Parsha Mishpatim: Shemoth/Exodus 21 - 24
Mishpatim: Well, That Makes Sense!
Parsha Mishpatim is packed chock-full of -- you guessed it -- mishpatim!
A mishpat is a type of law or command that YAHUAH gave within His Torah. These types of laws are understandable and rational.
In other words, when we read them, they just make sense (unlike other laws such as the red heifer).
A mishpat (pl. mishpatim) is usually translated as "judgment" or "right-ruling."
Reading through this Torah portion, you can see why it’s translated as such. Mishpatim often involve cases in which a judgment, or a “right” ruling, is made between two parties.
This Torah portion is often referred to as our "civil code" because they form the basis of a civil, peaceful society.
These mishpatim guide us in how to interact with one another and how to handle everyday situations of daily living. They cover everything from employer-employee relations to property rights to theft and restitution to assault and damages.
Think of all the things a person would go to civil court for (or just about anything you could get in a disagreement with someone about), and it’s in there. It may be hidden, but it’s in there.
Did your friend borrow your laptop, and it broke?
Did you do some work for a neighbor?
Have you ever been in an accident?
How all of these situations should be handled is right there in this week’s Parsha.
Sweat the “Small” Stuff
It’s funny how this section of normal, everyday laws is sandwiched right between the big, miraculous revelation at Sinai when YAHUAH descended on the mountain (ch. 19-20) and the highly spiritual event of entering the Covenant with Elohim when Moshe, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and the 70 elders saw YAH's esteem with paved sapphire stone beneath His feet (ch. 24).
It's like a spiritual roller coaster:
Heavenly Spiritual event ==> normal, everyday stuff ==> Heavenly Spiritual event
What does this tell us?
It tells us that YAHUAH cares about our day-to-day activities just as much as He cares about the lofty, spiritual events of our lives.
Sure, He wants us to worship Him on Shabbat, but He also cares about how we interact with our coworkers during the week.
Yes, He wants us to pray and praise Him everyday, but He also cares about how we treat our parents and our spouse, our friends and our neighbors, our supervisor or employees, and all the random people in the grocery store or post office.
YAHUAH cares about how we interact with every person we encounter on a daily basis and how we handle the many different situations that arise out of these normal, everyday occurrences.
How do we deal with the guy down the street and his annoying or aggressive dog?
How do we deal with the stranger whose car we bumped in traffic?
What about our friend who accidentally broke our tablet?
Our neighbor who let us borrow his drill?
Our cousin whose earring we lost?
Our sister who needs a little help making ends meet?
The new guy at work who's still learning the ropes?
Our teachers at school or in the congregation? Our kids' teachers?