Although we received the Torah in last week’s Torah portion, Yisro, the Torah’s recounting of the events is not chronological here. This week’s parsha, Mishpatim, describes additional preparations the Jews undertook prior to receiving the Torah. Specifically, the Jews are given many mitzvot, 53 to be exact, that they must follow.
It’s sort of a downer. The Jewish people just experienced the highest level of prophecy ever to be experienced in human history, God’s revelation through the plagues and splitting of the sea, and now they are in the desert and given a bunch of rules?
This narrative demonstrates a fundamental pattern in life: inspiration and disappointment. (Or as Rabbi Akiva Tatz puts it, “Why a Good Time Never Lasts.”)
We’ve all experienced it: The high of an inspiration, whether from meeting someone new, having a great conversation, seeing a movie, hearing a song, reading a book or an article, or going to a class. We are excited to improve our lives. Then, just days later, that inspiration is gone. We are back to our old selves, doing the same old thing. Nothing has changed.
In his book Living Inspired, Rabbi Akiva Tatz M.D. explains what is going on here.
The first light of inspiration is a gift from God. We are shown a level of experience that we did not earn ourselves. God took the Jewish people out of Egypt through open miracles even though we did not deserve it.
Then, God takes away the inspiration because “once inspired… the experience must be earned, and in working to earn the level which was previously given artificially, one acquires that level genuinely. Instead of being shown a spiritual level, one becomes it.” Once in the desert, the Jews must accept upon themselves to serve God through the mitzvot to merit a high spiritual level on their own. Similarly, we must ground our inspiration in concrete action to re-attain the initial level of inspiration on our own.
This pattern plays out in all areas of life, such as relationships. Initially, a couple thinks they are in love, but they are experiencing an artificial level of love that they have not worked to build. Once the “honeymoon phase” is over, the couple must work to reach that level on their own through acts of giving and connection. Only at that point do they experience real love.
“And this is the secret of life,” Rabbi Tatz tells us. “A person is inspired artificially at the beginning of any phase of life, but to acquire the depth of personality which is demanded of us, Hashem removes the inspiration. The danger is apathy and depression; the challenge is to fight back to the point of inspiration, and in so doing to build it permanently into one’s character.”
We should merit to achieve real inspiration in our lives.
Book Suggestion: Rabbi Akiva Tatz M.D., Living Inspired (Rabbi Tatz has a gift for discussing deep, relevant concepts in Judaism such as astrology, doubt and certainty, faith, laughter, miracles, silence, desire, imagination, beauty, and time)
Audio Suggestion: Journey to the Self- Inspiration and Disappointment (for more on this subject)
 Rabbi Akiva Tatz, M.D., Living Inspired: Inspiration and Disappointment, p. 22-23.
 Id. at 23.