The Portion of Mishpatim

Exodus 21:1-24:18

This week’s portion leaves the narrative behind and focuses instead on Torah law. It deals extensively with case law between man and man, but also includes a number of laws between man and God. It is concerned with justice and righteous behavior. As the Israel Bible points out, the juxtaposition of the case law in our portion with the religious obligations of the Ten Commandments at the end of the last portion, teaches that religion requires not only faith, but ethical conduct, as well.

 

 

Topic 1: Israelite Slaves

The portion begins with the laws of the Jewish slave. Although to our modern eye, slavery appears to be oppressive and an affront to human rights, it was a common practice until relatively recently. The Torah, in our portion and other places, outlines circumstances in which an Israelite might be sold into slavery to his… Read More »

 

 

Topic 2: Damages and Capital Crimes

In this extended passage, the Torah deals with a variety of cases involving damages and capital crimes. These include theft, property damage, loss of another’s belongings, injury, accidental death and even murder.   The laws in this section emphasize a person’s responsibilities to his fellow. For example, the owner of a dangerous animal (the text… Read More »

 

 

Topic 3: Holiness, Righteousness and Justice

Following the laws of damages above, the Torah continues with a series of laws which promote holiness, righteousness and justice in the community. These include eliminating abominations such as idolatry and sexual immorality, treating the unfortunate with care and respect, and preserving the integrity of the judicial system.   Included in this section is an… Read More »

 

 

Topic 4: When you arrive in the land...

Our passage begins with a mention of the three pilgrimage festivals, the Festival of Matzos (Passover), Festival of the Harvest (Shavuot/Weeks) and Festival of the Ingathering (Sukkot/Booths). God requires that during these three festivals, which coincide with the agricultural cycle of the year, His people bring specific sacrifices to His place of worship.   From there, God promises… Read More »

 

 

Topic 5: A Covenant at the Mountain

Our portion closes with a description of how the law was received by the Children of Israel. God invites Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s two older sons and seventy elders to worship Him from a distance, with only Moses coming closer. Moses then relates all the laws he has received thus far to the people, who acknowledge… Read More »

 

 

Topic 6: Haftarah - Golda’s $50 Million Fundraiser in the Spirit of the Half-Shekel

In the months before Israel’s Declaration of Independence, war with the surrounding Arab states seemed inevitable, and obtaining funds to equip the Jewish army became critical. Golda Meir travelled to the U.S. to raise money urgently needed to purchase arms and defend the 700,000 Jews in Palestine threatened with imminent attack. Following an emotional speech… Read More »
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