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Home » Mishpatim

Mishpatim: Food for Thought for your Dinner Table

Submitted by on January 27, 2008 – 3:35 amNo Comment | 3,096 views

Sunday: A Sacred Trial

When a Torah portion begins with the word and we assume that it is a continuation of the previous portion. This portion begins with “And these are the laws.” The previous portion speaks of the Ten Commandments. The message is that the laws discussed in this portion are a continuation of the Ten Commandments transcribed in the previous portion because all the commandments, not only ten, were given to Moses at Sinai.

Even those commandments that seem logical to the human mind were given by G-d at Sinai. He did not rely on us to adopt them ourselves as most societies do because He did not want us to observe them for their logic, he wanted us to cherish them as His wish. All commandments, even those that seem logical, contain divine secrets that transcend the human mind.

This is why it is imperative for Jews to try their cases in a Torah court, rather than a secular court, even when both courts are governed by the same law. A Torah court observes the law in worship of the divine, a secular court observes the law out of common sense. To the Jew every trial is a holy affair, not so in the secular courts. Sefat Emet

Monday: Internal Medicine

The Torah grants the doctor permission, and with it the obligation, to heal the sick. It is not the Jewish ethos to stand by when illness strikes and let G-d’s will be done. We use every means available to us to bring about a cure. However, several early commentators noted that this applies only to external illnesses and wounds. Internal illnesses must be left to G-d. In light of this teaching, why don’t we find a halachic prohibition against internal or even psychiatric medicine?

It can be argued that the early commentators did not mean to distinguish internal from external medicine, but rather remedies that have been tested and approved versus experimental medicine. After all, a thousand years ago internal medicine was in the realm of guesswork. Today internal and psychiatric medicine have evolved as rigorous branches of science, there is no longer a reason to restrict it. What remains clear though is that one must consult a halachic authority before using drugs that are still in experimental stages. Taam Vadaas

Tuesday: Charity and Loans

When taken out of its literal interpretation the following verse offers a delightful message. “If you lend money to my nation, to the poor along with you, do not act toward him as a creditor would.”

Smart lenders protect their money by offering loans in public to ensure the presence of witnesses. With charity, on the other hand, anonymity is a virtue. The highest charitable ethic is to give without seeking fame. Here then is the alternate meaning of the text. “If you lend money,” then do so –” to my nation,” – in the presence of my nation. “To the poor” – If you offer charity to the poor – “along with you” – ensure that only the recipient is along with you at that time. Peninim Yekarim

Wednesday Economic Concerns

The juxtaposition of the following verses, “Thou shall not curse a judge” and “Thou shall not delay the offering of thy fruit and wheat,” prompted our sages to comment that those, who criticize the judges are denied a prosperous harvest. What is the link between the crime and the punishment?

In times of poverty people are concerned with existential questions: how can I feed my family? How will I afford my child’s tuition? We have neither the time nor inclination to analyze or criticize the judges and policy makers of the day. People only sit around debating the merits of particular judges or judgments when they have nothing more important to worry about. It is a sign of plenty.

However, using the luxury afforded by plenty to criticize others is a misuse of our blessing. When we behave this way we prompt G-d to reconsider the merits of our blessing. As such, the punishment for cursing a judge may well be a slackening of our economic condition. Ktav Sofer

Thursday: Angelic Meals

A Jew is forbidden to mix dairy with meat, yet the angels that visited Abraham and Sarah took cream with their meat. Why are angels not bound by this law?

G-d invested Divine sparks into the food we eat. These sparks are released from their imprisonment and allowed to return to their celestial abode when we consume the foods according to the dietary kosher laws and recite the appropriate blessings before and after eating. The sparks match the nature of the foods that contain them. The spark within red meat is of a powerful, aggressive nature, whereas the spark within white milk is of a passive, nurturing nature. To release the sparks we must apply ourselves specifically to the nature of that spark, but when we eat meat together with dairy we are unable to devote separate attention to each spark in the manner that it requires and are therefore unable to release them.

Angels do not release sparks. On their plane the divine sparks are all pristine and not imprisoned. This is why angels do not ordinarily eat at all. Though they humored Abraham by eating in his home, they were not required to adopt his standards. Sefer Mamarim 5706

Friday: Collective Responsibility

“And you shall (collectively) worship G-d your Lord and He shall bless your bread and water (individually).” Why is the worship performed collectively and the blessing received individually?

As a nation, we are collectively responsible for the behavior of the individual. The Torah wants us to understand the extent of this responsibility. Even if our personal behavior is faultless we are not deserving of Divine blessing so long as we have not done all in our power to inspire those, who are less devout than ourselves. No Jew is fully virtuous so long as even one Jew is not virtuous. No Jew can demand Divine blessing if even one Jew has not yet learned to worship G-d. Indeed, it is out duty to do all we can to bring about positive change in the moral fiber of the collective whole. Kli Yakar

Shabbat: Half of Forty-Four

“Moses took half the blood.” Man is an amalgam of heaven and earth, the human and the divine. Indeed, this is reflected in the word “Adam.” The second half of the word, “dam,” blood in Hebrew, is symbolic of the human dimension, as blood is the carrier of life. The first letter, the Aleph, is symbolic of G-d. Just as G-d is one, so is the numeric value of the letter Aleph.

We have our moments of transcendental inspiration when we feel uplifted and closer to G-d. Closer to the first letter of our name. These movements are emblematic of our higher half. What of our duller moments when we feel the tug of materialism, the moments of our lower half, can those moments also be of service to G-d? To Moses, the answer was yes.

Moses lifted half the blood. The numeric value of dam is forty-four. Half the blood, half of dam, is twenty-two. The Torah was written with the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. Even the lower half, as implied by half of the blood, can be uplifted through the Torah, which was written with half of – the numeric value – of dam. This can be achieved through utilizing our physical strength in the service of G-d’s commandments. Tiferes Shlomo