We all think of last week’s Parsha as being the Parsha of Mattan Torah. But in this week’s Parsha we also read, at the end of Mishpatim, of Mattan Torah as well. Why does the Torah divide the narrative in this fashion?
Rav Kook, in his Orot, develops a fascinating concept. He suggests that in a successful secular society there is a need for the intellectuals – the poets, the writers, the thinkers, to articulate the grand vision of that society and to inspire people to buy into the concept. Then there is the need for the technical implementation of the grand vision – the scientists, the lawyers, the teachers, the workers, are the ones who create the society, and the vision becomes a reality.
And regarding the religious dimension of a people, posits Rav Kook, the same dichotomy exists. There is a need for articulation of and inspiration to the grand principles and ideas, the religious vision. This is accomplished by the prophet. And then there is the need for implementation, and this is done by the sage, teaching and promulgating the Halacha. Halacha often seems very detail oriented, and it is, because that is exactly how grand visions are implemented.
The idea developed by Rav Kook can help us understand the positioning of the legal aspects of Mishpatim between the two episodes describing Mattan Torah. The first section, that of Parshat Yitro, articulates the grand vision of Torah Society – ואתם תהיו לי ממלכת כהנים וגוי קדוש, And you shall be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These inspirational words, followed by the dramatic and overwhelming experience of Mattan Torah represent the prophetic inspiration and the articulation of the grand vision.
But that goal and that ideal cannot be reached by a revelatory experience, no matter how dramatic. Rather, the halacha must be taught, learned, and observed. Thus, the need for the immediate follow-up with Parshat Mishpatim. Only after the legal teachings are studied and internalized, can Mattan Torah be viewed as having been completed. And so, the Torah return to the events of Sinai at the end of Parshat Mishpatim to describe how our covenant was actually effectuated.
And the description given here, in Mishpatim, is rather prosaic when compared to the excitement and drama of Yitro. Here we speak of korbanot, of sprinkling blood - very low key when compared to the Kolot Uvrakim of Yitro. Here we are speaking of the details, the footwork involved in making the vision a reality
For the past seventy years, we have been witnessing the implementation of a grand vision in Medinat Yisrael. While the physical society itself has been created with major success, the religious dimension still requires much effort in seeing its fulfillment. Let the reading of our Parsha inspire us to work towards that goal.