Spiritual “Hearing” Parashat Mishpatim – Rabbi Hannah’s Weekly Reflection

Spiritual “Hearing”
Parashat Mishpatim

To what are we enslaved? How does our slavery hold us back, nailed to the doorpost? And what would we hear if we freed ourselves from the comforts that swaddle us, muffling the still small voice of our souls, of our dreams beckoning us, of God calling from the Mystery?

This week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim (Judgments), tells of the slave who does not want to go free saying, “I love my master.” We read of the judgment against him – that his ear be set against the doorpost and mutilated by piercing with an awl. The chassidic master Rabbi Yehuda Leib Alter of Ger (1847-1905) asks, “Why the ear?” And he answers: It was not for the slavish, robotic performance of prescribed acts that we were created, rather, for a continuous, passionate “listening” to the great Voice beyond human masters, and beyond ourselves.

The slave who chooses slavery is judged for deafening himself to the call to freedom, aspiration, and forward movement out of the narrow places. He is judged for not hearing the call of allegiance to a higher or deeper Master. He’s judged for being stuck, as any of us can be when we fall in love with one sort of thralldom or another. We, too, choose slavery when we become too attached to what we know and what has become habitual. We deafen ourselves when we choose complacency rather than engagement, when we filter the voices that inspire our continual unfolding.

Further on, Mishpatim tells of the People’s response to hearing Torah as revealed at Sinai. They declare, “We shall do, and we shall hear!” – affirming their vitality and their openness to the future. The chassidic master Rabbi Nachman of Bratzlav teaches, “We shall do” refers to our fulfillment of commandments, doing what is right and what is expected of us. “We shall hear” refers to our attention to what is enigmatic and mysterious, what we don’t yet understand, and what we will never fully understand.

Whereas the slave in love with slavery has deafened himself to the “call”, the emancipated nation at the foot of Sinai responds in heightened awareness of a spiritual voice that is always whispering, and they pledge allegiance to be attentive – not just to required acts, but to the sounds of the universe. They promise to continue to listen, to learn, to grow, and to balance action with hearing – hearing the Torah that was given at Sinai and listening for the eternal evolution of revelation in every plane.

Are our ears nailed to a doorpost, or are we free to hear with our hearts?

With permission of the Rabbis Without Borders blog on myjewishlearning.com.

– Rabbi Hannah

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Check Out Some Recent Events at Or Shalom

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January’s Colouring & Cocktails was a big success, with laughter, creativity and fun filling the room! We welcomed many new faces and enjoyed great games, adult colouring and delicious cocktails!

Our Philosophers’ Circle Graffiti Night was also a hit, as we discussed Graffiti and what makes “meaningful” messages. After crafting our own stencils, we picked up our masks and our spray cans and got to work! Don’t miss our next event for post-b’nei mitzvah teens – Iron Chef Eco-Kashrut Edition – Feb. 25!


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Kabbalat Shabbat Tonight – We’re On!

In case the weather had you wondering, we are going forward with tonight’s Kabbalat Shabbat. What’s better to fight off the chill of newly fallen snow than the warmth of community! Join us at 7:15pm.

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February Events at Or Shalom

Upcoming events for February. Come join us!


February 3 – Kabbalat Shabbat

Join us for our joyous Kabbalat Shabbat filled with festive music and the warmth of community.Please bring a generous food contribution so that we can enjoy a lovely potluck dinner together.
Shabbat Service will be at 7:15pm, Potluck dinner to follow. We look forward to seeing you there!



February 11 – Smicha Simcha

A Celebration of Our Friend Susan Shamash’s Ordination from the Aleph Rabbinic Program.

Come and join us to celebrate Rabbi Susan’s accomplishment, and our good fortune to have her as part of our Or Shalom community.

Bring a dessert, or maybe a bisl schnapps…

Melave Malka, 7:30 pm


February 18 – Special Aliyah

Or Shalom is thrilled to welcome the JCC’s Bagel Club into our bayit and services, on February 18th, for a special Aliyah in recognition of their upcoming Inclusion Journey
to Israel.


February 19 – Purim Megillah Workshop

Help bring the Megillah to life! From 2-5pm we will collaborate in designing a visual Megillah to be projected on Purim Eve. We’ll provide the captions; you create the images!

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