Sam was almost ready to go to school. All he needed to do was collect his snack from the refrigerator, and then put on his shoes and jacket. The truth was, he was early this morning, and was happy he would not have to run to catch his bus.

"Muuum!" Sam's smiling face turned sour in an instant, as he saw the snack his Mom had prepared for him. Instead of putting it in his bag, he put it down on the table. "Green peppers? Why did you give me that today?"

Mrs. Green hurried down the stairs. "Sam? Is everything OK?"

"Mom, you know I don't like green peppers – I only like red ones. Why did you pack green for me?" Sam did not look pleased.

Mrs. Green was confused. "I have been packing you green peppers for the last month. You told me a month ago that you like them."

"I know. But now I changed my mind.... I'm allowed to, right?"

Mrs. Green smiled. "If you do it in a polite manner, of course you are. Actually, this reminds me of this week's Torah portion, Mishpatim. Do you know what Mishpatim talks about?"

Mrs. Green started rinsing a red pepper, as Sam began to answer.

"Sure. It tells us how we need to behave towards one another. It says we should help lighten the load of our enemy's animal. It tells us about thieves having to pay back double of what they have stolen, and sometimes more than double."

"Very good," says Mrs Green. "In last week's Torah portion, the Jewish people received the Torah. This week's portion starts by teaching Mitzvot that are easy to understand – ones we would probably do if we were just a nice and well behaved nation. Then in the second part of the Sedra, it tells about Shabbat and Festivals and not eating milk and meat together. Why did G‑d teach the laws in this order? Why not first teach us the Mitzvot we don't understand – like keeping Shabbat, or the laws of eating kosher?"

Sam wrinkled his brow. "I don't know. Why is Mishpatim full of laws that are almost self-explanatory?"

Mrs. Green began slicing the red pepper. "G‑d wants to make sure we are keeping the Mitzvot because of our faith and our special connection with Him. Even the Mitzvot that can be understood are not kept only because they make sense. They are kept with special care because G‑d commanded us to do so."

Mrs. Green dangled the bag of red peppers in front of Sam. "Otherwise, we may change our minds! One day we may wake up and decide to do the Mitzvot, and the next day, we may decide that we are going to do something else, which also seems logical and reasonable!"

Sam looked intently at his mother. "You mean they may change their mind, like me?"

Mrs. Green winked.

Sam grabbed his snack, and ran out the door. In a second he was back.

"Thanks, Mom."