Parshat Mishpatim - Tzi Shucht
This week’s parshah is packed with commandments, and in this Dvar Torah, I will highlight only some of them. The parashah begins by relating the proper treatment of Jewish and Gentile servants. If a Jewish slave chose to stay with his master after 7 years of servitude, the master would take the slave by the doorpost and bore a piercing into the slaves ear (Shemot 21:6), to remind him that he is now a slave to the master and has neglected the opportunity of leaving his status of being a slave, in turn missing the opportunity to serve Hashem instead (Gemara Kiddushin 22b). After all, Hashem set us free from slavery in Egypt so that we should keep his commandments! At the end of the Jubilee year, all slaves are set free and all homes and fields are returned to their original owners.
The parshah then goes on to describe a husband’s obligations to his wife (Shemot 21:10). All marriages are viewed as a two-way relationship, a partnership between husband and wife. When a couple is at harmony, it is considered as if Hashem’s divine presence is resting upon them. The Talmud has stated that a man must love his wife at least as much as himself but honor her more than himself (Yevamot 62b). A strong loving relationship between a married couple will also tend to influence the children positively.
The parashah relates the penalty if a child curses his/her parents (Shemot 21:17). It is viewed by the Torah as a very serious transgression. One has to honor, fear and love one’s parents.
The Torah tells us there are four types of guards when one has been given another's property; a paid guard, unpaid guard, renter, and a borrower. They each have different financial obligations if something which was held in their custody is damaged (Shemot 22:6/14).
The parshah includes the laws of prohibitions against seduction (Shemot 22:15/16); if a man was to seduce a girl below the age of 12 and a half years, if she refuses to marry him, he should pay a penalty to the girl's father, along with monetary damage and a fine for the embarrassment he may have caused her (Ketubot 39b).
The Parshah then talks about the punishments of committing witchcraft, bestiality, and sacrifices to idols (Shemot 22:17/19). All three of the above transgressions are viewed as an abomination towards Hashem. The Egyptians and Canaanites were very much steeped into these abominations. The Egyptians were famous for their black magic and witchcraft, as we saw in Parshat Shemot where they changed blood back to water (Shemot 7:22). In Canaan, bestiality was very much prevalent, in fact, it was these kinds of sins that ended up vomiting the Caananites out of the land of Israel. Several of the Jewish Kings were severely guilty of worshiping idols, including, Menashe, Achav and Yeravim Ben Nabot (Sefer Melachim).
The Parshah then describes the Three Pilgrimage festivals that take place throughout the year; Pesach, Shavuot and Succot (Shemot 23:14/19). During these festival times, the Jews were to come to the Temple and bring sacrifices, in the Holy City of Jerusalem. The festivals always took place in a most joyous manner, accompanied by singing and the playing of musical instruments by the Levites (Sukkah 53). Pesach commemorates the exodus from the land of Egypt, Shavuot commemorates the giving of the Torah and the festival of Succot commemorates the forty years which the Jews spent in the wilderness.
The Parshah also teaches us, if one sees their enemy unloading a donkey whilst they are in the middle of helping a friend loading a donkey, he should stop what he’s doing and go to his enemy and help him unload his donkey (Shemot 23:5). This is for two reasons, firstly to alleviate the burden upon the donkey with the load on it, as that donkey will be in more pain. Also to cement and improve the person's relationship with his enemy (Bava Mesia 32/33). Many people in life instantly judge others on first impressions, however, we are taught this is wrong. One may dislike someone else due to something he heard about the other, or the way he initially acts, ultimately that individual ‘judging’ the other, should give the person a chance and invest time into him/her. The more one invests or is friendly with another, the more the two would grow to like each other, which may eliminate the feelings of hatred. One should always try to be the person to initiate a conversation with another and to act cheerfully. In fact, if one sees another they know in the street, and they don’t acknowledge the other person with a greeting, it is a sign that the person who ignored the other, believes themselves to be to ‘important’ to make an effort, which is a sign of arrogance.
We then learn how G-d promised that He will lead the Jewish People to the Land of Israel, helping them conquer its inhabitants, which eventually occurred at the time when Joshua was the leader. As the Jews, led by Joshua won many wars against various Canaanite kings, many miracles occurred, such as the destruction of the walls of Jericho (Joshua 6:20). Hashem then told them that by fulfilling his commandments they will bring blessings to their nation. Many of these blessings are found in Parshat Bechukotai (Vayikra 26:3/13).
The Torah then relates how the people at Mount Sinai promised to do and listen to everything that G-d says (Shemot 24:7). They accepted the Torah wholeheartedly, as one nation with one heart, everyone was united together! When the Jews are all united together, it is believed that Hashem's presence rests among them much more. We will see in the Megillat Esther in few weeks time over Purim, that when Esther was about to make a request to her husband, King Achashvairosh, risking her life, she gathered all the Jews to unite together and fast for three days, so to give the Jews a strong merit, for the survival of the nation (Megillat Esther 4:16).
The Parshah concludes with Moshe ascended the mountain to the heavenly realms to remain there for 40 days and 40 nights in order to receive the Two Tablets of the Covenant (Shemot 24:18).
The Natural Haftorah for Parshat Mishpatim comes from the book of Jeremiah, Chapters 33 and 34 respectively.
This Weeks Dvar Torah is dedicated in memory of Batsheva Bat Tzvi who sadly passed away 2 weeks ago, please pray for her soul and do good deeds in memory of her. Hope you all have a great Shabbos!