Parashat Mishpatim, “Na’aseh VeNishmah” as Do First and Buy-In Later, via Education?

     This week’s Torah portion is Parashat Mishpatim (פרשת מִשְׁפָּטִים),  the 6th in the book of Shemot/Exodus, and the 18th weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle.

      This week, traditional congregations (and maybe a few Masorti/Conservative Movement folks) will read of the inter-generational (in theory, or at least in Midrashic legend) acceptance of the Torah by all then-present and future members of the People Who Argue with G-d, both birth members and converts.   Mishpatim literally means judgements -and there are many spelled out in this week’s Torah portion.

      On the most fun holiday of the Jewish year, The Geek’s holiday, Shavuot/Pentacost, on  Tikkun Leil Shavuot (the night of Shavuot when we get to stay up all night long studying!!), I taught a class at the DC Beit Midrash.  The class was about a different parashah, but I referenced an important concept first found in this week’s parashah.  During that class, I defined the popular saying of

“Na’aseh ve Nishmah”

“We will do and We will listen up!/hear/learn/obey”

as having two crucial components.  The first component is  {Laws = formal rules; Minhagim/customs = informal norms}, and the second is inter-generational endurance.  Any society needs laws, and ways of interpreting, or policy, to apply those laws.  But a society also needs to have each new generation buy in to that law and those policies for that society to endure.  The way Torah gets this to happen is by teaching that each soul was present at that time, and accepted this Yoke upon ourselves.  This way, inter-generational buy-in is taught as a feature of the society, and each member of the society sees themselves as a part of that inter-generational contract.     social_contract_rousseau_page   

     So the contract, the rule of law, and the society, endures.  

     But how do we update that contract in such a way that we all give our buy-in to an equitable set of laws and policies which uphold those laws?  How do we then get buy-in from future generations to this contract, and thus into our society as a whole?

    How do you build a culture where everyone has access to the needed learning, and  the ability to safely opt in or out, of the social contract? 


Parashat Yitro was last week…

Action Prompts:

    Share your thoughts on how to build buy-in to keep all of us safer, please.   Writing, by the way, is my personal contribution to Project Do Better

What would yours be, if you had time?

(The handout for that class is here, in PDF format…)


Click here to read, if you like:

Narrative and Prose Nonfiction,     

or Holistic High School Lessons,

Creative Commons License
Shira Destinie Jones’ work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.



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