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Mishpatim in a Nutshell

Mishpatim in a Nutshell

Exodus 21:1–24:18


Following the revelation at Sinai, G‑d legislates a series of laws for the people of Israel. These include the laws of the indentured servant; the penalties for murder, kidnapping, assault and theft; civil laws pertaining to redress of damages, the granting of loans and the responsibilities of the “Four Guardians”; and the rules governing the conduct of justice by courts of law.

Also included are laws warning against mistreatment of foreigners; the observance of the seasonal festivals, and the agricultural gifts that are to be brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem; the prohibition against cooking meat with milk; and the mitzvah of prayer. Altogether, the Parshah of Mishpatim contains 53 mitzvot—23 imperative commandments and 30 prohibitions.

G‑d promises to bring the people of Israel to the Holy Land, and warns them against assuming the pagan ways of its current inhabitants.

The people of Israel proclaim, “We will do and we will hear all that G‑d commands us.” Leaving Aaron and Hur in charge in the Israelite camp, Moses ascends Mount Sinai and remains there for forty days and forty nights to receive the Torah from G‑d.

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Malkie Janowski for February 12, 2016

These laws were taught to the Jews in the desert, but with the understanding that they would only apply once the nation entered the land of Israel, and the people actually began to engage in agriculture. This is true for many laws that only became practicable in Israel. Reply

Yonatan Israel February 8, 2016

Mishpatim before the Temple and land of Israel How is the agricultural gifts that are to be brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem mentioned in Mishpatim? Reply

Davida Tiberias February 6, 2016

update to old comment Attending a Shiur with our local Rabbi is so enriching! I stopped having dairy with chicken to appreciate the difference in how dairy nurtures and meat shows strength. Our weekly 1-hour Shiur encourages careful, meaningful thought, in addition to the posted commentaries. Reply

Davida Tiberias February 6, 2016

Still holds value The values of respect and responsibility that these commandments promote are timeless. Holding such values builds trust and sets expectations that knit a community together. I hardly knew my neighbors before I settled in Israel and love living here. Reply

Nicole New York February 6, 2016

Great resource This site is very helpful and informative. It explains the parsha in an approachable way. It's my go to resource for my monthly parsha exploration and drama games session that I do for junior congregation at my synagogue. Thank you. I'm learning a lot!!! Reply

Anonymous February 6, 2016

Agreeing with Davida on fowl and milk. That never made sense to me! Nor the part of why anyone would cook an animal in milk? I suppose water was not available! Reply

Micah T Dallas January 25, 2014

"However, why give Divine commandments that only exist for a short period of time?"

This is a question I have often asked myself. Doesn't it suggest that G-d works through man and that man is an imperfect medium? G-d doesn't make mistakes, but man does. Divinely inspired men are still just men.

I too would like to know the Orthodox view on this. Reply

Davida HI January 23, 2014

Nothing is outdated if understood in context. Like a truly good movie, the dynamics reveal what's right and wrong in-between the lines. Problem I find is adding practices, as if that's equal to Torah. To cook an animal in the milk created for its nurture is so heartless. To say its wrong to mix fowl and dairy takes the meaning away, since fowl don't nurture their young with milk. Torah is so easy to learn from in real context, not legalistically. Reply

Anonymous Largo February 8, 2013

Exodus 21:1–24:18 Pagan Warning I liked this line : "G‑d promises to bring the people of Israel to the Holy Land, and warns them against assuming the pagan ways of its current inhabitants."
Pagan - "morally deficient"
My life became completely messed up because....I started having relationships with pagans. I was young; and I confused it with true love (1st love) Much of the country appears to be similar....and yet God is within it...we just need to keep searching for the same mindset (Israel's) Pledge - one nation under God, "in God we trust". How can we make it a stronger force? It's foundation is beautiful. So often we don't stop "pagan behavior" around us..until it controls just about every step we take Reply

David South East February 8, 2013

Laws When the world is corrupt before G*d all the human institutions and laws of society cannot prevent society, in general, from ruin. The erosion of any social structure is guaranteed with the absence of sanctions imposed by a life oriented towards the goal of holiness. The laws and ordnances transcend time; weather spoken or written.
(Taken from Ezekiel / Artscroll) Reply

Anonymous San Jose, California via February 7, 2013

Yeah to Hey Well before Nazi Germany how many advanced societies attempted to eliminate the Chosen People only to become extinct themselves? This history serves as abundant reason to fear, revere and believe. Reply

Mordechai February 4, 2013

Hey Dear anonymous,
You have a great question I hope I can answer it. It seems that these laws are very humane and ethical, so perhaps you question their divinity. However without fear and belief in g-d , people don't follow. Some of the most advanced societies like Germany during WWII killed 6 million Jews because although they were the most advanced and civilized they didn't understand commandment of I am your g-d. A person needs to fear and love g-d or even the most practical things like honor mother and father are not followed through with. Hope this makes sense. Reply

Anonymous January 6, 2013

My Torah portion Reply

Anonymous San Jose, CA via February 17, 2012

Gentile's point of view regarding previous comment At the time when the Torah was given, was there ever a man who displayed such wisdom? If there was such a man, wouldn't it be very human to take credit for,or for other's to give praise for such insight? Yes, many of these laws do not apply in the literal sense, but isn't the Torah studied in four different ways to obtain understanding and insight; even direction to the vast content of knowledge and wisdom concerning any and all? Reply

Anonymous brooklyn January 29, 2011

I can't help but notice human influence on certain laws that are included in Mishpatim such as relations towards hebrew and gentile slaves which are not applicable in the 21st century. There is a definite humane quality to these laws that have not existed in the various ancient societies before the Torah was given, but do we know if these laws are really from G-d? I understand that G-d would grant the Israelites eternal commandments such as tefillin, kashrut, etc. However, why give Divine commandments that only exist for a short period of time? What is the orthodox view on human influence of certain Torah portions? Reply

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