Torah Weekly

For the week ending 14 February 2015 / 25 Shevat 5775

Parshat Mishpatim

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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The Jewish People receive a series of laws concerning social justice. Topics include: Proper treatment of Jewish servants; a husband's obligations to his wife; penalties for hitting people and for cursing parents, judges and leaders; financial responsibilities for damaging people or their property, either by oneself or by one's animate or inanimate property, or by pitfalls that one created; payments for theft; not returning an object that one accepted responsibility to guard; the right to self-defense of a person being robbed.

Other topics include: Prohibitions against seduction; witchcraft, bestiality and sacrifices to idols. The Torah warns us to treat the convert, widow and orphan with dignity, and to avoid lying. Usury is forbidden and the rights over collateral are limited. Payment of obligations to the Temple should not be delayed, and the Jewish People must be holy, even concerning food. The Torah teaches the proper conduct for judges in court proceedings. The commandments of Shabbat and the Sabbatical year are outlined. Three times a year — Pesach, Shavuot and Succot — we are to come to the Temple. The Torah concludes this listing of laws with a law of kashrut — not to mix milk and meat.

G-d promises that He will lead the Jewish People to the Land of Israel, helping them conquer its inhabitants, and tells them that by fulfilling His commandments they will bring blessings to their nation. The people promise to do and listen to everything that G-d says. Moshe writes the Book of the Covenant, and reads it to the people. Moshe ascends the mountain to remain there for 40 days in order to receive the two Tablets of the Covenant.


Getting Rid Of The Donkey Work

“And on the seventh day you shall rest, in order that your ox and your donkey should rest.” (23:12)

“I'll never forget the first time I kept Shabbat. I woke up on Sunday morning and thought it was Monday…”

“It was almost like an out-of-body experience...”

“I felt this tremendous closeness to the whole creation; as if everything was in its place...”

Ask anyone who became observant what it was that turned them on to Judaism and you'll probably find that it was Shabbat.

Shabbat is “the source of blessing”.

Shabbat is the most distant whisper of the World-to-Come, a glimpse into a world beyond time and space that we connect to by refraining from actions that connect us to time and space.

G-d gave the Jewish People an awesome power: the ability to infuse the physical world with the spiritual; to elevate the physical world so that it speaks the language of the soul.

“And on the seventh day you shall rest, in order that your ox and your donkey should rest.” (23:12).

Why is it important that “my ox and my donkey” should rest on Shabbat?

Are they going to go to shul as well? Wasn't Shabbat given to man and man alone?

The Torah is telling us here that our Shabbat rest should be such that it creates ripples of spiritual energy that elevate the entire world and felt even by the animals.

The Midrash describes how one of our Sages sold an ox to a non-Jew and it refused to work for its new owner on Shabbat because resting on Shabbat had become second-nature to it.

When we keep the mitzvot properly — and especially Shabbat — the whole world feels the difference.

  • Sources: based on Rabbi Avraham Mordechai of Gur, zatzal; Midrash Pesikta Rabbati 14

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