you don't do what they want because you want browning points, or because you want credit. You do it simply because that's what they want. You will do whatever you can to make them happy. If you can't do the whole thing, you'll do half. If you can't do half, you'll do a quarter. Moshe couldn't fulfill the mitzva of setting up the 7 cities of refuge. Technically, he hasn't fulfilled a mitzva when he sets up the 3 on the eastern side of the Jordan river, but he doesn''t care. He's not in it for the points. Hashem wants 7 cities of refuge in Israel, and as much as he can...he's going to fulfill what Hashem wants, because he loves Him.

We are told in the Torah to serve Hashem out of love, and out of fear/awe. But the primary motivation is love. He is my Creator, who relates to me daily and does incredible kindnesses for me. I want to do whatever I can for Him. Even if I don't get any credit.

That "is the Torah that Moshe placed before the Children of Israel." And those children, my friends, are us.

Shabbat Shalom!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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