By Rabbi David Markel Hall

Mishpatim, (judgments). "These are the judgments you will set before them." This week's Torah portion deals with the laws within which Israel was to operate. These laws regulate the daily lives of the people, with instructions for judging disagreements or faults at law. The very first judgment has to do with slaves purchased from a Hebrew family. The conditions which cause someone to be purchased as a slave are also defined in the Mishpatim. Think about the reasons for setting the judgments lif'neyhem "before them." The following observations are made of the mishpatim:

• Slaves are to be released in the seventh year
    - Slaves can choose to remain bound in slavery. Marked as a slave forever.
• Slaves who marry while in bondage must leave the bound family, when set free.
• The family belongs to the slave-master.
• Females sold into slavery who became betrothed to their master or master's son.
• G-d provides a place for the doer of accidental wrongs.
• Striking a parent is a capitol offense. (Penalty is death.)
• Kidnapping for profit is a capitol offense.
• Cursing parents is a capitol offense.
• Compensation for injury.
• Injury to a servant.
• Eye for eye.
• Animal possession injuring another.
• Creating hazards producing injury.
• Judgment for hampering anther’s earning power. (4x or 5x restoration)
• Judging the thief who dies.
• Restoration of damaged or consumed goods.
• Virgin daughters.
• Witches
• Bestiality
• Sacrifices
• Troubling strangers, widows and orphans.
• Money-lending laws.
• Offerings to G-d.
• Honesty with neighbor and enemy.
• Sabbaths and sabbaticals. Cause the land to rest.
• Three festival periods to keep. (Hag haMatza, Shavuot and Sukkot)
• Obey the angel of the L-rd. (Ex. 23:20-33)
• G-d will drive out the Canaanites "Little by little".
• Sacrifice of covenant and reading of the covenant.
G-d called Moses up into the fire of the mountain.

Once the people agreed to the judgments of G-d, Moshe was called up into the mountain alone where he remained, apparently without food or water, for forty days and nights.

Return to Davarim Index