Ever wonder why fresh flowers make such a great gift?
There’s their fragrant aroma and vibrant beauty. But flowers don’t actually do anything. They don’t satisfy a craving; they can’t be hung on a wall or provide an enduring contribution. To some, they are just wasteful extravagance.
But perhaps that’s precisely why we love them. Flowers represent a small luxury whose sole purpose is to express care. A spouse who gifts flowers may be saying, “I have no idea why you like this. This isn’t about me, but rather, my love for you.”
In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, we read: [Moses] took the book of the covenant, and read in the hearing of the people; and they said: “All that G‑d has spoken, we will do, and we will hear.” (Ex. 24:7)
The Talmud (Shabbat 88a) states: “When the people of Israel gave precedence to ‘we will do’ over ‘we will hear,’ a heavenly voice exclaimed: ‘Who revealed to My children this secret . . . ?’”
In saying “we will do” before even hearing the details of what they were committing themselves to, the nation demonstrated their absolute devotion to G‑d. They were prepared to “blindly” do G‑d’s bidding just because it is His will.
The first step in a relationship is doing for another unconditionally—not because it makes sense, or is logical or practical.
But doing is not enough! Aside from saying “we will do,” the nation also said “we will hear.”
The Chassidic masters explain: “G‑d desires that we should do as well as ‘hear’ and comprehend His will, so that we serve Him not only with our hands and feet, but also with our minds and hearts.”
Action needs to precede understanding, but we can’t stop there, or our acts become robotic and unfeeling. Blindly doing is not enough. We also need to actively engage in the relationship, to understand the other’s wants and needs. To dig deeper into their psyche to recognize what motivates, pleases or cheers them; what angers, inspires or arouses them.
But here’s where we come full circle. Even while working to understand the reasons or benefits in doing their desires, we must still do it just for them.
“Mishpatim were taught after the Giving of the Torah in order to emphasize that just as the other commandments are from Sinai, so, too, are these from Sinai.” (Mechilta; Shemot Rabbah 30:3.)
Mishpatim arethose laws that logically make sense and create a just society. Yet we follow mishpatim not merely because they are practical, but because doing so connects us to our Creator. That’s why Chassidim would wish each other to fulfill the rational mishpatim with the same unquestioning acceptance as commandments whose explanations are mysterious.
So, whether in your relationship with G‑d or with your significant other, here are three relationship rules learned from this week’s parshah:
- Do. Unconditionally. Illogically.
- Work to understand your partner’s needs and wants.
- Never forget: It’s not about me, but you.