• Daily Aliya for Mishpatim, Chamishi (5th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: We are commanded not to lie or take a bribe. The mitzvah of the Shemitah (Sabbatical year) is introduced: six years we work and harvest the land, and on the seventh year we allow the land to rest. Similarly, on a weekly basis, six days we work and on the seventh day we – and our cattle and servants – must rest. We are forbidden to mention the name of other gods. We are commanded to celebrate the three festivals —Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot – and to make pilgrimages to the Holy Temple on these occasions. Finally, we are told not to cook meat in (its mother’s) milk.

    The Midrash says that when G-d dictated these words to Moshe and explained to him the laws of Meat in Milk, Moshe requested permission to write Basar b’Chalav, rather than the obscure, confusing G’di bachaleiv imo. G-d told Moshe: write the words that I tell you. For reasons that we sometimes can figure out and sometimes cannot, G-d chose what and how to write something in the Written Torah and how it is to be explained via the Oral Tradition. The words are not arbitrary nor are they superfluous. One thing we know for certain is that the Written Word is inseparable from the Oral Law.

  • Daily Aliya for Mishpatim, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya, too, introduces us to many new mitzvot: the prohibitions against cursing a judge or leader, consuming meat that was not ritually slaughtered, offering a sacrifice before the animal is eight days old, perjury, and judicial corruption; the commandments to separate all agricultural tithes in their proper order, sanctify the first-born son, return a lost animal to its owner, and help unload an overburdened animal.

    One must help even his enemy unload his beast of burden. This mitzvah is one of several that are considered to be the sources of the Jewish concept of Avoiding cruelty to Animals. The Sefer HaChinuch says that if this mitzvah applies to a donkey, how much more so does it apply to humans. If one sees a fellow person loaded down with bundles, it is a mitzvah to help him with them. Torah Tidbits adds a unique perspective to this: If you are the one overburdened and someone offers to help carry a package, etc. – let him. Resist the temptation to automatically say “no thanks, I can manage”, and accept the help. You will be helped and the helper will be fulfilling a mitzvah.

  • Daily Aliya for Mishpatim, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: An arsonist is liable for damages caused by fires he ignites. The Torah then details the potential liabilities of an individual who undertakes to be a guardian of another’s possessions, a borrower, and a renter. More laws: the punishment for seducing a young woman, sorcery, bestiality and offering an idolatrous sacrifice; prohibitions against harassing a foreigner, widow, or orphan; the mitzvah of lending money to the poor and the prohibition against lending with interest.

    The prohibition against mistreating a foreigner is worded differently than the one against mistreating an orphan or widow. There is a reason given for not mistreating a foreigner, because we were once foreigners in Egypt. How is that relevant, and why does there have to be a reason? Can’t it just be a law that we must follow, just like the orphan and widow commandment? Unless there is a deeper requirement involved – one of empathizing with others whenever possible. The Torah might be telling us not to simply follow the laws, but to try and feel what others are feeling, whenever possible.

  • Daily Aliya for Mishpatim, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya continues with laws of personal injury: the punishment for one who kills or injures his servant and for one who causes a woman to miscarry. The Torah then shifts its focus to a person’s liabilities for damages caused by his possessions, such as an ox that gores; or his actions, such as leaving an open pit uncovered. A person who steals is liable to pay the capital plus punitive damages. The section concludes with a person’s right to self-defense when facing a marauding thief.

    The Torah elaborates on the rules of personal injuries requiring the guilty party to pay compensatory damages. The famous “an eye for an eye…” passage has stimulated much slander against the Torah and Judaism by being construed literally. Our Oral Tradition explains the passage as requiring a thorough evaluation by the court to determine the proper amounts to be paid to the injured party.

  • Daily Aliya for Mishpatim, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: This week’s reading, Mishpatim, details many laws, including laws related to slaves, personal injury, loans, usury, and property damage. The end of the portion speaks of the preparations the Israelites made before receiving the Torah at Mt. Sinai.

    Aliya Summary: This Aliya discusses laws pertaining to the Israelite servant, his mandatory release after six years of service, and the procedure followed when a servant expresses his desire to remain in his master’s service. The Torah continues with the laws of the Israelite maidservant, and her terms of release. Other laws contained in this section: a husband’s obligations towards his wife; punishments for murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and abusing parents; and the penalties accrued by a person who injures another.

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