Weekly Reading Insights: Mishpatim 5766


Overview of the Weekly Reading: Mishpatim

To be read on 27 Shvat 5766 (Feb.25)

Shabbat Mevarchim HaChodesh (blessing of the new month) and Shabbat Shekalim

Torah: Exodus 21:1-24:18; Haftorah: Kings II 11:17-20, 12:1-17 (about the half-shekel)

Mishpatim is the 6th Reading out of 11 in Exodus and 18th overall, and 31st out of 54 in overall length.

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:1866/Mishpatim)

This mystical secret is explained in the Book of Adam, where it discusses the [unfolding] chronicle of the universe: In the future a certain spirit [ Ruach] will descend to the world and will be clothed in a body upon earth. "Elijah" will be his name. In that very body he will ascend. But he will divest himself of that body, which will remain in the whirlwind, and another body - of light - will be prepared for him, enabling him to be among the angels.

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:1866/Mishpatim)

The [mystical] reason we are required to ascend there on foot is to give [spiritual] power to the supernal "legs", i.e. netzach-hod-yesod, on these three festivals. This is why they are not called, [for example,] "three appointed times", but "three festivals", in order to allude to the fact that the light from these three festivals shines via the supernal "legs", netzach-hod-yesod, into malchut, as embodied in the Court of the Israelites.

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

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From Rebbeinu Bachya (O:1866/Mishpatim)

The legislation of meat and milk is an example of this. Just as each of these components by itself is permissible and only mixing them is prohibited, so the Torah had to be especially stringent in its prohibition against mixing two perfectly permissible items with one another. Were this not so, we would find it difficult to understand that joining two permitted substances and making one out of them is so harmful to the condition of G-d's universe.

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



"Each one shall give a half shekel from the holy shekel." [30:13]

The half shekel was to atone for the sin of the Golden Calf worship, which constituted a denial of and a separation from true G-dliness. The rectification is reunification, and true unity with G-d is possible only when man comes to the recognition that he himself is nothing, only a half, and that the only way he can attain wholeness is to connect to and be united with G-d.

(Likutei Sichos)


"If you will lend money... to the poor person among you..." [22:24]

One is obliged to fulfill the mitzvot of charity and loving kindness even under conditions of "the poor among you", i.e. when poverty is also your lot and you suffer lack; even so, you have to share your bread with the poor.

(Rebbe Shmelke of Nikolsburg)


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

MOSHIACH THIS WEEK (M:1866/Mishpatim)

"You shall not afflict any widow or orphan." (Exodus 22:21)

Whenever Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev reached this verse he would cry out. "Master of the Universe! You instructed us in Your holy Torah to be kind to widows and orphans, and yet we are like orphans in this bitter exile! You must therefore take us out of this exile at once!"

[Reprinted with permission from L'Chaim Magazine (www.lchaim.org).]

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:1866/Mishpatim)

May this Torah essay merit the fast and complete recovery of Devorah Gittel bas Baila

The order of the Torah portions' contents are not happenstance. What happens in the portion is a window into what is happening in our lives spiritually and physically. Last week's portion included the giving of the Ten Commandments. The name and content of this week's portion is 'Mishpatim'-statutes.

There are three types of Torah commandments: chukim, eduyot, and mishpatim. Chukim are laws that are beyond a person's intellect to understand. The laws of Kashrut and shatnez (not wearing a garment of wool and linen) are two examples. We perform them simply because G-d commanded them.

Eduyot are 'testimonies'. These are commandments that I might not have thought of on my own, but make sense. For example, these include, celebrating Pesach to commemorate and relive the exodus; or Shabbat to cease from creating, just as G-d stopped and 'rested'.

Mishpatim are statutes that make sense to us, like 'do not kill' or 'do not steal'. This week's portion is full of mishpatim. Why does a portion about statutes follow the story of the giving of the Torah? The Ten Commandments were given to us by G-d on Mt. Sinai, and must be observed whether they make sense to us or not. Mishpatim, which appeal to our rational and moral senses, might only be observed since they appear ethical and reasonable. By placing Mishpatim adjacent to the Ten Commandments, we learn that even the statutes must be observed because G-d commanded us.

We might sometimes forget that day to day events in our lives are Divine communications to us. Chassidut explains this idea from Rashi's commentary on another verse in this week's portion: (21/28) "When an ox gores…" Rashi writes, "This applies whether it was an ox or any other animal [that gored, but] the Torah speaks of the present (common) event". When something happens, even a routine occurrence (waiting on line or in traffic), one should consider it a way of G-d speaking to them. Why did this happen to me just now? What course of action or attitude should I choose? Time and again we tend to think 'this is just a coincidence, ignore it'. Rashi's words remind us that whether 'an ox or any other animal'-what happens to us is a communication from G-d. G-d speaks to us though the present event!

Much of Mishpatim deals with the laws of property and theft. What can we learn from a thief? First is that a thief is not made a thief because he has the opportunity to steal, but only if he does, in fact, steal. The same is true with a scholar, even a Torah scholar. Having the opportunity to study does not make a person a scholar, it is the act of studying that brings the name. The same is true of a chassid, a person who constantly seeks to live his life in a G-dly manner, even above the letter of the law. Being a potentially good person is not enough. A person has to actually live in a manner befitting the title, to be called a chassid. (From MiMayanei Hayishua , and based a saying of the Alter Rebbe)

Shabbat Shalom , Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.)

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