Parashat Mishpatim:  Exodus 21:1 to 24:18

For week of Friday, February 9, 2024

Our Torah portion’s title means “ordinances,” or sometimes translated as “laws.” This is one of the most complex sedrahs in the five books of Torah, replete with legislation regarding all different aspects of life. Following the revelation of the “ten words,” the decalogue, God reveals to Moses a host of other ethical and ritual commandments, which will become part of the constitution of the newly emancipated Israelite people.

These laws include the proper treatment of Hebrew slaves or indentured servants, laws against murder and property damage, as well as laws regarding the building of houses and the care of animals. Modern biblical scholars call chapter 22 and 23 the “book of the Covenant.” These regulations also include the laws concerning the observance of Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot.

Chapter 21 is a famous compilation of teachings. In it is found the famous “lex talionis,” that is, the law of retaliation. This includes the classic phrase, ‘an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth…” To Israel’s detriment, anti-semites have throughout the centuries explained this phrase as proof of Judaism’s concept of vengeance. Of course this is totally false. Throughout Jewish legal interpretations, the law of talio meant that a person/family would be financially compensated for injuries to the injured party.

Join us for a wonderful Torah discussion on Shabbat morning.

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