Torah Weekly

For the week ending 2 February 2019 / 27 Shevat 5779

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. He 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.


A Just Precedent

“All that G-d has said, we will do and we will hear.” (24:7)

The everlasting praise of the Jewish People is that we pledged, “We will do” before “We will hear.” As a result, 600,000 ministering angels descended and tied two crowns to each one of us — one crown corresponding to “We will do” and another one corresponding to “We will hear.”

The implication of the Talmud (Tractate Shabbat 88a) is that we received those crowns specifically because we said “We will do” before “We will hear,” and not just because we said both of these statements.

What was so important about the precedence of “doing” over “hearing”?

There are two aspects to Torah. There is the Torah that we must know in order to fulfill the mitzvot, and there is a Torah that we are commanded to learn, regardless of its practical application.

Had we said, “We will hear and we will do,” it would have implied we were willing to learn the Torah only to fulfill its mitzvot. By saying “We will hear” after already saying “We will do,” the implication is that even after we have learned enough Torah “to do,” we will continue to learn the Torah for its own sake — to hear. This is because the Torah is the wellspring of all existence, and we will continue to fathom its depths to the limit of our strength and ability — for it is holy, and its holiness has no end.

· Source: Based on the Beis HaLevi

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