Mishpatim

[Based on a dvar torah written by R’ David Silverberg]

The Shalosh Regalim – Pesach, Shavuot and Sukkot – have at least two main significant aspects.

Perhaps the more dramatic and exciting aspect of these festivals are their respective historical significance: Yetziat Mitzrayim, Matan Torah, and the miraculous journey through the wilderness under the protection of the Annanei HaKavod.
These three holidays, however, also mark the three basic agricultural periods of the solar year in Eretz Yisrael: Pesach marks the beginning of Spring, and thus the beginning of the harvest; Shavuot occurs when the harvest of the first fruits is completed; and Sukkot celebrates the completion of the entire harvest.
Parshat Mishpatim focuse on the agricultural element. Shmot 23:14-16
:יד:  שָׁלֹשׁ רְגָלִים, תָּחֹג לִי בַּשָּׁנָה
:טו:  אֶת חַג הַמַּצּוֹת תִּשְׁמֹר שִׁבְעַת יָמִים תֹּאכַל מַצּוֹת כַּאֲשֶׁר צִוִּיתִךָ לְמוֹעֵד חֹדֶשׁ הָאָבִיב, כִּי בוֹ יָצָאתָ מִמִּצְרָיִם וְלֹא יֵרָאוּ פָנַי רֵיקָם
:טז:  וְחַג הַקָּצִיר בִּכּוּרֵי מַעֲשֶׂיךָ אֲשֶׁר תִּזְרַע בַּשָּׂדֶה וְחַג הָאָסִף בְּצֵאת הַשָּׁנָה בְּאָסְפְּךָ אֶת מַעֲשֶׂיךָ מִן הַשָּׂדֶה

These two components – the historical and the agricultural – do not necessarily constitute two independent lessons; the two are very much related, as each sheds light upon the other.

Specifically, the seasonal progression from Pesach to Shavuot symbolizes the historical progression from the Yetziat Mitzrayim to Matan Torah. Pesach is the holiday of springtime; the harsh winter conditions begin to subside, flowers begin to blossom, the ground once again becomes suitable for vegetation. These external conditions, however, only begin the process whose significance ultimately comes to fruition – literally – with the arrival of Shavuot – the first harvest. The springtime, while beautiful, is only the very beginning of the results it will ultimately produce several months later.

Similarly, some suggest, that Pesach signifies the beauty and splendor of Am Yisrael. In essence, it commemorates the birth of Jewish nationalism and pride, our singularity and ascent as “b’ni bechori Yisrael”. However, this pride lacks an anchoring to something significant when considered in the absence of Shavuot – the giving of the Torah. Just as Spring marks the beginning of a development that only culminates with the first harvest, so does Pesach trigger a progression that culminates with Hashem’s revelation on Har Sinai seven weeks later. Just as flowers that don’t bear fruit are merely attractive to the eye, but lack substantive significance, so does our sense of nationalism lose much of its meaning without our acceptance of the Torah. We didn’t leave Egypt to wander indefinitely; we left so that we could accept the Torah and become Avdei Hashem.

There is tremendous unrealized potential in identifying solely with the status and freedom afforded to us through the story of the Exodus, without committing ourselves to the obligations and demands of Matan Torah. If we only gaze upon the beautiful flowers of Springtime – the elevated stature of Am Yisrael as represented by Pesach, but fail to reap the harvest of Summertime – to submit ourselves to the demands of a Torah lifestyle, as we were commanded on Shavuot (and to the detailed laws contained in Mishpatim), then we fall tragically short of Hashem’s expectations for His Chosen Nation. One of the main themes of Pesach is Hashem establishing Himself to the world as Creator and Sustainer. We channel Hashem’s message, through our learning and observance of the mitzvot, and by spreading the infinite Torah lessons and values. The splendor of the spring must go hand-in-hand with the substantive results of the summer.

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