This week’s parsha, Mishpatim, opens up by saying “וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ הַמִּשְׁפָּטִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר תָּשִׂ֖ים לִפְנֵיהֶֽם׃”- and these are the laws placed before them.
Why does the weekly Torah portion open up with the word “and”? What is it continuing from?
Rashi explains that the inclusion of the vav “וְ” shows that these commandments are a continuation of the laws given at Har Sinai. Why does the Torah have to repeat this if we already know that it was already given? Why is there a separation between social laws and commandments?
Rabbi Zweig explains that commandments are targeted towards two relationships: human with God and human with human. We must follow God’s laws but also respect our fellow Jew. This week’s parsha talks about respecting our fellow Jew with many different examples. We should not steal because it is looked down upon by society today, but we also want to help our brothers keep what is theirs. Another law mentioned is that we should help a Jew unload their donkey despite any ill will towards that person. If we do not care for the welfare of our community, it is as if we failed to care for ourselves.
We see from here that we do not exclude even the worst of Jews. An example is given of a Jew who sells himself to slavery for payment of something he has stolen. Once his seven years are up, he decides to stay working for his slaver and gets his earlobe punctured near the door. By doing this it shows that he would rather work for someone than to worship God. He violated the law of caring for another by stealing and then ignored his responsibility of only being a servant to God. The Torah explicitly explains that even if there is someone who is in this predicament, we should accept them into our communities so we can come together as one, united people.
The Torah goes through so much trouble to stress the importance of the human/human relationship. We must fully devote ourselves to God, but still cannot ever forget about our society that holds us together. To remain unified, we must respect and care for each other, even if we really would rather not. Everyone must share their part in the creation, maintenance, and unification of our sacred people.
By: Rafaela Benson (10th grade)