Monday, January 24, 2011

Weekly Torah Readings (Parashat Mishpatim) For 23-29 January (18-24 Schvat 5771)


Parashat Mishpatim:

Parashat Mishpatim / פרשת משפטים

Last updated on 21 October 2010

Torah Portion: Exodus 21:1 - 24:18

Full Kriyah

1: 21:1-19 (19 p'sukim)
21:1 First Reading

These are the laws that you must set before [the Israelites]:

Ve'eleh hamishpatim asher tasim lifneyhem.

21:2 If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years, but in the seventh year, he is to be set free without liability.

Ki tikneh eved ivri shesh shanim ya'avod uvashvi'it yetse lachofshi chinam.

21:3 If he was unmarried when he entered service, he shall leave by himself. But if he was a married man, his wife shall leave with him.

Im-begapo yavo begapo yetse im-ba'al ishah hu veyatse'ah ishto imo.


2: 21:20-22:3 (21 p'sukim)

21:19 and then gets up and can walk under his own power, the one who struck him shall be acquitted. Still, he must pay for [the victim's] loss of work, and must provide for his complete cure.

Im-yakum vehithalech bachuts al-mish'anto venikah hamakeh rak shivto yiten verapo yerape.

21:20 Second Reading

If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod, and [the slave] dies under his hand, [the death] must be avenged.

Vechi-yake ish et-avdo o et-amato bashevet umet tachat yado nakom yinakem.

3: 22:4-26 (23 p'sukim)

22:4 Third Reading

If a person grazes a field or a vineyard, and lets his livestock loose so that it grazes in another person's field, he must make restitution with the best of his field and the best of his vineyard.

Ki yav'er-ish sadeh o-cherem veshilach et-be'iroh uvi'er bisdeh acher meytav sadehu umeytav karmo yeshalem


4: 22:27-23:5 (9 p'sukim)

22:26 This alone is his covering, the garment for his skin. With what shall he sleep? Therefore, if he cries out to Me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.

Ki hi chesutoh levadah hi simlato le'oro bameh yishkav vehayah ki-yits'ak elay veshamati ki-chanun ani.

22:27 Fourth Reading

Do not curse the judges. Do not curse a leader of your people.

Elohim lo tekalel venasi ve'amecha lo ta'or.

22:28 Do not delay your offerings of newly ripened produce and your agricultural offerings.

Give me the first-born of your sons.

Mele'atcha vedim'acha lo te'acher bechor baneycha titen-li.

5: 23:6-19 (14 p'sukim)

23:5 If you see the donkey of someone you hate lying under its load, you might want to refrain from helping him, but [instead] you must make every effort to help him [unload it].

Ki-tir'eh chamor sona'acha rovets tachat masa'o vechadalta me'azov lo azov ta'azov imo.

23:6 Fifth Reading

Do not pervert justice for your degraded countryman in his lawsuit.

Lo tateh mishpat evyoncha berivo.

23:7 Keep away from anything false.

Do not kill a person who has not been proven guilty or one who has been acquitted. [Ultimately] I will not let a guilty person escape punishment.

Midvar-sheker tirchak venaki'i vetsadik al-taharog ki lo-atsdik rasha.

6: 23:20-25 (6 p'sukim)

23:19 Bring your first fruits to the Temple of God your Lord.

Do not cook meat in milk, [even] that of its mother.

Reshit bikurey admatecha tavi Beyt Adonay Eloheycha lo-tevashel gedi bachalev imo.

23:20 Sixth Reading

I will send an angel before you to safeguard you on the way, and bring you to the place that I have prepared.

Hineh anochi shole'ach mal'ach lefaneycha lishmorcha badarech velahavi'acha el-hamakom asher hachinoti

7: 23:26-24:18 (26 p'sukim)

23:26 Seventh Reading

In your land, no woman will suffer miscarriage or remain childless. I will make you live out full lives.

Lo tihyeh meshakelah va'akarah be'artsecha et-mispar yameycha amale.

23:27 I will cause [the people] who are in your path to be terrified of Me, and I will throw all the people among whom you are coming into a panic. I will make all your enemies turn their backs [and flee] from you.

Et-eymati ashalach lefaneycha vehamoti et-kol-ha'am asher tavo bahem venatati et-kol-oyveycha eleycha oref.

maf: 24:15-18 (4 p'sukim)
24:14 He said to the elders, 'Wait for us here until we return to you. Aaron and Chur will remain with you. Whoever has a problem can go to them.'

Ve'el-hazkenim amar shvu-lanu vazeh ad asher-nashuv aleychem vehineh Aharon veChur imachem mi-va'al dvarim yigash alehem.

24:15 Last Reading

As soon as Moses reached the mountain top, the cloud covered the mountain.

Vaya'al Moshe el-hahar vayechas he'anan et-hahar.


Haftarah: Jeremiah 34:8 - 34:22; 33:25 - 33:26

Haftarah for Mishpatim

Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26

This translation was taken from the JPS Tanakh

8 The word which came to Jeremiah from the Lord after King Zede- kiah had made a covenant with all the people in Jerusalem to proclaim a release among them — 9 that everyone should set free his Hebrew slaves, both male and female, and that no one should keep his fellow Judean enslaved.

10 Everyone, officials and people, who had entered into the covenant agreed to set their male and female slaves free and not keep them enslaved any longer; they complied and let them go. 11 But afterward they turned about and brought back the men and women they had set free, and forced them into slavery again. 12 Then it was that the word of the Lord came to Jeremiah from the Lord:

13 Thus said the Lord, the God of Israel: I made a covenant with your fathers when I brought them out of the land of Egypt, the house of bondage, saying: 14 "In the seventh year each of you must let go any fellow Hebrew who may be sold to you; when he has served you six years, you must set him free." But your fathers would not obey Me or give ear. 15 Lately you turned about and did what is proper in My sight, and each of you proclaimed a release to his countrymen; and you made a covenant accordingly before Me in the House which bears My name. 16 But now you have turned back and have profaned My name; each of you has brought back the men and women whom you had given their freedom, and forced them to be your slaves again.

17 Assuredly, thus said the Lord: You would not obey Me and proclaim a release, each to his kinsman and countryman. Lo! I proclaim your release — declares the Lord — to the sword, to pestilence, and to famine; and I will make you a horror to all the kingdoms of the earth. 18 I will make the men who violated My covenant, who did not fulfill the terms of the covenant which they made before Me, ke] the calf which they cut in two so as to pass between the halves: 19 The officers of Judah and Jerusalem, the officials, the priests, and all the people of the land who passed between the halves of the calf 20 shall be handed over to their enemies, to those who seek to kill them. Their carcasses shall become food for the birds of the sky and the beasts of the earth. 21 I will hand over King Zedekiah of Judah and his officers to their enemies, who seek to kill them — to the army of the king of Babylon which has withdrawn from you. 22 I hereby give the command — declares the Lord — by which I will bring them back against this city. They shall attack it and capture it, and burn it down. I will make the towns of Judah a desolation, without inhabitant.

Chapter 33

25 Thus said the Lord: As surely as I have established My covenant with day and night — the laws of heaven and earth — 26 so I will never reject the offspring of Jacob and My servant David; I will never fail to take from his offspring rulers for the descendants of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. Indeed, I will restore their fortunes and take them back in love.

Taken from Tanakh, The Holy Scriptures, (Philadelphia, Jerusalem: Jewish Publication Society) 1985.

Used by permission of The Jewish Publication Society. Copyright ©1962, 1992

Third Edition by the Jewish Publication Society. No part of this text can be reproduced or forwarded without written permission.

Please visit the JPS website for more fine books of Jewish literature and tradition.


By Rabbi Avraham Fischer. A publication of the Orthodox Union in cooperation with the Seymour J. Abrams Orthodox Union Jerusalem World Center

Shabbat Parshat Mishpatim

26 Shevat 5765 - February 5, 2005

Moshe elicits a firm commitment from the people of Israel:

And Moshe came and told the people all of Hashem�s words and all the laws (KOL DIVREI HASHEM V�ET KOL HA�MISHPATIM). And all the people responded in one voice and said, �All the words (KOL HA�DEVARIM) that Hashem has spoken shall we do.�

And Moshe wrote all of Hashem�s words (KOL DIVREI HASHEM). And he arose early in the morning and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, and twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. And he sent the young men of the Children of Israel, and they offered up elevation-offerings, and they sacrificed bulls as peace- offerings to Hashem. And Moshe took half of the blood and put it into large bowls, and half of the blood he sprinkled on the altar. And he took the Book of the Covenant (SEFER HA�BRIT) and read it in earshot of the people. And they said, �All that Hashem has said (KOL ASHER DIBBER HASHEM) we will do and we will listen.� And Moshe took the blood and sprinkled it upon the people, and he said, �Behold the blood of the covenant that Hashem has made with you regarding all these words (KOL HA�DEVARIM HA�ELEH)� (Shemot 24:3-8).

How are we to understand these events? In the view of Rashi, the above- entioned occurred before the Revelation of the Decalogue and the laws (20:1-23:19): the first part on the fourth of Sivan, and from And he arose early in the morning (24:4), on the fifth of Sivan.

Ibn Ezra and Ramban, on the other hand, say that these events occurred immediately after the Revelation, in accordance with the way they are presented in the text.

On the subject of the Book of the Covenant (SEFER HA�BRIT) that Moshe reads, the Midrash (Mechilta Yitro Bachodesh, 3) presents three views: �R. Yose ben R. Yehuda says, from the beginning of Bereishit until here.�

This view is adopted by Rashi on our verses. �Rabbi [Yehuda Hanasi] says, the commandments which Adam was commanded, and the commandments which the sons of Noach were commanded and the commandments which [the Israelites] were commanded in Egypt and at Marah, and all the other commandments.�

This includes the mitzvot that were originally taught to all mankind and those which were given to the Israelites exclusively, namely the laws of Pesach (Shemot, chapter 12) and the laws taught at Marah (15:25; see Sanhedrin 56b which says that they received the laws of Shabbat, honoring parents and civil laws), as well as all the mitzvot that would ultimately be written in the Torah.

�R. Yishmael says, � At the end of the matter what does it say? These are the statutes and the laws and the teachings (Vayikra 26:46). They said, �We accept this upon ourselves.� When [Moshe] saw that they accepted it upon themselves he took the blood and sprinkled it on them, as it says, And Moshe took the blood and sprinkled it upon the people. He said to them, �Behold you are tied, looped and held fast. Come tomorrow and accept upon yourselves all the commandments.��

R. Yishmael holds that the Children of Israel first committed themselves to obey whatever Hashem would command, and accepted the consequences as delineated in the admonitions at the end of Vayikra (25:1-26:46); after they were so bound, Moshe undertook to teach them the mitzvot.

Another issue is raised by Meshech Chochma (R. Meir Simcha of Dvinsk, 1843-1926). The passage begins with Moshe communicating all of Hashem�s words and all the laws (KOL DIVREI HASHEM V�ET KOL HA�MISHPATIM).

Then the people respond with, �All the words (KOL HA�DEVARIM) which Hashem has spoken shall we do�; they do not refer to the laws (MISHPATIM). Moshe then writes all of Hashem�s words (KOL DIVREI HASHEM).

Finally, the Children of Israel declare, �All that Hashem has said (KOL ASHER DIBBER HASHEM) we will do and we will listen� and Moshe brings them into the covenant that Hashem has made with you regarding all these words (KOL HA�DEVARIM HA�ELEH).�

Why, asks Meshech Chochma, does the passage fluctuate between these different terms for Hashem�s commands?

All of humanity (the �children of Noach�) must establish legal systems and courts of law in order to keep the peace (Sanhedrin 56b; Rambam, �Laws of Kings� 9:1,14). Because these systems benefit and protect all members of society, it is agreed that the courts can compel individuals to comply. This is not so, however, of �religious laws�; compliance or non-compliance has no effect upon the society at large, and so they remain a personal matter, as R. Meir Simcha writes:

�Otherwise there should be no justification for the court to involve itself in the relationship between the individual and his Creator.�

The Torah creates a different relationship between the members of Israelite society. Israel�s commitment at first was only to the words (HA�DEVARIM) � the regulations of an ordered society; they did not yet commit themselves to the religious laws (MISHPATIM). But when Moshe sprinkled the blood on the people he brought them into the covenant, as R. Yishmael said in the Mechilta above:

�He said to them, �You are tied, looped and held fast.��

By means of this covenant they committed themselves as a society: �All that Hashem has said (KOL ASHER DIBBER HASHEM) we will do and we will listen�; they will obey both the words and the laws. The effect of the covenant is that, in all mitzvot, �All of Israel are cosigners for each other� (Shavuot 39a, and elsewhere). Because Israel is a united spiritual community, if one person sins he affects the entire community: he fosters a withdrawal of Hashem�s Presence and Providence from the society. This explains why the court can coerce individuals to comply with the commandments of Hashem. Meshech Chochma concludes with words we should all take to heart: �One who transgresses the command of Hashem has created a barrier between himself and his fellow-man, since he harms the collective.�


At the end of this week�s parshah, God informs the Jewish people about their entry into the Land of Israel. He tells them that the nations inhabiting the land will be chased out gradually, so as to ensure that the land doesn�t turn desolate as it becomes populated by the Jews. God then forbids the Jewish people to worship the idols that they will find in the land, and commands them to refrain from replicating the actions of its current inhabitants. A number of questions can be raised: since all idol worship is prohibited, what is the significance of these additional warnings? And since this worship is so repugnant to God, one would have thought that the quicker these nations are removed from the land, the better! Why do it slowly?

In answer to the first question, the Or Hachaim Kakadosh explains that the Torah here is prohibiting activities that are not actually idolatrous, but nevertheless part of the culture of an idolatrous society. The Netziv explains further that there was a special danger of following a system that had been in place and had worked for the inhabitants of the land which the Jews would now take over. After their victory, they might find it appropriate to imitate the local forms of worship, redirecting those activities towards God. The Torah comes to teach us that in the Land of Israel, no foreign influences should taint the purity of Jewish life.

And yet, God allows these people, corrupt as they may be, to remain until they are replaced by Jews behaving in accordance with the Torah, since desolation and abandonment of the Land of Israel would create such an undesirable situation. It appears that God does not allow a vacuum in the Land of Israel. Foreign inhabitants of the land are only removed as their place is filled by Jews. And those Jews should be populating the land with lives and a society that are built on authentic service to God.

Rabbi Shaya Karlinsky



*D�var Torah from Aloh Na'aleh: an initiative of former North American Rabbis and laymen who successfully made Aliyah, aimed at highlighting the centrality of Israel and promoting Aliyah. They send emissaries � Rabbis, academicians, and others � on speaking-tours throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Contact information:

Rabbi Yerachmiel Roness , Exec. Dir., Aloh Naaleh,

At the OU Center, 22 Keren HaYesod

Tel.(02) 566-7787 ex. 254

OU Torah Insights Project Archives


Shabbat Parashat Mishpatim - 27 Shevat 5769 - Law as a Gift of Love

February 21, 2009 / 27 Shevat 5769

By: Rabbi Elliot Dorff Rector and Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at American Jewish University

Torah Reading: Exodus 21:24 - 24:18

Maftir: Exodus 30:11-16

Haftarah Reading: II Kings 12:1-17

We have just been at Sinai. Amid thunder and lightning God has revealed the Decalogue, which includes some major theological and moral principles by which one should live.

By contrast, this week's Torah portion includes many detailed "mishpatim," judicial rulings. We hear about slaves and homicide, personal injuries and property damage, bailments and theft, the bride-price and sacrifices to other gods, ill treatment of strangers, widows, orphans, and the poor, giving testimony in court -- indeed, a whole potpourri of subjects. This is not the world of establishing fundamental relationships with God and the broad principles that should govern them; it is rather the world of the nitty-gritty rules necessary to make society run well.

In the Mekhilta, one of the earliest rabbinic commentaries, though, the Rabbis note that this week's Torah reading begins, "And these are the judicial rulings that you shall set before them." The "and," according to the Rabbis, means that just as the Decalogue was revealed at Sinai to the People Israel with the full authority of God, so too all of the specific rulings that appear in this week's portion were so revealed. This means that God's authority is as much behind the prohibition of cursing one's parents (Exodus 21:17) as it is in the Decalogue's demand to honor them; it is as much behind the rules about accidental homicide (Exodus 21:13) and assault (Exodus 21:18-25) as it is behind the Decalogue's prohibition of murder; and it is as much behind this week's rules about property damage and bailments, as it is behind the Decalogue's prohibition of theft. The many laws in this week's portion may seem almost prosaic compared to the majestic and magisterial principles of the Decalogue, but God's authority undergirds this week's laws no less.

This conviction has had an immense effect on our tradition. It has meant that as Jews we are to understand what God wants of us in legal terms. Authority does not rest in our individual conscience as it does for most Protestant denominations; it is not found in the decrees of a specific person or group of persons, as it is, for example, for Catholics; and it is not a function of the rule of the majority, as it is for democratic cultures such as that of the United States. For Judaism, instead, authority rests in the laws, and we are to use legal methods to apply them to new situations and generations.

Indeed, as the Rabbis understood the Torah, God may be the creator of the law and its ultimate judge and enforcer, but after the Torah had been given, determining the substance of its rules was now out of God's hands. "The law is not in heaven" (Deuteronomy 30:12), the Rabbis remind a heavenly Voice that attempts to intrude on their decision-making, and God laughs in acquiescence and agreement (Bava Mezia 59b). Authority, then, rests not in individual conscience, a person or group of persons, or even God, but rather in the law itself and in its authorized, human interpreters. That bespeaks a remarkable sense of trust in the law as a source for human direction.

Using law to determine what is right and wrong, required, forbidden, or optional has some distinct advantages and disadvantages when compared to other possible methods of making such decisions. On the minus side, employing legal methods can, and sometimes does, make people legalistic in their approach to laws, where they become too concerned with the details of the law to see its underlying goals. Sometimes that can even undermine their ability to achieve the purposes of the law altogether. Law can also freeze practices much too firmly such that needed changes are not made. For those who value autonomy, the legal method removes the authority to choose from the individual person and places it in the hands of those empowered to interpret the law - in the case of Jewish law, the rabbis of each generation.

On the other hand, there are many benefits to deciding moral issues -- or, put theologically, to discerning what God wants of us -- through legal methods. For one, the law defines the scope of our moral duties. To take a simple example, it may seem obvious that one has a moral duty to return a lost object, but exactly how far does that duty go? If you announce the find and nobody comes forward to claim it, do you need to take it home and store it? Do you need to advertise it in the newspaper? If it is an animal, do you need to feed it? If so, at whose expense? What if you are allergic to this kind of animal in the first place? You, after all, innocently were in the wrong place at the wrong time, and so when and where does your obligation cease? It is precisely this kind of specificity that the Jewish legal structure provides -- in this case, in the second chapter of Bava Mezia in the Mishnah and in its talmudic expansion. Without this kind of legal definition of our moral responsibilities, including their extent and limits, moral norms would be absolute and insatiable, making it impossible to fulfill them while still having a life.

Second, if everyone decides on one's own, there are no barriers against totally outrageous decisions; each person's sovereignty is often tantamount to each person's foolishness. The legal method, in contrast, requires rabbis to justify their decisions in terms of the precedents and methods of the law before the public who can read such justifications and argue with them. Rabbis and, indeed, the whole community may be wrong, of course, but at least this way we each provide a check for each other's poor judgments and outright errors.

Third, if everyone decides matters on one's own, there is little chance to form shared, communal norms. If those who know the law are entrusted to interpret and apply it, however, there can be a sense of community standards. Judges, of course, may differ with one another, but historically the Jewish tradition has devised methods - as has every living legal system - to determine which of several conflicting judicial opinions will be recognized as the law. Sometimes different communities follow different rulings, so that there is no universal Jewish practice, but at least portions of the Jewish people can be united into a group through their common practices shaped by the law.

Fourth, the law acts to counter fads, for it takes some doing to change the received precedent. This is the opposite side of the point made earlier against the use of legal methods -- namely, that sometimes the law does not change rapidly enough. That is true. The converse, however, is also true - namely, that moral rules should not be subject to instantaneous change. If moral rules are not simply going to condone whatever we want to do now, if they are indeed going to be normative, they must have some staying power. The legal method of handling moral issues, when used properly, provides for change, but by insisting that changes be justified legally, it also protects us from changing standards too hastily. In so doing, it preserves not only the normativity of norms, but also their - and the community's - continuity.

Finally, while treating moral issues in legal terms entails the risk of legalism, it also provides the opportunity for love. Children who grow up in households with no rules do not experience the lack of norms as love; they see it - correctly - as apathy on the part of the parents. Laying down rules - reasonable ones, of course, and reasonably enforced - is no less than one important way in which parents express love for their children. Christian sources wrongly ignore this when they depict the Jewish commitment to law as a preference of law over love. Quite the contrary, the law is the very vehicle of God's love, as the paragraph before the Shema in the siddur, the traditional prayerbook, indicates: "With everlasting love You have loved the House of Israel, You have taught us Torah and commandments, statutes and judicial rulings."

As good as the law is, though, it is not, and cannot be, sufficient. Judaism put more trust in the law than perhaps any other religion or culture. Even American ideology, which also manifests a much larger degree of trust in law than the thought and practice of most other groups, finds it reprehensible, if not impossible, to legislate morality. Jewish law had no such qualms. Most of the norms that contemporary Americans would consider the realm of the moral as distinct from the legal, Jewish law has no difficulty putting into law -- even to the point of defining how much charity one must give and in what manner (see Maimonides, Mishneh Torah, Laws of Gifts to the Poor, Chapter 10) and how often a man must offer to have conjugal relations with his wife (Mishnah Ketubbot 5:6).

And yet even Jewish tradition uses other resources to teach us how to be moral and to motivate us to be so. These include stories, proverbs, theological tenets, history, and study. Furthermore, the Jewish tradition asserts that there is a realm of moral norms beyond the letter of the law. The Mishnah thus maintains that to say that what is mine is mine and what is your is yours, while legally just and even a fulfillment of the commandment of loving your neighbor as yourself (Leviticus 19:18), is "the trait of Sodom" (M. Avot 5:10), and, according to the Talmud, we force Jews not to act that way (B. Eruvin 49a; Ketubbot 103a; Bava Batra 59a, 168a). Indeed, in the Talmud Rabbi Rabbi Yohanan asserts that the Second Temple was destroyed because Jews then only adhered to the law and did not fulfill their duties beyond the letter of the law (B. Bava Mezia 30b). The law may define a good deal of what we mean by the moral, and it may articulate even what we understand God to want of us in our own day, but there are still moral norms beyond its scope that we must recognize and uphold.

Although we must recognize the limits of the law and the need to do the moral thing even beyond its demands, we must also understand and appreciate the important contributions law makes to our moral sensitivity and our knowledge of God's will. We read the laws of this week's Torah reading, then, with the awe of Sinai and the authority that that setting invokes as well as the gratitude appropriate to God for the divine gift of these laws of love.

Shabbat Shalom.

Summary of The Weekly Torah Reading:

Parshas Mishpatim

Note: The Shabbos Torah Reading is divided into 7 sections. Each section is called an Aliya [literally: Go up] since for each Aliya, one person "goes up" to make a bracha [blessing] on the Torah Reading.


The following Aliya summary will list the numerous laws detailed in Parshas Mishpatim. A total of 53 Mitzvot are commanded.

1st Aliya: The Jewish slave, Jewish maidservant, manslaughter, murder, injuring a parent, kidnapping, cursing a parent.

2nd Aliya: Killing of slaves, personal damages, injury to slaves, the killer ox, a hole in the ground, damage by goring, penalties for stealing.

3rd Aliya: Damage by grazing, damage by fire, the unpaid custodian, the paid custodian, the borrowed article, seduction, occult practices, idolatry and oppression, lending money.

4th Aliya: Accepting authority, justice, strayed animals, the fallen animal.

5th Aliya: Justice, the Shmitah (7th) year, Shabbos, Pesach, Shavous, Succos, prohibition against milk and meat.

6th Aliya: Hashem (G-d) instructed the nation to respect the authority of His messengers, the Prophets and Rabbis. He promised to chase out the seven nations who inhabited Canaan and forewarned us against making a treaty of peace with them, or being influenced by their practices and values.

7th Aliya: Hashem stated the means by which the seven nations would be chased out of Israel, and promised that if we do as instructed no woman would miscarry. The borders of Eretz Yisroel (The Land of Israel) were defined. The conclusion of the Parsha returns to the aftermath of Revelation. Moshe built an altar, offered a sacrifice, and in 24:7 the nation proclaimed "we will first obey Hashem's commands and then attempt to understand". Moshe, Aharon, Nadav, Avihu, and the 70 elders have a shared vision in 24:10 and then Moshe is told to ascend Sinai where he would remain for 40 days and nights.


Parsha Summary by Rabbi Aron Tendler
Summary of The Maftir:

Maftir Shekalim

This week, in addition to the regular Parsha, we read Parshas Shekalim. Parshas Shekalim is the first of the four special Shabbosim preceding Pesach when additional portions from the Torah are read. Shekalim is read on the Shabbos that precedes the month of Adar, or the Shabbos of Rosh Chodesh Adar (when Rosh Chodesh and Shabbos coincide).

A key function of the Bais Hamikdash (Temple) was the offering of the daily, korban - public sacrifices. The designation of "public" was because every male adult, 20 years and older, donated a 1/2 Shekel toward the purchase of the communal sacrifices. These moneys were gathered and used to purchase the daily public offerings.

The law demands that all sacrifices must be purchased from moneys collected for that year. The fiscal year for public offerings was from Nissan to Nissan. Therefore, the Rabbi's ordained that the portion of the Torah describing the first giving of the 1/2 Shekel be read on the Shabbos of or before Rosh Chodesh Adar, one month before the 1/2 shekel was due, as a reminder that everyone should send in their money to the Temple.


Summary of The Haftorah:

Haftorah Shekalim

Melachim II Chapter 12

In honor of Shabbos Shekalim, the Haftorah is designated to reflect the theme of Shekalim rather than the weekly portion of Mishpatim. Chapter 12 of II Kings relates how the young Yeho'ash collected the funds for the rededication of the Bais Hamikdash.

In the year 3084 - 677b.c.e., Yeho'ash, the King of Yehudah, decided to strengthen and redecorate the 155 year old Bais Hamikdash. Yeho'ash instituted a simple system of collection, known today as the "Pushka." A special box was designated next to the Mizbeach where all collected moneys were deposited. The money was then counted and given to the contractors who dispersed the funds, as needed, to the workmen. The Navi specifically states that no accounting was made with the contractors, because they were men of integrity.

Yeho'ash was the sole survivor from the House of Dovid Hamelech following their massacre by the hands of Queen Athalya, the daughter of Achav and Ezevel, and Yeho'ash's own grandmother! (just think what the media would have done with a story like this) He was saved by his aunt, Yehosheva, the wife of Yehoyada the Kohein Gadol, who hid him in the Bais Hamikdash for six years.

After those six years, At the age of seven, Yehoyada revealed Yeho'ash's existence, and coronated him the King of Yehudah to the delight of the people. Yehoyada was the disciple of Elisha the Navi.


Parashas Mishpatim - Shekalim

Kings II, 12

By Rabbi Dovid Siegel

This week's haftorah, read in conjunction with Parshas Sh'kalim, focuses on King Yehoash's successful campaign to repair the Bais Hamikdash. Prior to his reign, the Bais Hamikdash saw serious neglect and necessitated extensive renovations to restore it to its splendor. When Yehoash came to power he responded to the problem and instructed the kohanim to collect the necessary funds. After their unsuccessful attempt Yehoash personally spearheaded the appeal and elicited an overwhelming response.

The background for this neglect is explained in Divrei Hayamim wherein Scriptures severely blame the wicked Queen Atalya and her family. (ibid 2:23) Her royal family disgraced the holiest structure on earth by carelessly roaming inside it, bringing much damage to its interior and structure. The Jewish people realized the problem and consistently donated funds towards the Bais Hamikdash's repair. However, the wicked sovereign constantly misappropriated the funds and channeled them towards her idolatrous practices. Once King Yehoash assumed the throne he removed idolatry from the royal family and faithfully directed the funds to the Bais Hamikdash. After years of neglect the holy structure finally returned to its physical beauty.

This development reminds us of the Jewish people's experience during its formative years. We read in the maftir portion of Parshas Shkalim about the half shekel contributions. This collection was dedicated to the Sanctuary and served in part for the Jewish people's atonement from making their most shameful plunge in history. (see Daas Z'kainim S'hmos 30:13) This came after Hashem showered His people with abundant wealth while leaving Egypt. In addition to all these Egyptian gifts (loans) Hashem presented His people at the Sea of Reeds all of Egypt's wealth. This additional wealth proved too much for the Jewish people to absorb who viewed it as a heavy surplus. During their severest moment of despair they succumbed to Egyptian influence and applied these precious gifts towards the infamous Golden Calf. Hashem responded harshly to this offense and the Jewish people sincerely repented for their inexcusable behavior. Hashem accepted their repentance and invited them to participate in the erection of the Sanctuary. They learned their lesson well and immediately dedicated their wealth towards Hashem's magnificent sanctuary. This comeback displayed their true approach to wealth and deemed them worthy of Hashem's Divine Presence for the next thousand years.

Parshas Sh'kalim's maftir reading and its accompanying haftorah are a most befitting introduction to the month of Adar. We read in Megillas Esther (3:9) that the wicked Haman offered the foolish, wicked King Achasveirosh ten thousand silver blocks in exchange for the Jewish people. Haman intended to use this manneuver to destroy the entire Jewish nation. The Sages teach us that Haman's efforts were preempted by the Jewish people's annual Adar donation to the Bais Hamikdash. By no coincidence, Hashem instructed the Jewish nation to annually donate this exact sum of ten thousand silver blocks to the Bais Hamikdash. Hashem said, "Let the Jewish nation's (funding of) ten thousand blocks preempt Haman's (influence on the king with his) ten thousand blocks". (see Mesichta Megilla 13b and Tosfos ibid 17a).

The apparent message here is that the Jewish people's annual donation reflected their attitude towards wealth and power. They consistently allocated their funds to the worthiest of all causes by contributing ten thousand silver blocks to the Sanctuary/Bais Hamikdash. This pure approach to wealth and power shielded the Jewish people from Haman's financial influence. Because they truly understood the value of wealth and did not become adversely effected by it Hashem placed them outside of Haman's financial power. Eventually, the king would and did see through Haman's madness and was not blinded by this financial influence.

These valuable lessons are a perfect introduction to the month Adar and Purim. They remind us of the benefits of money when allocated in the proper ways. During King Yehoash's reign sincere financial funds restored the Bais Hamikdash to its original splendor. During earlier times donations helped atone for the Jewish people's worst plunge in history. And during the days of Purim in the month of Adar our annual charitable donations helped spare us from our worst enemy in history.

This timely insight sheds colorful light on Purim's unique mitzvos. Unlike all Yomim Tovim, Purim revolves around acts of generosity. It calls upon us to direct our funds to the constructive causes of half shekel donations, alms to the paupers and food to our friends. Our eagerness and zeal to fulfill these mitzvos reflect our true approach towards wealth and display our generosity as a very noble trait. Our understanding of money's true value places us outside of our enemies' hostile financial influence. In addition, it unites us as a people and qualifies us to reunite with Hashem and merit His return to the Bais Hamikdash and His cherished people.


Text Copyright © 2002 Rabbi Dovid Siegel and Project Genesis, Inc.

The author is Rosh Kollel of Kollel Toras Chaim of Kiryat Sefer, Israel.

Parashat Mishpatim

By Rabbi/Cantor Anne Heath

In Parashat Mishpatim we reach the pivot point of the Book of Exodus. Until now we have been engaged with the exciting history of our ancestors’ release from slavery in Egypt and the subsequent revelation at Mount Sinai. In the following weeks, our Exodus studies guide us through the vision and building of the Mishkan (portable Tabernacle) in the wilderness; the narrative about which is interrupted for a few chapters to recount the episode of the golden calf.

In Parashat Mishpatim Moses receives laws on worship, slavery (or serfdom, or servitude), property, moral behavior, Sabbaths and festivals. These laws immediately follow the Ten Commandments (in Parashat

Yitro from last Shabbat); enhancing and extending them into the mini-law code often called the Book of the Covenant. Parashat Mishpatim concludes with our ancestors’ affirmation of the Covenant.

Moses first brings God’s laws to our ancestors, speaking all that he, Moses, alone has heard. The people reply and affirm, “All the things that the Eternal has commanded we will do!” After recording the laws, Moses sets up an altar and twelve pillars (one for each tribe) at the foot of the mountain, where he and his assistants make sacrifices and offerings. (Exodus 24:3-6).

For a second time Moses brings God’s commands to our ancestors, reading the record of the Covenant out loud to all. The people reply and affirm, “All that the Eternal has spoken we will do and we will hear!” (Exodus 24:7)

Not just “we will do” (na’aseh, in Hebrew) but now, in conclusion, they affirm “we will do and we will hear” (na’aseh v’nishma, in Hebrew).

Our Torah commentators throughout the generations make much of this apparent reversal of action, expecting, as most of us might, that “hearing” comes before “doing.” Haven’t they just “heard” what Moses said and then read?

Aviva Gottlieb Zornberg, in her marvelous book, The Particulars of Rapture: Reflections on Exodus, writes about this reversal of order, of “doing” before “hearing,” and considers it to signify “an uncalculating readiness to obey.” She brings in the work of Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995, Talmudic commentator and philosopher, born in Lithuania and naturalized in France in 1930) who characterizes this readiness to obey as “engendered only in relationship to the face of the Other.” Hearing implies an acknowledgment of obligation to the One speaking.

Leaving for more in-depth study Zornberg’s vast range of classical Jewish interpretations and Midrashic sources, literary allusions and ideas from philosophy and psychology that pervade all her Torah commentaries, what is our “take away”? What might “doing” before “hearing” mean for people like us in our day and time?

The first way to understand this reversal of “doing” and then “hearing” is to make it the way we choose to respond to God’s commands. Our commitment as Jews should engender a “readiness to obey.”

We will take what Torah we know already, however little or much that might be, do that Torah and then hear about it.

What’s there to hear? We need to hear how well we did the Torah we already know.

When’s there to hear? In prayer. To pray means to judge one’s self. We can judge how we “did” the Torah we know. We can be infused with holy words and struggle to converse with God, to make our sacrifices and offerings through the fixed words of the prayer book and from the words of our own souls.

What else is there to hear? The next piece of Torah. Pirke Avot (Sayings of the Fathers) teaches about acquiring study partners and teachers, about learning a small amount of Torah each day and about how each gathering, however small, requires words of Torah to be spoken.

The Divine Presence that dwelt in the Mishkan continues to dwell among those praying and studying Torah and continues to guide those doing Torah. Ask your rabbi, cantor or other teachers how the words “Divine Presence,” “Mishkan” and “neighbor” are related in the Hebrew language.

The drama of the Book of Exodus pivots away from redemption and revelation to preparation for sustaining God’s presence among the people. God will continue to speak and our ancestors committed themselves to continuing to do and to hear.

Through action, prayer and Torah study we acknowledge our obligation and commitment to the One speaking and our recognition of God’s continual presence. We must challenge ourselves and others in the continual “doing” and “hearing” of Torah. I believe our very lives and souls depend on it.


A member of both the Rhode Island and Massachusetts

Boards of Rabbis, Rabbi/Cantor Anne Heath, AJR ’07, is the spiritual leader of Congregation Agudath Achim and the Jewish Community House – a 100-year-old progressive, independent congregation in the heart of Taunton, Mass.

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