I learn Torah with my children at night before they go to sleep. We started at the beginning and are slowly making our way through the whole Torah. We just finished Mishpatim last week. It took us a long time, it has many rules and details. Sometimes I felt the need to explain the verse beyond what is written, often my children would ask questions about practical application. The questions went on until we would reach the edge of my Halachik knowledge and all I could say was, “I don’t know,” sometimes followed by let’s look it up, what do you think or enough already let’s move on. There is no end to the possible theoretical application of the Torah, our Parsha starts that discussion.
What I came to notice is that the lack of answers was often the prefered result, it’s nice not having to decide. This connected to the statement that the Children of Israel make at the end of our Parsha, “We will do and we will understand.” We can only know the Torah on a superficial level through study, we can always say, “ I don’t know.” Daily life presents us with Halachik challenges without the ability not to decide. We will know, because in the end life forces us to do.
Rabbi Yehoshua Ellis