Weekly Reading Insights: Mishpatim 5764



Overview of the Weekly Reading: Mishpatim, Shekalim

To be read on 29 Shvat 5764 (Feb. 21 )

Mishpatim is the 6th Reading out of 11 in Exodus and 18th overall, and 31st out of 54 in overall length.
Exodus 21:1-24:18,"Shekalim": Ex. 30:11-16; Haftorah: Samuel I 20:18-42 (for Erev Rosh Chodesh)

Pirkei Avot: not till after Passover

First, a long series of Jewish laws which include the following topics: Jewish slaves, manslaughter, murder, injuring or cursing a parent, kidnapping, causing injury, a homicidal ox, damage caused by a pit in the ground, damage caused by goring, grazing, or fire, penalties for stealing, custodians of articles, borrowing items, seduction of an unmarried woman, occult practices, idolatry, oppression of others, lending money, respecting judicial and other authorities, dedicating to G-d first fruits and first born animals and children, flesh of an animal killed by a predator, judicial honesty and sincerity, strayed and fallen animals, bribery, the Sabbatical year, Shabbat and some holidays, and milk and meat. G-d promised to send an angel to protect the Jews in the desert and when they conquer the Land of Israel. G-d warned the Jews to destroy the nations' idolatry and not to make peace treaties with them. He promised to give the Jews food and water, and abolish the Jews' enemies, sickness, miscarriage, and infertility. G-d made a covenant with the Jews who declared 'we will do and we will understand". Moshe ascended the mountain where he was to remain for forty days and nights and to receive the tablets.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:18-64/Mishpatim )

The spiritual source of all that appears in this world is revealed in the letters of the Hebrew alphabet.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:18-64/Mishpatim )

The mystical explanation of all this is as follows. Every person possesses [at least] a soul [nefesh] from the world of Asiya. Even if this soul is derived from a higher level of the world of Asiya, it is still no more than a nefesh.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:18-64/Mishpatim )

The Exodus is to be viewed as a branch of the tree which represents universal history. This idea was hinted at already at the time of the Exodus, when Israel escaped the power (limitations imposed on all creatures) of the fifty levels of binah, insight.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"Keep far away from a false matter." (23:7)
Although the Torah contains 365 negative commandments, lying is the only sin the Torah warns us not only to avoid, but from which to "keep far away." This teaches that it isn't enough for a person not to lie; he must actively distance himself from falsehood and flee from it.
(Rebbe Zushe of Anipoli)

"The appearance of the glory of G-d was like a devouring fire." ( 24:17)T
he litmus test to determine if our service is indeed acceptable before G-d is whether or not we feel a fiery enthusiasm and zeal in our worship. The excitement and ardor we experience is proof that G-d approves of the path we are embarked upon. Conversely, a cold and indifferent attitude in our service signals that we still have far to go.
(Kedushat Levi)


"The rich shall not give more, and the poor shall not give less than half a shekel." (30:15)
The above verse can also be interpreted to mean "the rich will not be increased, and the poor will not be lessened." The wealthy person must realize that he will not increase his fortune by being miserly. Similarly, a poor person will not become poorer if he gives to charity.
(Imrei Shefer) (from L'Chaim #608)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:18-64/Mishpatim)

The word "Mishpatim", the name of our Torah portion, refers to the body of Torah laws that are easily understood by human intellect, such as not to steal, etc. - as opposed to other laws which are non-rational, such as Jewish dietary laws. In keeping with this theme, most of this week's portion discusses different "mishpatim". However, at the end it relates how the Jews accepted the Torah, stating, "We will do and we will hear", expressing their willingness to perform G-d's will whether they understood it or not. This commitment seems contradictory to the concept of rational "mishpatim". Also, one of the prominent mitzvot listed is the prohibition against mixing milk and meat, clearly a commandment beyond rationality.

The Shlah begins his explanation with a comment on the verse "This is my G-d and I will praise Him; the G-d of my fathers, and I will exalt Him" (Ex.:2). In Hebrew, "I will praise Him" is one word composed of the words "I" and "Him", meaning that a Jew has strengthened his or her faith so much so as to become one with G-d. In the next part, "the G-d of my fathers" and "I will exalt Him" are separate phrases, displaying the distance between the Jew and G-d.

This faith "of my fathers" is one that is inherited from the forefathers gratis. It may serve as a foundation, but our real goal is to realize G d's greatness and connect with Him. Why then does the verse seem to reverse the order, putting inherited faith after the attained one? Actually, the verse is referring to two levels of attained faith. Based upon inherent belief, a Jew must work to believe that G-d runs the world and one's life, i.e. "This is G-d". After understanding G-d's Omnipresence and Omnipotence, a Jew reaches a level in which he or she realizes that G-d cannot be fully comprehended.

At some point one must admit his or her understanding is limited and that the incomprehensible must be left to faith in the "G-d of my fathers". "Where intellect ends, faith starts". At this level we perceive G-d's loftiness: "I will exalt Him".

Therefore, even though most of the laws in Mishpatim appeal to our intellect, the declaration "we will do and we will hear" and the law of milk and meat serve to remind us that we have limited intellectual understanding and must turn to our unquestioning faith in G-d to truly serve Him.

Faith may seem abstract or theoretical - to be put on the back burner till the going gets tough. Yet this is not the right way to view it. Our belief in G-d and His involvement in our lives is a constant and ongoing fact that we must strive to realize at every moment. Our days should be spent knowing that every challenge we encounter and every word we hear are sent from G-d for our benefit. When you ask yourself questions like "why am I stuck here" or "why did he have to say that", then trust in G-d that it is meant to be this way, and perhaps later you will understand. Even if we don't fully comprehend it, we must believe that G-d is in charge. This is a crucial part of our relationship with G-d.

Another interesting point is that the portion begins "And these are the statutes" (Ex. 21:1). The word "and" signifies a continuation of the previous Torah portion, which, in this case, discusses Mt. Sinai. Rashi comments that just as the Ten Commandments were Divinely given, so were the intellectually understandable statues. If we could derive many of the statutes through our reason, why was it necessary for G-d to command them? In fact though, the reason we are able to understand the statutes is because G-d gave us the ability to do so at the time of Mt. Sinai. If not for this G-d-given capability, we might not come to these obviously legitimate laws, and could even decree the opposite, G-d forbid. This is true for all of humanity. The seven Noahide laws of all humankind must be fulfilled because G-d commanded then, and not only because they make sense.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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