Posted by: mosesfromsinai | January 24, 2011

Mishpateem – Ciivil Laws

Last week we read the famous Ten Commandments and how they were presented to the Jewish Nation – with thunder and lightning.  This week’s Torah reading is Mishpateem – Civil Laws.  The Parsha begins with the sensitive topic of slavery and then continues to deal with a large variety of civil laws.  The focus is on how people are to relate and treat each other in day to day living.

All the thunder and lightning – the electricity associated with the giving of the Torah at Sinai is followed by such simplistic societal laws.  It perhaps makes one reflect back to the sage Hillel, when asked to teach the entire Torah while standing on one foot, Hillel responded, “What you do not like – do not do unto others -the rest of the Torah is just explanation.”   Here again, we see the theme of interaction among people is the central ideal of the Torah.  Hillel is clear, what you do not enjoy or like – do not dump on others.  In simple language treat people how you would like to be treated – that is the Torah.

When we also examine the laws on slavery according to Judaism, there is no put down.  The slave is treated with the utmost of respect and provided with the best of everything according to Judaism.  With a slave, we are talking about someone who is in a difficult situation and thus finds himself or herself in slavery.  Yet we are required to treat this individual with the greatest of sanctity.  Thus the thunder and lightning – electricity – associated with the Revelation at Sinai and the presentation of the Ten Commandments is to engrave in each individual the importance of another individual and the obligations we have to interact in a ‘holy’ good manor.  Why all the ‘special effects’ – electricity – to override or short circuit our inner, selfish emotions.  Thus Moshe right away is instructed to teach the civil laws so that they are like a ‘set table’, very clear as to how we should conduct ourselves and relate with one another.


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