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Summary of Parshat Mishpatim

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

Summary of this week's Torah portion: Following on the heels of the Ten Commandments, Parshat Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18) deals primarily with civil law. The juxtaposition of the ritual with the mundane provides an enlightening insight into Judaism. From the Torah's perspective, there is no distinction between the ceremonial and the worldly activities of life - both should be infused with holiness and both must be kept completely and diligently. Included amongst the civil laws discussed in the Torah portion are the laws relating to the Jewish servant and his freedom; penalties for causing bodily injury to another person and for damaging his property; laws regarding watchmen and borrowers; the mitzvah to show sensitivity to the poor and to offer them free loans; and laws relating to the honest dispensation of justice. After mentioning the mitzvot of Shabbat and Shemittah (the seventh year when the land in Israel must be left to rest), the portion continues with a brief discussion of the three pilgrimage festivals - Pesach, Sukkot, and Shavuot - and Hashem's renewed promise to bring the Jewish people to the land of Israel. The Torah then returns to the revelation at Mt. Sinai. The Jewish people declare their commitment to do whatever Hashem commands, and the portion concludes with Moses' ascending the mountain, where he will remain for forty days and forty nights to receive the rest of the Torah.

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