The Magic Within
By Shir Yaakov Feit
January 29, 2022
0:00 / 8:09
The Magic Within

Last week's parsha contains the encounter at Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments. Kohenet Renée beautifully taught that if we befriend Goddess, if we make contact with the ultimate Source, and maintain right relationship with that One, then Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots are not necessarily needed. A certain awareness, trust, and clarity naturally flows from that Divine Intimacy.

This week's Parshah, however, is chock full of Thou Shalts and Thou Shalt Nots. An intense and profound mystical encounter is enough to provide guidance for a lifetime. For some folks. Yet for others, the operationalizing of spirit seems to be necessary.

Traditions around the world come up with their own lists of rules, precepts, remembrances, creeds, credos, or manifestos. These Jewish pointing out instructions are called mitzvot. And Parshat Mishpatim, this week's reading, presents one mitzvah after another.

Religion starts in mysticism and ends in politics

We see the polarity between last week's and this week's Parshah in something beloved Benedictine monk David Steindl-Rast writes, "all religion starts in mysticism and ends in politics." he illustrates this with the metaphor of a volcano. Sinai encounters, or whatever form theophanies may take, are fiery, white hot, roaring with shockwaves of transformative impact. But eventually, inevitably lava cools into stone. Generations, years, even moments later, we might pick up a stone of instruction yet forget the magnanimous flow now embedded in stillness, instilled in silence.

We need to turn these rocks in our fingers and help them catch the light of inspiration once again.

"You shall not suffer a sorceress."

One such pebble got caught in my shoe this week, "you shall not suffer a sorceress." The meaning is troublesome and the verse is grammatically peculiar. It's variously translated as "you shall not tolerate a sorceress" or even "you must not allow a sorceress to live" or starkly "never let a which live."

It strikes me as both sexist and barbaric. We like magical women, no?

The Talmud is troubled with the grammar too. The feminine noun ME·CHA·SHEI·FAH/מכשפה singles out the female. The rabbis make sure we know that both sorcerers and sorceresses are meant: