August 24, 2019 |

My Weekly Drash (a mini D'var Torah) - Mishpatim

The Israelites have experienced the revelation at Sinai and now it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty of spelling out the laws. Where to begin? Amazingly, Parshah Mishpatim begins with the law dealing with Hebrew slaves. Given that the Israelites themselves had just been freed, why start with “When you acquire a Hebrew slave…?” (Exod. 21:2). For one thing, the laws spelling out how slaves were to be freed after six years provides a startling contrast to their own treatment in Egypt, where infant sons were murdered and other harsh laws were imposed. Reading it today, though, you might wonder why slavery wasn’t simply forbidden. The laws here and throughout the Torah cover a variety of topics. Some, like slavery, are now in our distant past. Some, like those dealing with Temple service, may be off in the future (as they were for the Israelites at the time they received them). Still others, such as the holidays and the dietary laws, as well as laws dealing with morality and ethics, are things we should focus on in our present. The Torah provides guidance to the Jewish people of all eras, wherever we may be in our evolution as a people. There’s a word for such a document. It’s called “timeless.”

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Daniel M. Kimmel

Joined: October 2, 2007

Daniel M. Kimmel is a Boston area film critic, lecturer and author. He does these weekly mini-lessons for the Mishkan Tefila Brotherhood's newsletter. You are free to use them for similar purposes.

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