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Parashat Mishpatim: G-d's Brand

When we think of G-d, we mostly think of a grand king on a throne, an older man in the sky, an image of a Fatherly figure, and/or a discerning G-d of significant character. The only instance that we have of G-d punishing people is the way G-d treated the Egyptians during the plagues. But, even through those events, G-d seemed reluctant to do terrible things or harm humans. Similarly, when G-d destroyed the world in the time of Noah, he seemed reluctant to do bad things to humans, even when it was necessary. Each event that has been negative up to this point in the Torah had a purpose of creating a better world for all and a better world for the Jewish people. That fits the profile of the G-d we understand, a G-d that is very careful to destroy and only chooses to destroy with a purpose. However, in this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, G-d presents a slightly more aggressive image.

“Behold, I am sending an angel before you to guard you on the way and to bring you to the place that I have prepared. Beware of him and obey him; do not rebel against him, for he will not forgive your transgression, for My Name is within him. For if you hearken to his voice and do all that I say, I will hate your enemies and oppress your adversaries. For My angel will go before you, and bring you to the Amorites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Canaanites, the Hivvites, and the Jebusites, and I will destroy them. You shall not prostrate yourself before their gods, and you shall not worship them, and you shall not follow their practices, but you shall tear them down and you shall utterly shatter their monuments. And you shall worship the Lord, your God, and He will bless your food and your drink, and I will remove illness from your midst.” (Exodus 23:20-25)

G-d mentions a guardian angel that will not forgive and talks about how he will destroy certain peoples on our behalf. This is a stark difference from the tone used previously in the Torah. This G-d presents an image of more stringent G-d, one who will not forgive and seeks to play a zero sum game, situations in which one person gains while the other loses. This is a much harder version of the omnipresent one to accept. When you are at your dinner table for Shabbat, I would like for you to discuss the image of G-d that you see from the text and from your life. Based on the text in this blog, how does this text make you feel? How does this G-d make you feel? Can this G-d be your G-d? What G-d do you feel comfortable with? Discuss and see how your family and friends understand our G-d.

Shabbat Shalom!

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