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Mishpatim Summaries

Mishpatim 5777-2017

“Majority Rule”

The idea of “majority rule” may very well find its origin in the judicial laws of Judaism. Its fascinating ramifications are on broad display in parashat Mishpatim.

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Mishpatim 5776-2016

“Jewish Women and Conjugal Rights”

The Torah regards the act of providing one’s wife with sexual pleasure as a foremost requirement of marriage.

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Mishpatim 5775-2015

“Injuring a Fellow Human Being”

In parashat Mishpatim the Torah introduces the fundamental rules regarding instances of personal injury. In many instances, these ancient rules are practiced today and form the basis of jurisprudence in many contemporary legal systems.

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Mishpatim 5774-2014

Oh’na’ah–Taking Unfair Advantage of the Weak”

אונאה, the injunction not to take unfair advantage of the weak is one of the many basic revolutionary contributions that the Torah makes to moral and ethical living, which is found in Parashat Mishpatim.

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Mishpatim 5773-2013

“Judaism’s Take on ‘Majority Rules’”

Parashat Mishpatim serves as the basis of much of Jewish jurisprudence. Many fundamental and revolutionary judicial principles (including “majority rules”) that have influenced legal systems the world over are introduced in this week’s parasha.

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Mishpatim 5772-2012

“Capital Punishment: Revenge or Restitution?”

In parashat Mishpatim, the Torah introduces the concept of capital punishment. Is the execution of a murderer an act of vengeance, or is it intended to serve as restitution for the loss of human life?

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Mishpatim 5771-2011

“Protecting the Rights of a Wife”

From the references to the Hebrew handmaiden that are found in parashat Mishpatim, our rabbis develop revolutionary guidelines regulating the treatment of Jewish wives.

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Mishpatim 5770-2010

“The Blessing of Health”

In this week’s parasha, G-d promises to remove illness from our midst and to fill the number of our days. Could it be that this incredible promise is being fulfilled in our own lifetimes?

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Mishpatim 5768-2008

“Showing Sensitivity to the Helpless and the Downtrodden”

The Torah adjures us to be sensitive to the helpless and the downtrodden. This includes strangers (converts), as well as orphans and widows. The Torah once again demonstrates how it was light years ahead of society when it promulgated these statutes.

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Mishpatim 5767-2007

“The Hebrew Maidservant is Alive and Well”

The law of the Hebrew maidservant seems to be particularly antiquated and irrelevant in contemporary times. Nevertheless, there is not only much that we learn from it, but the law of the maidservant actually provides the basis for an important aspect of contemporary marital relations.

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Mishpatim 5766-2006

“We Will Do and We Will Obey”

Although most of parashat Mishpatim deals with the administration of civil justice, the end of the parasha returns to the theme of the Divine Revelation, where the people pronounce “Na’ah’seh v’nish’mah,” we will do and we will obey. More than obey, “nishmah” means “we will understand.” It is this struggle for understanding that is perhaps most relevant to Jewish observance in the 21st century.

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Mishpatim 5765-2005

“The Conundrum of Charity–Who Benefits More?”

According to many commentators, parashat Mishpatim contains the source of the biblical commandment of gemilut chasadim–the requirement to render kindness to the needy. Caring for the poor and the needy is not easy, but it could turn out to be a great opportunity for blessing and for growth.

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Mishpatim 5764-2004

“The Al-mighty’s Concern for the Dignity of the Human Being”

The Torah teaches that a person who steals an ox or a sheep and then slaughters or sells the stolen animal, must pay the value of five oxen in place of the ox, and four sheep in place of the sheep. Why is there such a stiff penalty for stealing these particular animals, and why is there a greater penalty for the theft of an ox as opposed to a sheep?

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Mishpatim 5763-2003

“Justice! Justice!”

The Torah introduces revolutionary ideas in its code of Jewish civil and criminal jurisprudence. Among these concepts is the prohibition against double jeopardy, the prohibition against favoring a defendant because he/she is wealthy or poor, good or evil. Judgement must be rendered based only on the actual merits of a case and nothing else.

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Mishpatim 5762-2002

“‘An Eye for an Eye’ in Jewish Law”

If an “eye for an eye” in the Bible does not literally mean an eye for an eye, but rather monetary compensation, why then does the Torah use this expression?

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Mishpatim 5761-2001

“The ‘Sophisticated’ and ‘Unsophisticated’ Criminal”

In Jewish law, the punishment for stealthy theft is greater than that for violent theft. Perhaps the rabbis were trying to tell members of society that so-called “white collar” crimes are at least as serious and can be as devastating as what we commonly refer to as “blue collar” crimes.

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Mishpatim 5760-2000

“From Seemingly Obscure Laws, the Torah Teaches the Ultimate Value of the Sanctity of Human Life”

Why should an ox that gored and killed a person be put to death? 3,300 years ago the Torah taught the world about the ultimate value of human life. These values are reflected in this statute as well.

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