This week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim (Ex. 21:1 – 24:18) delineates the laws and rules that the children of Israel are to follow in addition to the Ten Commandments that they received in last week’s portion. The laws run the gamut from civil and criminal matters to festivals to how we are to treat others to our relationship to God.
At the end of the Torah portion, Moses reads the laws to the people and they respond, “All that the Lord spoken, we will do and we will hear!” The commentators remark on the order of the words, as they seem out of order. Shouldn’t it be that they first hear the laws, and then do them? Ibn Ezra speculates on the possibilities: Perhaps it means, “We will do everything that is written down and we will continually hear them in our mouths…Or it might mean we will do the commandments that are planted in our hearts and we will hear the commandments that have been revealed to us. Or, we will do the commandments God has given us so far and we will hear the ones He will give us in the future. Or, we will do the positive commandments and we will hear (and not do) the prohibitions.”
I was once studying these verses with a group of Hillel directors and Rabbi Jerry Goldstein commented, “If we knew everything we were agreeing to before we agreed to it, no one would ever get married”. I believe that is true. Also, no one would start a family, inaugurate a business, or risk anything. The Israelites in the wilderness had seen enough of God’s power and justice that they trusted the nature of them before they knew the details. Sometimes we all have to take a leap of faith.