Rabbi Yitschak Rudomin
Rabbi Yitschak RudominCourtesy

There is an interesting idea I once heard about the first word of the Torah בְּרֵאשִׁ֖ית (Breishit) that when it's written with vocalization then the first letter בּ ("B") has a "dot" (called a "dagesh" in Hebrew) in its middle that can be seen as the symbolic and proverbial starting "POINT" of the entire Torah, and the world that follows.

What is a dot? It is a microscopic and microcosmic symbol for a world that is also round. In fact there is something called a "microdot" in modern science the size of the dot in a Bet, that can store huge amounts of information. From this dot in the Torah's beginning flows everything that follows. A "locus" in geometry is an example of the central point in the center of a circle that reaches all the outer points of the circle around it equidistantly. So the dot in the Bet can mean that everything extending from it as part of the Torah's beginning is equidistantly attached or removed from it. Everything in the Torah, every letter, every word, and every Mitzvah, are NOT just randomly connected to each other haphazardly, but everything in the Torah, particularly the Mitzvot (Commandments) are of equal importance as far as Hashem, the originator of the Torah, is concerned.

The commentator RASHI makes this point at the outset of this Torah portion when he explains why the Torah portion starts with the word וְאֵלֶּה "VeEilah" where the first letter "VAV" ("Vav HaChibur") meaning "AND" that is the connecting letter that is the prefix of the opening word of Torah portion's name: VeEilah, when it could just as easily have said Eilah אֵלֶּה, without the Vav?! RASHI famously explains that just as the prior commandments, like the Ten Commandments were given by God at Mount Sinai to the Children of Israel, likewise those commandments that now follow were ALSO given by God at Mount Sinai to the Children of Israel. This means that all Mitzvot (Commandments), no matter of what type they are, are of Divine Origin.

All types of Law: Natural Law, Moral Law, Scientific Law, Civil Law, Criminal Law, Reproductive Law, Social Law, Spiritual Law, all of them no matter what type of law it is, are derived from the same Godly source. This Torah portion has thirty three sub-sections, like all Torah portions it's divided into smaller sub-portions that cover a plethora of laws: 1. The Hebrew slave; 2. The Hebrew Maidservant; 3. Manslaughter; 4. Murder; 5. Injuring a parent; 6. Kidnapping; 7. Cursing a parent; 8. Personal injury; 9. Killing of slaves; 10. Personal damages; 11. Injury to slaves; 12. The killer ox; 13. A hole in the ground; 14. Damage by goring; 15. Penalties for stealing; 16.Damage by grazing; 17. Damage by fire; 18. The unpaid custodian; 19. The paid custodian; 20. The Borrowed article; 21. Seduction; 22. Occult practices; 23. Idolatry and oppression; 24. Lending money; 25. Accepting authority; 26. Justice; 27. Strayed animals; 28. The fallen animal; 29. Justice and festivals; 30. Promises and instructions; 31. The land; 32. Sealing the covenant; 33. Moses ascends. (From the Contents. The Living Torah by Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan).

Such an amazing array of commandments, but wait, for example, what do the laws prohibiting seduction, occult practices and idolatry have to do with "Mishpatim" (laws or judgments of civil law), how do they mesh? The way to understand this is to see all laws coming from the same central point and all laws of the Torah being equidistant from the Giver of the Torah which is God Himself.

There is a true story that a student of the famous Rabbi Yitschak Hutner (1906-1980) once wrote to Rav Hutner saying that he felt he was leading a "double life". He could not reconcile his professional life with his Torah life and somehow saw them as contradictory. Rav Hutner wrote back to his student that he should stride to lead a "broad life" and that in Judaism there is no such thing as a "double life".

The recent Chaim Walder exposure of a well-known author who outwardly lived a Torah life and wrote delightful children's books but secretly seduced children and women at the same time doing what is antithetical to the Torah, is an example of just such a situation where someone was leading a double, if not triple and quadruple, life of multiple conflicting ways. A true "split personality" disorder that when it reached overload and critical mass exploded, causing harm to so many people, leading to his self-destruction as well by suicide, and creating a huge Chillul Hashem (Desecration of God's Name).

There are some people who cannot even sense that they are leading a double life, somehow the wires of their personality got crossed and they allow themselves that which the Torah and Judaism explicitly forbid. This issue is as old the hills. The Torah calls Esau the son of Yitzchak an "Ish Tzayid Befiv" a man who "hunted with his tongue", or as the classics put it "spoke with a forked tongue" failing the litmus test of a Jew who must be "Echad BePeh VeEchad BeLev" ("words should match deeds")

That was the problem with the notorious false messiah Shabtai Tzvi (1626-1676) who outwardly preached piety attraction a huge following of innocent admirers but he inwardly practiced abominations explicitly forbidden by the Torah. For these kinds of twisted people, something at the root of their souls, characters and personalities is so twisted and out of whack that they become walking Frankensteins. They are worse than a split-personality Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde because they combine all their qualities both good and evil into one day to day working organism that blinds them to any moral message from their damaged consciences. The message that they must follow ALL the laws of Torah, moral, sexual, civil, equally has no receptors inside of them. They are faulty human beings in the extreme.

But to some degree all Jews and all human beings are a combination of Good and Evil. That is the precise point of Adam and Eve eating from the Tree of Knowledge of GOOD and EVIL, that good and evil are then intertwined into the very make-up of a human being. In Judaism this dichotomy is referred to as the opposing drives of the Yetzer HaTov and the Yetzer HaRa, the Good Inclination versus the Evil Inclination, and in fact Judaism teaches that the greater a person is, the greater is his or her Evil Inclination.

By the same token God always provides the Cure Before The Illness - Makdim Refuah Lemakah, and while the great person may be afflicted by the greater impulse to do Evil, they are also pre-endowed with the capacity to resist and allow the Impulse to do Good to overpower their negative impulses. It then devolves to a question whether they are able to use their Freedom of Choice (Bechirah Chofshit) or not to help themselves and avoid damaging others?!

In the Torah-true world there have by now been hundreds of thousands of men and women who have spent years in boys' Yeshivas and girls' Ulpenas and Bais Yaakovs, in Kollelim and Seminaries dedicating their lives to pure Torah study and perfecting themselves through Avodah and Mitzvot (Holy Service and doing the Commandments), but when they eventually leave the confines of their religious schools and have to face the realities of what people call "the real world" of mundane secular issues and problems many find it difficult to align the standard they were once taught and lived with the requirements of a practical reality of life. It becomes a challenge to lead a BROAD LIFE and not fall into the trap of a "double life" each according to their own personal situation.

In the secular non-religious Jewish world the challenges for people are even greater. What moral codes to live by? What ethics to practice? How to avoid legal problems? What sexual practices to follow or avoid? Is there a God? Why be Jewish? What is a Jew? and so on and so forth. If only they could realize that it's all one problem but you need the help of the Torah to see everything as one integrated whole. That everything stems from one central source and that all laws are ultimately projections of God's power and influence in the world for the betterment of Humanity.

* Mishpatim means "Laws" from Exodus 21:1 "And these are the laws..."

Rabbi Yitschak Rudominis president and founder of the Jewish Professionals Institute. An alumnus of Yeshiva Chaim Berlin and Teachers College, Columbia University, he has dedicated his life to Jewish outreach and education, served for 7 years as full-time director of Sinai Heritage Centers in Manhattan and 3 as an AJOP trustee, .among many oher endeavors.