Dvar for Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:18)
Among the laws discussed in Mishpatim is the mandate not to oppress a widow or orphan (22:21). The Torah continues that if one oppresses them, G-d’s wrath will be kindled, G-d will kill the culprit, and his family will then be widows and orphans (22:22-3). G-d’s consequence seems paradoxical to the law itself; why would the family, in turn, be punished [oppressed] for the person’s actions?
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig suggests that someone’s insensitivity to a widow or orphan is an indication that the familial unit had a breakdown, and that the family should assume responsibility for that very breakdown of the family support network. Failing to understand the importance of every family member’s role may lead that person to be insensitive to someone who has lost a core family member. Expressing how important our loved ones are to us helps them build proper self-esteem and shows them how valuable and important they are to their family, community, and people.