Mishpatim – Perasha Synopsis

After Bene Yisrael witnessed the grand revelation at Mount Sinai and they received the Torah from Hashem, we expect them to build a Mishkan, and we expect the Torah to discuss religious and spiritual laws. However, as my dear friend Rabbi Daniel Bouskila explains, in the Torah, G-d sets things differently. Civil laws governing relationships between people, בן אדם לחבירו, are legislated prior to the laws on building a house of worship. בתי דין – Civil Courts come before the Mishkan and דיינים – Judges proceed Kohanim – religious officials.
Perashat Mishpatim, deals with issues that don’t seem religious or spiritual to most people. personal injury, damages due to negligence, paying employees on time, borrowing items or lending money.

While, these may not seem “religious” they actually form the core of how the Torah defines a Jewish religious society. God knows that it’s much easier to behave religiously within the comfortable confines of a synagogue. The true challenge is maintaining that religiosity outside the synagogue, the home, the street, in business.

Therefore, this week’s Perasha, deals with civil and tort law. Some of the legal issues which are discussed in the Perasha are slavery, accidental death, personal injury, finance, banking, government, justice, Holiday rituals, Shemita (Sabbatical year), and the prohibition of eating meat and milk together.

Moshe receives all of these ordinances, and writes them down. After he reads them to Bene Yisrael they answer the famous phrase “Naaseh Ve-Nishmaa” – we will do and we will obey. Coincidently this phrase is uttered in Chapter 24 Verse 7, the implication being 24/7 for Torah observance.

Moshe goes up to Mount Sinai, which is enveloped in the cloud of G-D, and he remains there for 40 days, and 40 nights waiting to receive the rest of Hashem’s commandments and the Written Law.

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