God’s Currency

God’s Currency

Feb 12, 2021 By Gordon Tucker | Commentary | Mishpatim | Shabbat Shekalim

The arrival of Parashat Shekalim (plural of shekel) each year is what might be called the liturgical “rite of spring” in the Jewish tradition, signaling that Pesah is six–seven weeks away, and preparations (spiritual and physical) for the great festival are very soon to begin. This year, it will be observed on Rosh Hodesh Adar, when the weekly reading will be Parashat Mishpatim.

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Mother’s Milk

Mother’s Milk

Feb 21, 2020 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Commentary | Mishpatim

In 1976 the Italian historian Carlo Ginzburg published a book called The Cheese and the Worms, an account and analysis of a 16th-century Inquisition trial. The defendant in this trial was a miller from the Friuli region of Italy named Menocchio. Among the heresies that he stood accused of was his apparent claim that the world came into existence through a process of putrefaction.

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Opt-In Judaism

Opt-In Judaism

Feb 1, 2019 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Mishpatim

“I’m gonna make him an offer he can’t refuse” may be the most well-known line of any movie. Spoken by Don Corleone to Johnny Fontane in The Godfather, it communicates the chilling reality of doing business with a mobster.

The Talmud suggests that God made a similar offer to Israel at Mount Sinai (BT Shabbat 88a). The Torah’s description that Israel stood under the mountain (תחתית ההר) to receive revelation in Exod 19:17, inspires the Rabbis to imagine God holding the mountain over the people—threatening them to accept the Torah . . . or else.

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Kashrut and Refugees

Kashrut and Refugees

Feb 9, 2018 By Julia Andelman | Commentary | Mishpatim

There’s an old joke based on the three appearances of the commandment “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk”—the first being in this week’s parashah, Mishpatim (Exod. 23:19). The narrow prohibition against “eating the flesh of an animal together with the milk that was meant to sustain it” (Etz Hayim, 474) was expanded over time into a vast array of laws regarding the separation of all dairy and all meat.

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Taking Care of Ourselves and the Stranger

Taking Care of Ourselves and the Stranger

Feb 24, 2017 By David Rosenn | Commentary | Mishpatim

This week’s Torah reading contains instructions for taking care of one’s own: “If you lend money to My people, to the poor among you, do not act toward them like a creditor; exact no interest from them” (Exod. 22:25).

Deuteronomy is even clearer, stating, “You shall not charge interest on loans to your countrymen, interest on money, interest on food, interest on anything that is lent for interest. But you may charge interest to a foreigner…” (23:20-21).

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Expanding Our Understanding of the Religious Life

Expanding Our Understanding of the Religious Life

Feb 24, 2017 By David Hoffman | Commentary | Mishpatim

There is a strange—little spoken about—law that my mind, particularly over the last few months, keeps revisiting. The Talmud teaches that when one builds a synagogue or house of study the structure should preferably have windows (BT Berakhot 34b). Indeed, this idea is codified as law in the foundational legal code, the Shulhan Arukh (OH 90:2).

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Our Converts Are Precious

Our Converts Are Precious

Jan 29, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Mishpatim

This midrash about an actual convert expands the scope of this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, which contemporary scholars call the “Covenant Collection” because of its numerous laws that follow and complement the Ten Commandments.

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Linking Narrative to Law

Linking Narrative to Law

Feb 5, 1994 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Mishpatim

With this week’s parasha, our landscape changes abruptly. We take leave of the hospitable realm of narrative history and enter the austere world of legal rules and cultic regulations, where we shall stay put, with but one brief excursion, till we reach chapter 11 of the book of Numbers. There can be no doubt that law is central to the Torah’s conception of religion. Boundaries create order and give shape to existence. Community springs from the limits placed on individual freedom.

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Heavenly Justice

Heavenly Justice

Feb 9, 2002 By Lewis Warshauer | Commentary | Mishpatim

The other day, I was mentioning the wide impact of the books of Rabbi Harold Kushner, and the person I was talking to said, “Oh yes ­ When Good Things Happen to Bad People.” We laughed, because the actual title of the book is When Bad Things Happen to Good People. It is the suffering of good people — or, at least, innocent people — that is so troubling and that accounts for the great popularity of books that address this topic.

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Judaism and Reproductive Rights

Judaism and Reproductive Rights

Jan 28, 1998 By Ismar Schorsch | Commentary | Mishpatim

At the end of August 1993, I joined some 100 religious leaders of a moderate stripe who were invited by the President and First Lady for breakfast at the White House. What gave the event an added dose of excitement for me was the good luck to be seated at the President’s table.

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