Barbara’s Drash: Mishpatim

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Exodus 21:1-24:18

Mishpatim is one of the longest Torah portions. It contains a total of 53 commandments containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative precepts. Included are laws regarding:

The Hebrew manservant and maidservant, manslaughter, murder, injuring a parent, kidnapping, cursing a parent, personal injury, penalty for killing a slave, personal damages, injury to slaves, categories of damages and compensatory restitution, personal property damage, seduction, occult practices, idolatry, oppression of widows, children and orphans.
The portion continues with the laws of: lending money, not cursing judges or leaders, tithes, first-born sons, justice, returning strayed animals, assisting the unloading of an animal fallen under its load, Sabbatical year, Shabbat, the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot & Sukkot).

Mishpatim concludes with the promise from Adonai to lead Israel into the land of Israel, safeguard their journey, ensure the demise of their enemies and guarantee their safety in the land—if we uphold the Torah and do the mitzvot. Moses makes preparations for himself and for the people and then ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments written by Adonai’s finger on tables of stones.

According to the Jewish tradition the 613 mitzvot of the Torah are generally divided into two categories:

  1. Mitzvot which are between a person and G-d.
  2. Mitzvot which affect one another.

We find a summary of these two categories in the Ten Commandments, which were written on two tables of stone. The first table includes the first four commandments (1. Belief in G-d. 2. Prohibition to worship idols. 3. Not to swear falsely and in vain. 4. Keeping Shabbat. These four mitzvot are between human beings and G-d. The six others mitzvot (5. Honoring parents, 6. Not to commit murder, 7. Not to commit adultery. 8. Prohibition of false testimony and 10 Not to covet) are between one person and another. However, in truth even the mitzvot between individuals affect our relationship with G-d, while the mitzvot between us and G-d also affect everyone.

Wow… my thoughts were this is a whole lot of information and how do I  begin to weed my way through this portion. It always seems for me at least, the week I am to deliver the drash the world just seems to get in the way. That could be an incredible workload that week, parenting seems harder, relationships are harder, words you don’t mean come out of your mouth, and it can really hinder your ability to see what Adonai has for you to see this time around.

In this portion, we see one particular commandment mentioned twice, and when we see something twice it is a pretty good bet we are to pay particular attention.

In Exodus 22:20 (21) “You must neither wrong nor oppress a foreigner living among you, for you yourself, were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”, then in

Ex: 23:9 it states again” you are not to oppress a foreigner, for you know how a foreigner feels, since you were foreigners in the land of Egypt.”

While preparing and studying this week I found that there are approximately 97 references made to foreigners, sojourners, and strangers throughout the whole bible. Giving examples of how we are to treat them and what regulations they are to obey. Here are just a few that I picked out:

Deuteronomy 10:18-19 CJB

He secures justice for the orphan and widow; he loves the foreigner, giving him food and clothing. Therefore, you are to love the foreigner, since you are foreigners in the land of Egypt.

Deuteronomy 27:19 CJB

A curse on anyone who interferes with justice for the foreigner, orphan or widow. All the people are to say, “Amen!”

Leviticus 19:33-34 CJB


‘If a foreigner stays with you in your land, do not do him wrong. 34 Rather, treat the foreigner staying with you like the native-born among you – you are to love him as yourself, for you were foreigners in the land of Egypt; I am ADONAI your God.

Jeremiah 22:3 CJB

This is what the LORD says: Do what is just and right. Rescue from the hand of the oppressor the one who has been robbed. Do no wrong or violence to the foreigner, the fatherless or the widow, and do not shed innocent blood in this place.

Zechariah 7:9 CJB

Do not oppress the widow, the fatherless, the sojourner, or the poor, and let none of you devise evil against another in your heart.”

You think about the word foreigner, sojourner, or stranger we can all relate to that in one way or another? We have all had that experience of going to a new place of worship, moving to a new town, starting a new job, and meeting new people. We want to be accepted and we want to fit it and feel like part of the community. These feelings start as a child and follow us through adulthood. We all want to be invited and accepted. It isn’t a good feeling to feel left out or not worthy, we all want to be treated fairly and justly. Adonai gave us the Torah and it gives us a guide on how we are to carry out our relationships with others.

In the Brit Chadashah, it is written in Matthew 22:36-40

36 “Rabbi, which of the mitzvot in the Torah is the most important?” 37 He told him, “‘You are to love Adonai your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.’[a] 38 This is the greatest and most important mitzvah39 And a second is similar to it, ‘You are to love your neighbor as yourself.’[b] 40 All of the Torah and the Prophets are dependent on these two mitzvot.

Galatians 5:14

4 For the whole of the Torah is summed up in this one sentence: “Love your neighbor as yourself

We need to show kindness and love to those around us at all times. Our neighbors, our families, those we do business with, and the public in general.  The other day our oldest son Drew, who works at Kroger in the click list department, was out in the store picking a grocery order. He texted me and said, “You won’t believe this”.  He said he had an older woman call him “useless” because he couldn’t tell her why Kroger had changed the brand of banana’s they carry.  He said it was very hard for him not to snap back and say something he would regret.  That made me so sad and angry at the same time. Angry as the mama bear came out in me, but then sad for the women who said that to him. It made me think about what made her so cranky and her words unkind.  Made me think about how I treat those in the grocery store, at a restaurant, the providers I serve.

We need to help our world and the next generation turn back to Adonai and his ways of showing love and kindness and start looking out how do I help others and not just “ourselves”. Whether we have a stressful day, and uphill battles all day we should not portray those feelings to others. Showing an act of kindness can go a long way.

This is part of what is known in Judaism as Tikkun Olam (Repairing the World)

To summarize even the mitzvot between us and other individuals affect our relationship with G-d.  Every good deed, we perform enhances and strengthens our relationship with G-d and also benefits all of humanity. Parashat Mishpatim deals mostly with the category of mitzvot between one individual and the other.

Spread kindness and love this week make a conscious effort in all of you dealing to show the Love of Adonai!!!

Shabbat Shalom