Mishpatim – Running the Red Light

This week’s Parsha, Mishpatim, raises a curiosity. It describes the basic civil and criminal laws that regulate society and legal recourse in cases of civil and criminal disobedience. It then goes on to describe the design of the Mishkan – the construction of the portal between this world and the higher spiritual realms. It is as if the top priority is the mundane (laws), and the secondary obligation was to be the inherent spirituality. Why do we choose to obey the law? Out of fear of repercussions? Because of peer group pressure? Sensibility? Probably all of these and more. But these reasons appeal to logic i.e. rationalization, and therefore we have the ability (as is seen all the time) to even rationalize our breaking of the law. For example, why not run the red light that is unusually long and no cars coming from either direction -, the light is probably out of order anyway (in truth it was on a long weekend cycle)? Or why not cut corners on our tax return – the government doesn’t really need my extra few dollars and it won’t make any difference to the national economy anyway? That is precisely why the design of the Mishkan, the spiritual dimension of Jewish life, is placed after the listing of the basic laws of society. It is one thing to have a legal system to regulate social life and society at large. But it is a separate and quite independent effort and agenda to commit oneself to it beyond rationalization. Logic and rationale is not the basis of Divine laws – belief is. Are you truly committed to your belief system? Or will you run the red lights of your principles when it suits?