Parshat Mishpatim


First Portion

• The uniqueness of Judaism is that it’s not just a ritualistic religion. It incorporates many issues of everyday life into its repertoire. Few examples of this are: civil and Torah laws. So, if one is negligent with someone’s property who is religious, the Torah has Halachot for this just like it does for someone who is negligent with Shabbat and Kashrut matters.

• The wound is still fresh when one speaks about slavery to a Jew, even though it has been 3000 years since Mitzrayim. In fact, one good part of living in a democratic country like the United States is the freedom. Freedom of speech, for instance. Our civil rights laws are refreshing to say the least. One of the first cases in the Torah is in this week’s Parsha. It teaches us that if a Jewish man is forced into slavery because he was caught stealing, Bet din (the court) penalizes him by subjecting him to work for six years and is released in the seventh year. However, if the Jewish man likes his master and wants to remain a slave, then the master takes him to court where a ritual is performed. The slave places his ear by the doorpost where then his master pierces it. The ear and the doorpost are emphasized because really, we are direct servants of G-d. However, this individual degraded himself by voluntarily becoming a servant of a servant. At Sinai, we heard the commandment of “do not steal”. However, this individual’s ear was not operating correctly at the time that we all witnessed the Sinai experience. Secondly, the door represents freedom, as the Jews were instructed to place the blood of the Pesach offering on it before they left Egypt. The pride and excitement of being freed and the receiving of the commandment, which we all heard, are being compromised by this individual as he is forfeiting his rights.

• If a man hits or curses his father or mother, he will incur the death penalty.

Second Portion

• The concept of “an eye for an eye” is introduced in this portion. If a man knocks someone’s eye out, should that individual be punished by taking out his eye? The Oral Torah informs us that the scripture should not be taken literally; rather monetary compensation should be imposed instead. A great emphasis should be placed on the value of an eye or any other body parts which were damaged. For example, if the victim uses his eyes for his livelihood, then the compensation should be greater.

• Man has a responsibility in a public domain and should be careful not to hurt others in any way. For example, if a man digs a hole in the middle of the street and another man is injured by it, compensation should be given, even though one can argue that the victim should have watched where he was going. Other factors which can determine the outcome of this case are whether it was at night where the pit was not noticeable, or the obstacle was found as the individual was turning the corner and was unavoidable. (Discussed in detail in the Talmud, tractate Baba Kama)

• If a man steals an ox, sheep, or a goat and slaughters it or sells it, he pays five cattle in place of the ox and four sheep in place of the sheep. The reason why he pays less for the sheep is because of the embarrassment the thief experiences while carrying the sheep, as opposed the ox where he is able to just pull it. What embarrassment has he incurred? The thief is not embarrassed; he’s even probably excited at the opportunity of grabbing the animal? We see that the thief subconsciously feels embarrassed and depressed for the crime. Man’s nature wants to do and create positive things.

Third Portion

• One of the subjects we discuss in this portion is if an individual is responsible when he is asked to watch an item for someone. There are some factors to consider, namely, was he asked to watch it for free or was he being compensated; was he authorized to use the item for personal use; did he ask to borrow it; did he rent the item; was the occurrence of the loss beyond his control. (This subject and all its details can be found in the Talmud, tractate Baba Metzia.)

• One of the ugliest aspects of human nature is when one takes advantage and abuses the weak and helpless. In this section, these topics are discussed. This ranges from the seduction of minors to one abusing in any way converts, orphans, widows and the poor. The Torah is emphatically stern about lending money with interest. One might think that a favor was done by lending the money and therefore therefor should be allowed to demand compensation through interest. G-d considers this taking advantage.

• If someone is found to be a witch, they shall be put to death. There is a mystical concept that there is an equal amount of spirituality and evil impurities in the world. Therefore, because of the weakening of Kedusha in today’s times, Samantha is not going to wiggle her nose any time soon. Although during the 1600s in Salem, Massachusetts they went a little too far in hunting witches;,the Torah is still very serious about the punishment of witches. The mystics teach us that the world is run through energies that G-d provides and it’s our job to transform them into positive forces. Unfortunately, some know how to manipulate these energies to satisfy their own impure ideas. Although manipulation of these energies cannot be the work of witches today, it can be done to an extent. By doing so, it produces negativity and prevents the redemption coming anytime soon.

Fourth Portion

One must not curse G-d or the Judges. It is common for the loser to despise the deciding judges. Still, he must control himself. This is yet another method that can lead to an authority meltdown that one has to be aware of. In our democratic society, it is quite common to ridicule authorities figures. In fact, it’s a nightly ritual to do so on the networks late night talk shows. Although everything is done in jest, there is a lack of respect that’s developed because of this satire.

Fifth Portion

• One must not take a bribe. Rav Chaim Shmuelvitz Ztz”l states that a judge should be completely objective, to the extent that he cannot hear any testimony if the other party is not present.

• For six years, one should work the land and on the seventh year, the land should rest (not even fertilizing or loosening ground around a tree). This process is called Shmita.

• There are many places in the Torah where Shabbat is mentioned. I guess G-d is trying to convey a message; it’s important!!

• The Shalosh Regalim are mentioned. These three holidays are Pesach, Succot, and Shavuot. They are called “three legs” because three times a year the Jews would walk to the Temple.

Sixth Portion

G-d reassures the Israelites that they will be protected.

Seventh Portion

• G-d reassures them further about entering the land of Israel. They should not be afraid of its inhabitants.

• The Israelites reassured G-d with their famous and impressive slogan “Na’aseh Ve’nishma” – we will do first, then we will hear. The phrase is an expression of the tremendous belief in G-d.

Credit to: Rabbi Avi Matmon

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