Parashat Mishpatim

Two Minutes of Torah with Rabbi Abbi Sharofsky

Moses went and repeated to the people all the commands of the LORD and all the rules; and all the people answered with one voice, saying, “All the things that the LORD has commanded we will do!” 

—Exodus 24:3

The American Jewish community does not speak with a singular voice.  There are dramatically different approaches among our people to observance, adherence to Jewish law, Israel, language, food, clothes, politics, and so on. Argument and collegial (and sometimes not so collegial) disagreement are a central part of Jewish learning, tradition, and communal structure.  Yet, this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, highlights the Israelites responding in unison to Moses, after he recites law after law, “Sure, no problem, we agree to this!” An anomaly? Maybe. Maybe not.

Yesterday I attended my first JCRC Maryland Jewish Advocacy Day in Annapolis, advocating for causes important to our community.  Over 120 Jews from throughout Maryland, more than half from Greater Washington, spoke with elected officials from their districts about issues such as funds for institutional security, strengthening hate crimes, providing home-based services for Holocaust survivors, and deterring domestic violence.  What amazed me about the day was that it was non-partisan and non-denominational, bringing Jewish people together to participate in the democratic process and put the needs of the Jewish community first.  It was a true reflection of k’lal Yisrael  --Jewish peoplehood.

Our elected officials rely on us – their constituents – to speak up. The Jewish community, with all its differences and complexities, recognizes the importance of advocating with leaders and when necessary, speaking with one voice through our JCRC.   We stand together, diverse members of a pluralistic community who are united in our efforts to combat hate, protect our community’s institutions, and help the most vulnerable in our midst. Perhaps that is the one voice that answered Moses:  the voice of a pluralistic community that understands that our differences should not tear us apart but rather make us stronger.