Thursday, February 7, 2013

Mishpatim (Judgments)

Parasha Mishpatim (Judgments)

This weeks Torah Portion deals on how we do life here on earth. We would think that as a kingdom of priests and a holy nation we would find a lot more instruction on spiritual matters. However, HaShem deals us a hand of laws for community living.  At the very beginning it deals on how we should treat slaves, Hebrew slaves at that.  For whatever reason, people would get in financial difficulties and could not count on family or the immediate community that he/she may be part of it or commit a crime and end up sold to pay for it.  Regardless of the situation, HaShem is very clear on how a Hebrew slave should be dealt with.  Remember we were meant to be a kingdom of priests, slavery was not part of the deal and therefore a way out of this situation is opened, where one whom became a slave after seven years he/she is free to go.           

Point of interest in the ancient world a slave was not the same as a slave of the turn of last century or a slave in the modern times in muslim countries.  In modern days, this includes our immediate past some two hundred years ago, a slave was for life, and he/she could not redeem himself or herself. A slave could not conduct business nor trade nor get an education.  However in the ancient times a slave was free to trade accumulate wealth and was able to be educated.  In many cases he was able to pay himself for his freedom.  It is in this context that a Hebrew slave was coming into bondage for a set a period and then he was free to re-establish his life in the community.

This parasha is not just about slaves but I thought I’ll touch on this subject as it always comes up when individuals try to discredit the Torah and God by raising a subject where they have no knowledge in context and proceed to try to destroy the Torah.  Now the other areas that this parasha deals with can be divided into sections that deal with different aspects of community living.  The flowing 7 points address these areas of community living:

1.    Slaves, Homicide, striking and Insulting parents, dealing badly with parents, Kidnaping and assault

2.    Theft, homicidal animals, damage to live stock

3.    Damage to crops, bailment, seduction, sorcery, Bestiality, Apostasy, wronging the disadvantaged and lending

4.    Duties to God, Judicial Integrity, Humane treatment of enemy

5.    Dealing badly with the disadvantaged, False charges, Bribery, oppressing the strangers, Sabbatical year, the Sabbath, Other gods, Three pilgrimages festivals, Korban, First Fruits

6.    Angel before Israel and charge to obey angel

7.    Moses Aaron and elders to come up the mountain gazed God ate and drunk before God

Just looking at this list we can see one reoccurring theme, dealing with the disadvantaged, this includes the widow, the elderly the sick the extreme poor, the stranger etc.  It s is repeated two times, and when something is repeated more than once in the Torah, IT IS IMPORTANT.  Capitalizing the last few words was not a grammar error it was making a point, it was highlighting something as very, very important. This emphasis was given to dealing wrongly to the disadvantaged, is an area that HaShem promises that He, The Creator of the universe, God will deal with the offenders in a harsh manner.

The other striking thing about the Torah portion was the last of the points where Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu and the 70 Elders go up the mountain and gazed God as stated in Shemot 24:9-11 here it mentions that they ate and dunk in His presence.  This to me speaks covenant, that they were, all sealing a covenant that was binding for life through the generations, to this day.  So what does it all mean to us in our present day?  How do we apply this to our lives?

Well for starters I heard this comment “the manner in which you serve me reflects upon me” and I happen to agree 100% on this statement.  How we serve HaShem reflects on Him on this earth.  All we have to do is look back at some well known preachers, when they fall, they do make a lot of noise and discredit God’s kingdom on the way down.  This brings to the point I want to make and is tied to one of the ten words from last week’s parasha.  Thou shall not take the name of the LORD in vain.  The connection is, His Name is His character and if we profess to serve Him to be part of the Kingdom of Heaven and we behave in an improper and immoral way we are discrediting HaShem’s character and therefore taking His Name His Character in vain.  This parasha is about how we live as a community, in HaShem’s service. Therefore calling evil that which is good, and good that which is evil is a direct contradiction to the laws and judgments given in this Torah portion.  Which kingdom do we serve the tolerant politically correct pharaoh of this world or the Master of the universe where Torah is our plumb line in our speech, conduct, love and generosity?  Live life as if it is your last day on earth, make a difference and remember your calling and whom you serve.

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