29 Jan Parashat Mishpatim
In Parashat Mishpatim the Pasuk writes right in the beginning, “Viele Hamishpatim Asher Tasim Lifnehem,” translated as ‘these are the ordinances that you should place before them’. Rashi comments on the words “Asher Tasim Lifnehem” (that you should place before them) that G-d said to Moshe, don’t think to say that all I am asking you to do is teach them the Halachot 2 or 3 times until they know it by heart, and that you are not obligated to give them the reason, the rational, and the logic behind the law, but rather you must place the Torah in front of them like a set table ready to eat.
The Rabbis are teaching us a lesson that Moshe was not commanded to only discharge Halachot and say them over without any logic or rationale behind them. In that case it would be a very dry studying, and it would be a very bland Limud. The Torah is coming to say that you have to place it in front of them like somebody places food. We know that when we put food on a table, that the presentation plays a large factor in arousing the appetite of the eater. Therefore we present the food in a very pleasant way.
The Rabbis are saying that while one learns Torah, it’s not enough that he just reads one law after another without knowing the reason why he is learning it. This type of learning can be become very boring, and can become very burdensome and can become very routine. The Torah here might be giving a lesson to the teachers, like Moshe Rabenu, that they must teach their students in depth in each subject that is brought in front of them. The teacher must give them reasons and logic and the understanding in order that the student develops a love of Torah. It’s like serving food with spices. Then already it is edible. But one who just serves a piece of food that is bland without flavoring, sure it has nutrition and sure it will satiate a person, but it is not an enjoyable experience. Therefore Moshe is being told by G-d ‘Asher Tasim Lifnhehem’ meaning that you have to set the table of Halachot, and you have to make it appealing to the students, and study them in depth.
Unfortunately there are many people that think the main thing is to teach book knowledge. It is important that you know things by heart, but of course this would not be enough but rather is just superficial. Our children are not robots nor are they computers. Our children have to learn a love for the Torah which can only be attained by studying in depth, by giving the child a reason and rationale. In Hebrew they call it Sevara (logic), and that really comes with the study of Talmud.
The study of Gemara really expounds the logic of the Torah and the precepts that are brought within.
The Torah says, “Asher Tasim Lefnehem.” So Moshe was obligated to set the table (so to speak) and teach Halachot where they would enjoy it and toil in it, and delve into the logic. So too is it incumbent upon those that are studying Torah to plummet to its depths in order to understand it and in order to keep it enjoyable and appetizing.