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David Keller
Got here and is ready to learn. Contributed with his personal questions.Blue Raising Star
Has completed with Success the Orach Chaim Study Program of the Noahide Academy.Orach Chaim Graduate

Parashas Mishpatim


Disclaimer: "This work is in the public domain in its country of origin and other countries and areas where the copyright term is the author's life plus 70 years or fewer."

After having given the Ten Commandments and the laws of the Altar, G'd gave the following civil laws, which He called ordinances.

In the beginning, G'd gave the law of the Jewish bondsmen and bondswomen.

A Jewish bondsman is meant to go work for six years and go free in the seventh.

If, after the seven years, a Jewish bondsman does not want to go but rather wants to stay with their master, the master is to bring his bondsman to the court, and the master is to bore an awl through his ear, and the bondsman is to serve the master forever.

If a Jewish daughter is sold by her father to be another man's bondswoman, this sale is expected to result in marriage.

If the man who acquires her does not want to marry her, he is supposed to assist in the girl's redemption.

If the master intends her to be married by his son, she is to be treated just like an ordinary wife that has not been sold as a bondswoman. A wife's rights are the husband's responsibility to provide her with food, clothing, and marital relations.

These rights remain in effect even if her husband, whether that is the wife's master or his son, takes another wife in addition to her.

If a Jewish bondswoman has not been married by her master, his son, or if she has not been redeemed, she goes free without payment at the end of her obligated time of six years of work. The sages say that a Jewish bondswoman also goes free after puberty started.

The Torah continues with the laws of murder, manslaughter, striking and cursing one's parent, kidnapping, killing a slave, and the Torah elaborates what should happen in cases where a person gets injured in a quarrel.

There the infamous quote "an eye for an eye" is mentioned, which the sages clarify has always been performed in terms of monetary compensation.

In the case of a bondsman or bondswoman, it should be noted that they do not go free in case they are injured, in contrast to slaves who would go free.

The Torah then describes the laws that apply when someone's animal causes bodily injuries, gets injured, damages property or gets stolen.

Then there follows a discussion of permitted self-defense in cases of theft, and also what appropriate payments are in case of theft.

The Torah discusses the Laws of Shomrim, the laws that apply when someone becomes a custodian of another's property.

It also details the cases where someone borrows another's property or rents it.

The Torah elaborates on what should happen when a man seduces a virgin, that sorceresses should not be permitted to live, that anyone who lies with an animal should be put to death, and one who brings offerings to the gods shall be destroyed.

Hashem reminded people not to taunt or oppress strangers, as the Jewish people themselves were strangers in Egypt and know what that is like.

The Torah says not to cause pain to any widow or orphan.

The Torah forbids lending money on interest and details what should be done when garments are taken as security.

The Torah exhorts not to revile G'd and not to curse a leader, not to delay bringing fullness-offerings or priestly heave offerings, to present one's firstborn, to be people of holiness, not to eat flesh torn in the field.

The Torah admonishes not to accept false reports, not to be a venal witness, not to follow the majority for evil, and not to glorify a destitute person in his grievance.

The Torah commands to return a wandering ox or donkey repeatedly to one's enemy.

It also says not to pervert the judgement of a destitute person in his grievance, distance oneself from a false word, not to execute the innocent or righteous, not to accept a bribe, and not to oppress strangers.

The Torah tells people to keep the Sabbaths of the Land and the week.

The Torah commands not to mention the name of the gods of others, nor to cause it to be heard.

The Torah commands to celebrate the three pilgrimage festivals during the year:

  • The Festival of Matzos: The festival takes place in the month of spring time (Nissan) and goes on for seven days. During the entire time of the festival matzos should be eaten.

  • The Festival of the Harvest of the first fruits (Shavuos) sown in the field

  • The Festival of the Ingathering (Succos), at the end of the year, when one gathers one's work from the field

  • Three times a year all men all men shall appear before Hashem.

The Torah reminds not to offer the blood of the feast-offering on leavened bread, and not to leave the fat of offerings overnight.

The Torah also states to bring the choicest first fruit of the land, and not too cook a kid in the milk of its mother.

G'd told Moshe that He would send an angel before them to protect them on the way and to bring them to the land.

G'd said His name would rest with the angel and that they should obey the angel and not rebel against him.

If they were to listen to the angel, He would help them, and bring them to the Amorite, the Hittite, the Perizzite, the Canaanite, the Hivvite and the Jebusite, and conquer them for them.

G'd admonished them not to prostrate themselves to the gods of the nations that dwell in the land, nor to worship them, nor to act according to the practice of the people who live in the land.

Rather they were to smash the pillars they would encounter.

The Children of Israel are to worship Hashem, and He blesses their bread and waters, and removes illness form their midst.

G'd promised that there should be no woman who loses her children or is infertile, and He would set the number of their days.

G'd also promised to send His fear to confound the nations the Israelites were to conquer, and to send the hornet-swarm to drive away the Hivvite, the Canaanite, and Hittite.

They would not be driven away in a single instant so that the Land did not become desolate and the wildlife could not multiply so much as to become a concern to the Children of Israel.

This would give the Children of Israel a chance to multiply themselves and make the Land their heritage.

Their border would be from the Sea of Reeds to the Sea of the Philistines, and from the Wilderness until the River.

The inhabitants of the Land would be given into their hands and they were to drive them away, and not to seal a covenant with them or their gods.

The Children of Israel were not to dwell alongside the other peoples lest they would cause them to sin against G'd, worship other gods, which would be a trap for the Children of Israel.

G'd then said to Moshe to go up to Him with Aaron, Nadab and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel, and to prostrate themselves from afar.

Moshe alone was to approach Hashem.

Moshe told the people all the words and ordinances of Hashem and the people responded with one voice: "All the words that Hashem has spoken, we will do."

Moshe wrote all the words of Hashem. He arose early in the morning, built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and erected twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel.

Moshe sent youths to bring up elevation-offerings and to slaughter bulls as feast peace-offerings to Hashem.

Moshe collected half the blood in basins and half the blood he threw upon the altar.

He took the Book of the Covenant he had written, read it to the people and they said: "Everything that Hashem has spoken we will do we will obey."

Moshe took the blood and threw it upon the people, and said: "Behold the blood of the covenant that Hashem sealed with you concerning all these matters."

Moshe, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended.

They saw the G'd of Israel, and the ground underneath Him was the likeness of sapphire brickwork and it was like the essence of the heaven in purity.

G'd did not stretch His hand against them despite them eating while gazing at G'd in a holy prophetic vision.

Hashem said to Moshe: "Ascend to Me to the mountain and remain there, and I shall give you the Stone Tablets and the teaching and commandment that I have written, to teach them."

Moshe got up with Joshua and ascended the Mountain of G'd. He told the elders to wait until their return and to reach out to Aaron and Hur in his absence.

Moshe ascended the mountain, the cloud covered the mountain. The glory of Hashem rested upon Mount Sinai, and the cloud covered it for a six-day period. G'd called to Moshe on the seventh day from the midst of the cloud. The appearance of the glory of Hashem was like a consuming fire on the mountain top before eyes of the Children of Israel. Moshe arrived in the midst of the cloud and ascended the mountain, and Moshe was on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.

What is interesting to note about this Parashas is that right after after the revelation at Mount Sinai ordinances are one of the first things given by G'd.

Whereas in the Western world there is often talk about separation between state and religion, Judaism considers laws regulating people's living together just as important as ritual and does not want people to separate these two.

Praying to Hashem is just as important as making sure that our daily interactions follow His will.

Following last week's Parashas, where G'd revealed Himself at Mount Sinai, the Torah details another occasion of a Divine revelation: When Moshe, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel ascended, they saw G'd and the the ground under Him looked like "sapphire brickwork". The sages say this sapphire brickwork shows that G'd went into exile with his people when they were slaves in Egypt, and He "suffered" with His people.

Just as the beginning of Parahas Mishpatim, where different ordinances regulating day to day interactions are described, shows that G'd is invested in every aspect of our lives, this revelation showing G'd on a ground of sapphire brickwork alluding to the Egyptian exile is another sign that G'd is involved in our every day lives, sharing our burdens and sufferings.

The Torah again also emphasizes freedom as a value: After seven years, slaves are to go free. In cases where a slave does not want to go free, an awl is to be put through his ear. This requirement is also meant to be a deterrent for people to keep being slaves indefinitely, since it is both painful and would also leave a permanent mark on a person's body.

Bonus picture: Since this Parashas contains the commandment to celebrate the three pilgrimage festivals, and one of them, the Festival of Matzos, is coming up soon, I wanted to use the opportunity to share a painting my son and my wife made four years ago.

I guess seeing as people in the past were much stronger than the current generation both spiritually and physically, it makes sense that nowadays people would use a locomotive to pass through the Sea of Reeds.

Peter Wambui


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