Parashat Mishpatim, The Blood of the Covenant and the Presence of God


 This week’s reading from Shemot / Exodus 21:1-24:18 is titled “Parashat Mishpatim” meaning ordinances (הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים) where Moshe is giving the ordinances that the Lord is setting before the people.  The Hebrew text goes on to tell what one is to do if they have a Hebrew slave (21:2), if a man is forced to sell his daughter because of debt, what is he to do (21:7-9), if a man has a wife he is not allowed to reduce her food, clothing, or conjugal rights (12:10-11).  Stipulations on murder are made, whether premeditated or accidental (21:12-16).  Rulings are made on whether two men are fighting and one is injured, how the injured man’s time in bed is to be compensated (loss of work).  When two men are fighting and strike a woman and she miscarriages, the offending person is to pay compensation for the loss (21:22), and any other injury, the ruling is an eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth in repayment for injury (21:23-22:2).  God’s purpose for instructing the people on what to do in the cases of injury (eye for eye and tooth for tooth) is to treat each other mercifully.  Most often it has been taught that the mitzvah (command) eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth is harsh and unmerciful, the facts are these rulings provided structure, justice, and righteousness in a court of law such that the guilty person would not pay more than what his crime required.  In antiquity generally speaking, the wealthy would inflict harsher punishments upon those who had offended them.  This week’s Parashah goes on to discuss things regarding a man’s property, cattle, fields, etc (22:3-14).  Sorcerers / Witches are not permitted to live (22:18), bestiality is forbidden (22:19), and who ever sacrifices to any other god is to be put to death (22:20).  Be good to the stranger (22:21), do not oppress the widow or orphan (22:24).  No interest is to be charged on loans made to a child of Yisrael (22:25).  The law of the first born is given (22:29-30).  The seventh year rest for harvesting is given (23:10-11) along with the seventh day rest from working (the Shabbat, 23:12).  The command to celebrate three yearly festivals is given, (i) the Feast of Unleavened Bread (23:14), (ii) the Feast of Harvest of First Fruits (23:16), and (iii) the Feast of Ingathering at the end of the year (23:16).  Read More here.