3. SHABBAT READINGS & COMMENTARY

Friday, February 24, 2006 | 
Mishpatim (Ordinances): Exodus 21:1 – 24:18; 2 Kings 12:1-17

In our previous weekly portion (parasha) we read about the Giving of the Law, and now in our parasha, Mishpatim, we get into the details of the law and ordinances that God gave to His people. Jewish tradition counts 613 commandments (mitzvot) that were given to Moses at Mount Sinai.

The parasha gives instructions on actions towards fellow men, damages, litigations, attitudes towards parents, the poor, widows and orphans (“Do not take advantage of a widow or an orphan”). It also instructs man on how to handle money (“If you lend money to one of my people among you who is needy, do not be like a moneylender; charge him no interest” 22:25)

The only possession, which is eternally ours is the money we spend to help those in need. Jewish sages have said: When a person passes away, neither silver, nor gold or precious stones can be taken. Only obeying the Torah and good deeds will carry over into the afterlife.

There are many of the mitzvot that can be found in our parasha, which are applicable today, these include:

- If one has a Hebrew slave, in the seventh year he must let him go free unless the slave chooses to be eternally indebted to His master (21:2-6).

- At Jewish marriage ceremonies, the Rabbi will quote verse 10: “… he may not reduce her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights.” Every husband is committed to give his wife these three things.

- Beating and cursing parents are forbidden and worth the death penalty.

- “Eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.” When someone hurts someone, a person was to pay back what was done to him. However, in the New Testament, Yeshua taught His followers to love their enemies – the only way to achieve true peace.

- Instructions for protection were given, for instance, when you dig a trench around a cistern, you should cover it when finished so no one can fall. Also when you build a roof, you should build a fixed guard rail around it.

- Cases of thefts are dealt with. Even today criminal law is based on those ordinances!

- Even this is mentioned: If a man seduces a virgin who is not engaged, and lies with her, he must take her to be his wife. (22:16)

- You shall not curse God, nor curse a ruler of your people (the word used for ruler is nassi, today’s modern term for president – 22:28). Even if we don’t like our prime minister or president, he is ordained by God (Romans 13:1-2: “Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities for there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves”).

- You shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the clear-sighted and subverts the cause of the just (23:8).

- You shall not oppress a stranger, since you yourselves know the feelings of a stranger, for you also were strangers in the land of Egypt. (23:9) – Here, I admonish the Jew first, and then the gentile!

- “Three times a year you shall celebrate a feast to Me...” (23:14-19) God commands every male to celebrate the pilgrimage feasts before the Lord GOD.

- “But you shall serve the LORD your God, and He will bless your bread and your water; and I will remove sickness from your midst.” (23:25) – This is the true secret to staying healthy.

- “For I will deliver the inhabitants of the land into your hand, and you will drive them out before you. You shall make no covenant with them or with their gods. They shall not live in your land, because they will make you sin against Me; for if you serve their gods, it will surely be a snare to you.” (23:31-32) – This remains a danger even today – they will be a snare to you! (The Hebrew Word for ‘snare’ is mokesh, which means mine or bomb).

After Moses read the Book of the Covenant (sefer ha-brit), the people answered: “All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient!” (24:7) – That should be always our attitude!

Then God called Moses to come up to the Mount Sinai and said, “I will give you the stone tablets with the law (torah) and the commandments (mitzvoth), which I have written for their instruction (lehorot, that’s where the word Torah comes from).” While Moses was in the presence of God 40 days and 40 nights, Aaron and Hur remained in charge of the people.
- Michael Schneider -

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