Midreshet Amit


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Parshat Mishpatim

By: Alison Billet

In last week's Parasha, Parshat Yitro we read that Bnei Yisrael's witnessed Matan Torah. While the story seems to end at the end of the Parsha, it continues in this weeks' Parasha, Parshat Mishpatim, however, it is only mentioned at the end. The main bulk of Parashat Mishpatim is the civil law. For example, owning slaves and damaging property. This invites a question: why are these halachot sandwiched in the middle of the two stories of Matan Torah?

Rashi explains that the letter "vav" (the first latter in "V'eilah hamishpatim"), meaning "and" tells us that the Asaret HaDibrot, mentioned at the end of last weeks' Parasha, and the laws mentioned in this weeks' Parasha are connected. Just as the Aseret HaDibrot were said at Har Sinai, so too all of these laws were also said to Bnai Yisrael at Har Sinai. This is a fundamental principle of Jewish belief. We must believe that all 613 mitzvot were given to us; not just "the big 10".

This idea is reflected in the first Pasuk of the Parasha: "These are the ordinances that you (Moshe) should place before them (Bnai Yisrael)." Rashi learns a very important Halacha from the words "before them."They teach us that it is forbidden for a Jew to go to a non-Jewish court (at least for monetary laws). One might think, if one Jew damaged another, why can't they simply settle it in any court they choose? The answer is exactly what we said above. All of the laws are from Sinai. Hashem told us what to do if one damages someone else's property, and we shouldn't go to a court in which people make up the laws.

We know that there are different categories of mitzvot. Chukim are the laws in the Torah in which we do not know the reason for them (such as the Parah Aduma.) Eidot are mitzvot in which we commemorate something (such as tefillin & Shabbat.) The final category is Mishpatim, the mitzvot which might seem obvious to us This weeks Parsha deals with Mishpatim. All of these laws, such as not damaging property, are all obvious. However, we must remember that we observe them because Hashem told us to. That is why Rashi's emphasis on going to a Jewish court is so important. It reminds us that everything ultimately comes from Hashem.