At the beginning of this week’s Parsha, Rashi, draws a parallel between Parshas Yisro and Parshas Mishpatim. In that, just as the Ten Commandments were given at Sinai (Yisro) so were the “judgments” that are given in this week’s Parsha.
It seems rather peculiar however, that immediately after the Parsha that stated the 10 commandments we immediately jump right back into the Mitzvos. Didn’t we just list all of the Mitzvos (The 10 commandments are all encompassing!)?
The Ramban and the Sforno both answer that although it is correct that we were told the Mitzvos in last week’s Parsha, none of their specifics were mentioned. Therefore, the beginning of the Parsha discusses the proper manner to treat a friend’s property so that we do not become involved in the prohibition of, (Lo Sachmod).[ “you shall not covet your neighbor’s wife. Neither shall you desire your neighbor’s house, or field, or male or female slave, or ox, or donkey, or anything that belongs to your neighbor.”]
Shemos 21:1 “And these are the judgments that you shall place before them:”
Coming off the brink of the above Dvar Torah, one should have an idea as to why these “judgments” were mentioned right after Matan Torah, but it seems rather superfluous to say that “the judgments” were placed “before them”(Lifneihem). Of course it was placed before them! Who else could they have been placed before?
Rav Avigdor Nevenzahl answers that yes, it is obvious that they were given specifically to Klal Yisrael. It is not obvious however that these judgments have to be carried out in a Jewish Halachik judicial system. One might assume that as long as these rules are utilized and abided by, that a secular court system could use them to carry out justice. Therefore the Pasuk says, “Before them” (Lifneihem), to teach us that the only people who have the right to try such a court case are a Jewish court.
Rav Nevenzahl also analyzes another possible reason as to why the first Pasuk of this week’s Parsha states the word, Lifneihem.
At this point in the Parsha, Moshe Rabbeinu was found to be in the heavens with Hakadosh Baruch Hu. While he was there, many of the world’s secrets and solutions to its many intricacies were revealed to him. He attained a true understanding of the reason for every mitzvah and the profound meaning that each one carries. After seeing and learning all of this, Hashem eventually told Moshe, “until this point in your stay in Shamayim who have had the privilege to indulge yourself in the deepness (amkus) of the Torah, but now that you are going to be returning back down to Klal Yisroel, I now must teach you the proper way to apply my justice system back into the world.”
Therefore when the verse, “And these are the judgments that you shall place before them” is said, Hakadosh Baruch Hu was referring to the laws that are utilized on a day to day basis by the judges of Klal Yisroel, for they could definitely not understand the regulations and their profundity to the same extent as Moshe when he was in Shamayim.
But why? Why is it that the heavenly “judgments” cannot be fully comprehended by the Tzadikim and Gedolim or our time? The answer is that regardless of how big of a Talmid Chacham a person is or how pious and humble one is, they are still just a human being. And if we wonder, what place these divine Mitzvos play in our world if we cannot understand them. We can be rest assured that they are being taken care of in Shamayim ,and that Beis Din Shel Maaleh is doing all of their work.
The Gemara says in many places that the Torah was not given to Malachei Hashaares, but to humans. Although we may not have a full understanding of the incomprehensible depths of the Torah, we are also inheritors and guarantors of a four-thousand year-old tradition of Jewish life and learning. Hashem looked in the Torah and created the world, we are a physical incarnation of the depths of the Torah and all that it entails.
Just like Bnei Yisrael did in this weeks Parsha, may we all wholeheartedly make our own proclamations of Na'aseh V'nishma so that Hakadosh Baruch Hu, will speedily bring the Mashiach Bimheira Biyameinu.