This week, our Parshat HaShevua, Parsha Mishpatim is being sponsored by Baruch and Yaffa Swinkin and family of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated lilui nishmas for Baruch’s grandfather Micha’el ben Yaakov. To the Swinkin family, many thanks for your sponsorship and for your continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring a Parshat HaShevua.
Please forward to your relatives and friends and encourage them to sponsor a Parshat HaShevua. And please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
In the vort on Parshat Yithro, this author listed two citings from Yishai Chasidah’s Encyclopedia of Biblical Jewish Personalities (pages 306-309) which provide a fitting introduction to Parshat Mishpatim. Yithro, for whom our previous parsha was named, was positioned and merited to express insights to Moshe Rabbeinu which were crucial to the evolution of Torah’s judiciary system. Chasidah cites Midrash HaGodol on BaMidbar (perek 10, posuk 30) which gives insight into Yithro’s righteousness, kindness and integrity. After a drought year in Midian, Yithro the Priest stated;
This has been a year of drought, and I borrowed money which I used to support the poor. If I don’t go and pay my debts, I will be desecrating the Name of Heaven.
This citing expresses a paradigm for kol Klal Yisrael to aspire to emulate, both with respect to repayment of debts incurred, as well as with regard to caring for one’s brethren in times of crisis — both on a national and individual level.
Chasidah also cites Yerushalmi Brachot (Perek 2, posuk 8 ) which writes of Yithro;
When B’nai Yisrael do Hashem’s Will, HaKodesh Borchu searches throughout the world, and if he finds a righteous person among the nations, he brings him and attaches him to B’nai Yisrael. One of the examples given was Yithro.
So, it was much more than Yithro’s past governmental experience as an advisor to Pharaoh, his kindnesses to Moshe and his craving to join B’nai Yisrael to find Divine Truth which positioned him to counsel Moshe as to formation of a Judiciary. Yithro’s advice to Moshe was fully backed by his own actions in standing on honesty, integrity and principle.
In advising Moshe Rabbeinu on how to judge B’nai Yisrael, Yithro spoke;
“You will provide out of all the people able men, such as fear Hashem, men of truth hating lucre (gain, money, riches); and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens.” (Sefer Shemos, Perek 18, posuk 21)
Yithro, through his kindness, honesty and principle merited to advise and format the Judicial system of B’nai Yisrael, which stands as the paradigm today for the way a Torah law enforcement and judicial system must be.
Finally, there is the oft-cited Ibn Ezra on Parsha Yithro which Torah Gems notes regarding the appointment of a judicial system, and the application of that lesson to all of us:
“The Torah did not mention ‘G’d-fearing men’ because only Hashem knows what is in man’s heart.” (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Parsha Yithro, page 131)
R’ Shimshon Rafael Hirsch, z’l, in the new Hirsch Chumash, Sefer Shemos (published by Feldheim in 2005 and translated to English by Daniel Haberman, page 361) expresses the spirit of our Parshat Mishpatim through a profound comment on the concluding posuk of Parshat Yithro:
“You shall not ascend with steps upon My Altar, so that your nakedness will not be uncovered.” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 20, posuk 23)
Without morality and modesty, justice and humanity in society will be sought in vain. With immorality the heights of My Mizbeiyach will never be mounted.
Rav Hirsch then cites Sefer Breish’t, Perek 6, posuk 11 and writes:
“And the earth was corrupt before Hashem’s countenance, and so the earth was filled with wrongdoing” — the oldest and gravest experience in the history of man.
Bearing all of this in mind, the exposition of the law to B’nai Yisrael begins in Parshat Mishpatim.
In our parsha, many basic laws of civilized existence are enunciated for B’nai Yisrael. The overriding purpose of the Mishpatim — the civil laws, it seems, is to protect the moral fiber of society by regulating relationships between men, both on a national level as well between individuals, encouraging truthfulness, sincerity and kindness while condemning immorality and deceit.
Our Parshat also provides indication of the placement of the Sanhedrin, the location where deliberations and judgements regarding the civil laws take place.
The opening posuk of our Parshat reads:
“And these are the judgements that you shall place before them” (Sefer Shemot, Perek 21, posuk 1 as rendered to English in The Saperstein Edition – The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary)
Rashi provides these comments on the opening posuk of our Parshat (The Saperstein Edition – The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary, page 248):
Whenever it [Torah] says “And these,” as it does here, it adds on to that which has been stated previously. Thus, “And these” of this posuk implies, just as those which have been stated previously, the Ten Commandments [Asseret HaDibrot], are from Sinai, so too, these commandments that the Torah is about to state are from Sinai. And why was Mishpatim, the section that deals with judicial cases, juxtaposed with the preceding passage which deals with the Altar [Mizbeiyach, but apparently written by Rashi as HaMikdash]? To tell… that you should place the Sanhedrin adjacent to the the Beit HaMikdash.
The Saperstein Edition – The Torah: With Rashi’s Commentary (page 248) provides a footnote to clarify Rashi’s comments which cite Mechilta, Tzeidah LaDerech and Be’er Mayim Chaim:
Mechilta [indicates] some editions (including the first printed edition) of Rashi read HaMikdash; others read HaMizbeiyach. Since Rashi’s question involved the juxtaposition of the posukim regarding the Altar and and judicial cases, it is logical that his answer should speak of the Altar. According to Tzeidah LaDerech, the word HaMikdash is a copyest’s error; HaMizbeiyach is the correct version. However, Be’er Mayim Chaim states that Rashi could not have written HaMizbeiyach for that would have pinpointed the location of the Sanhedrin in an area of the Courtyard where non-Kohanim are not permitted entry. By writing HaMikdash, Rashi means “in the Temple environs,” an area that includes the total Courtyard, even those areas that non-Kohanim are permitted to enter.
May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense, both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. May our dear brother Jonathan Pollard be liberated and truly free — only upon his return home to Israel, and that Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of two and a half years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.