Rules Rules Rules

Have you noticed how many rules there are on the road? Rules for when you are driving, and rules for when you are parked; rules for when it’s raining, and rules for when parking on a hill. There are so many rules. Do you remember how thick the manual was when getting your drivers license?

Well, the instructor told me that the manual was the simplified version and there were so many more rules not even printed in there. As many rules as there are when it comes to driving, I haven’t really heard too many complaints about them…  Which rule exactly would you like to do away with? Everyone should stop at the red light? Turning your wheel against the curb when parking on a hill? Stop signs? No trucks in the fast lane?

One of the interesting things about driving is that of the many rules, most of them are common sense; you can see the safety benefits so clearly. We realize that these rules weren’t put in place to drive us crazy, or to impede us from getting from A to Z in a timely manner. On the contrary, these rules were enacted so that we do get to our destination in a safe and timely manner. It’s obvious that the rules are for our benefit.

If while driving, someone tries to break the law, it is their own life and the life of others that they are jeopardizing. And when you follow the law, you are helping to ensure the safety of you, your car and all those around you.

This reminds me of the central theme of this week’s Torah portion of Yisro. This week we get to read the Ten Commandments. Actually, they are not really the Ten Commandments, that is an inaccurate translation. The Hebrew term is Aseres Hadibros – the Ten Statements. So what are these statements? Are they a list of rules that G‑d made just because he could?

The truth is that these ten are laws. In fact all of the 613 mitzvos in the Torah are laws. (The Ten Commandments have in them 620 letters, alluding to the 613 mitzvos of the Torah, plus the 7 rabbinic mitzvos). They are the laws of how life works.

A wise man once said, “The definition of a law is, you can’t break a law, you can only break yourself against the law”. There are two types of laws. There are the laws of nature and the laws of human nature. Let’s take a look at the laws of nature. Think of the laws that govern agriculture. The law states (yes I made this up…) that, if when it rains you have already plowed and sowed the field, it will grow; if you have not yet plowed and sowed the field, it will not grow.

If someone decides to break the law and not plow and sow, he hasn’t really broken the law; he has broken himself against the law - now he doesn’t have any sprouting grain. And if he puts in the effort to follow the laws of planting, he will be blessed with a field full of grain. But is it just a magical blessing? Or is it a result of him following the immutable law.

So too, when it comes to the laws of human nature. the mitzvos in the Torah are the laws of long term healthy and stable living. These are the laws of how to channel our nature into productive and idealistic pursuits. It’s not an accident that the Jewish people are still around today after thousands of years. The laws that Hashem laid down for us in the Torah are the blueprint for the most stable and meaningful life that we could wish for. And G‑d should know what those principles are; after all he created human nature!

Let us take advantage of the laws of human nature that were shared with us so many thousands of years ago; for by keeping the laws, the laws will keep us.

Shabbat Shalom

Rabbi Levi