Why Does the Torah Care About Returning Lost Property?
Feb 17, 2023 By Yael Landman | Commentary | Mishpatim | Shabbat Shekalim
There is no obligation in the common law to retrieve someone’s lost property and return it. So why does the Torah make a point of establishing such a requirement? Why does the Torah specify that the owner of the lost animal is the finder’s enemy, and what is the scope of the finder’s responsibilities?Read More
The Torah’s Creative Team
Jan 28, 2022 By David Shmidt Chapman | Commentary | Mishpatim
The metaphor of a playwright and director crafting a new play together can be applied to our parashah. The playscript God is developing is the set of mishpatim (rules), expanding on the Ten Commandments. God begins developing the “script” in a speech to Moses in Exodus 21:1: “And these are the rules that you shall set before them . . . ”Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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.Read More
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).Read More
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).Read More