Our par’sha this week is entitled מִּשְׁפָּטִ֔ים Mishpatim which means judgments. It is from the shoresh שׁפט which means to judge or to create order and harmony - and creating order and harmony is the result of us guarding these commandments. The Scriptures Bible translates mishpatim as right-rulings - these are the right, or correct, rulings we are to obey.
In the Hebrew text this par’sha spans the one-hundred and eighteen verses between Sh’mot 21.1 and 24.18. After experiencing the awesome presence of Y’H’V’H on Mount Sinai and hearing His voice as He spoke the first ten declarations, the people had requested Mosheh to go and speak to Y’H’V’H and then come back and relate His Words to them. Those commandments actually began at the close of last week’s par’sha and now continues through Par’sha Mishpatim.
Before we begin our study of the ordinances, or right-rulings, of this week’s par’sha, let’s review some the things both Y’H’V’H and the Messiah have taught us regarding His Word.
B’midbar 15.16: For him who does whatever by mistake there is one Torah (law) for both him who is native among the children of Yisra’el and for the ger (stranger) who sojourns in their midst. The Hebrew text actually states there is one Torah and one mishpat (set of right-rulings) for the native and the ger who sojourns in Yisra’el.
D’varim 4.2: Do not add to the Word which I command you, and do not take away from it, so as to guard the commands of יהוה your Elohim which I am commanding you.
D’varim 8.3: And He humbled you, and let you suffer hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, to make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of יהוה. The Messiah repeated this command to ha’satan in Mattityahu 4.4 when He rebuked the adversary, telling him, man does not live by bread alone, but by every Word that comes from the mouth of יהוה.
D’varim 30.11, 14: For this command which I am commanding you today, it is not too hard for you, nor is it far off…For the Word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart – to do it.
T’hillim 89.34: I shall not profane My covenant, Neither would I change what has gone out from My lips.
Mattityahu 5.18-19: For truly, I say to you, till the heaven and the earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall by no means pass from the Torah till all be done. Whoever, then, breaks one of the least of these commands, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the reign of the heavens; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the reign of the heavens.
Yochanan 14.15,24: If you love Me, you shall guard My commands…He who does not love Me does not guard My Words. And the Word which you hear is not Mine but of the Father Who sent Me.
Yochanan Alef 1.4,6: The one who says, ‘I know Him,’ and does not guard His commands, is a liar and the truth is not in him…The one who says he stays in Him ought himself to also walk, even as He walked.
There are quite a few other passages I could quote, but these are enough to establish that:
Y’H’V’H has one law and we are forbidden to add to it or take away from it.
His law and His right-rulings are for the native-born and those grafting into Yisra’el.
His laws are not to hard for us to do.
He will never change His law and during His first sojourn among us, the Messiah confirmed that His Word is His Father’s Word, not His own the Word is eternal.
Our Father’s Word contains the right-rulings of this week’s par’sha.
Many regard the Ten Declarations as the most important commandments and the rest of them are not as binding or as critical in a person’s life. Some even go so far as to declare that other than the Ten Declarations, the remaining laws and ordinances have been done away with through the Messiah’s sacrifice - this despite all the passages I just quoted.
This is not to in any way diminish the importance of the Ten Declarations. We know from prior studies that sins such as idolatry, not guarding the Sabbath, mistreating parents, murder, and adultery are all punishable by death. That being said, few people realize that there are about seven commandments given in just this week’s par’sha that are also punishable by death. If nothing else this should emphasize the importance of all of His commandments, not just the first ten.
Par’sha Mishpatim opens in Sh’mot 21.1 with the words וְאֵ֙לֶּה֙ (v’eleh) and these are. The conjunction and ties the commandments in Mishpatim with those of the previous par’sha. In other words, these commandments are a continuation of the Matan Torah - the giving of the Torah - at Mount Sinai. The only reason there is any kind of separation is because of the people’s fear, not because of their importance.
The first two commandments are not ones that concern us in our present state of exile. Sh’mot 21.2-6 establishes the correct treatment of a Hebrew bond-slave while verses seven through eleven establish the treatment of a daughter that has been sold as as a handmaid, an אָמָ֑ה. The context of this passage suggests that the selling price was a form of a dowry and the intention was that the daughter marry either the man purchasing her or his son.
Verses twelve through seventeen contain four commandments that require the death penalty for those found guilty of committing them.
He who strikes a man so that he dies shall certainly be put to death. This passage clarifies the sixth commandment that commands us not to murder. Murder is intentional, or premeditated. If the person didn’t lie in wait to kill someone - if he didn’t plan it ahead of time - he can flee to one of the cities of refuge where his case will be adjudicated according to Torah. In the case of pre-mediated murder, the offender is to be taken, even from the slaughter-place to die.vs.14
A person who strikes his father or mother is to be put to death. Strikes, from מַכֵּ֥ה, means to strike blows or to disable (from נכה).
In verse sixteen Y’H’V’H declares, he who kidnaps a man and sells him, or if he is found in his hand, shall certainly be put to death. The Hebrew word for kidnap, g’nav גנב, is also the word used for steal in Sh’mot 20. 15, eighth commandment.
In verse seventeen Y’H’V’H commands that a person who curses his father or mother shall certainly be put to death. Curses is from מְקַלֵּ֥ל m’qa’lel and means to diminish substance or to lessen material things. It is used in B’reshith 8.21 where, after the flood, Y’H’V’H promises He will never again curse the ground for man’s sake.
While we are on the subject of offenses that result in a person being put to death we should also note:
Sh’mot 22.18, where Y’H’V’H declares we are not to allow a practicer of witchcraft to live.
In verse nineteen, anyone lying with a beast shall certainly be put to death.
Verse twenty states that, he who slaughters to an elohim, except to Y’H’V’H only, is put under the ban. This is another reference to idolatry as well as the second commandment that forbids us to bow down and worship any graven image we have made. Under the ban is from יָֽחֳרָ֑ם yochoram and means to be utterly destroyed.
There is another instance in which the penalty can be imposed. If someone owns an ox that has a habit of goring others and he has been warned but doesn’t keep it confined and it kills someone, both the ox and the owner are to be put to death. There is a stipulation, however, in verse thrity21.30. If a sin-covering is laid upon him, then he shall give the ransom of his life, whatever is laid on him.
There is yet another instance in which the offender is to be put to death, but this one is very different than the ones we’ve already studied. In Sh’mot 22.22-24, Y’H’V’H warns us not to afflict a widow or an orphan. If we do and they cry out to Y’H’V’H at all, He shall certainly hear them. When this happens Y’H’V’H declares, My wrath shall burn and I shall kill you with the sword, your wives shall be widows and your children fatherless.
Then there are numerous commandments that don’t incur the death penalty, but we are still commanded to guard them. Among them are:
Sh’mot 22.25: we are not to loan anything on any of the people of Yisra’el, including the poor, and charge that person any interest.
Sh’mot 23.1: Do not bring a false report. Do not put your hand with the wrong to be a malicious witness. This ties back to the ninth commandment, not to bear false witness against our neighbor.20.16
Sh’mot 23.2: We are not to follow a crowd to do evil…to turn aside what is right. Rabbinic authorities shamelessly changed this commandment to teach that people are to follow after the majority - of rabbinic authorities that is. This despite of the rabbinic teaching that the truth is not the truth by virtue of how many people believe it. The truth is the truth because Y’H’V’H spoke it.
Sh’mot 23.9 forbids an Yisraelite to oppress a sojourner - a ger - who is grafting in and joining themselves to the people of Elohim.
In verses ten through twelve we are commanded to work our land for six years and then let it lay idle during the seventh year. V’yikra 25.1-7 repeats this commandment, but this passage focuses more on the land of Yisra’el.
Sh’mot 23.13 is a commandment I am having to rethink. In this verse Y’H’V’H commands us, make no mention of the name of other mighty ones, let it not be heard from your mouth. This also refers to teaching about them. I am not sure how to handle teaching about the false gods of others, especially when some forms of religion that base their beliefs on the same Elohim I serve, but don’t obey all His commandments.
One teaching I read in connection with this commandment stated that we must all zealously observe all the commandments, without exception. It is vital that we avoid any semblance of worship or activity that gives credence to other gods. Even to mention them or to cause others to do so, if forbidden.1 This commandment certainly includes the gods of Babylon.
In addition to the commandments, this par’sha also includes promises. In Sh’mot 23.20-22, Y’H’V’H promises us His Messenger. We are to be on guard before Him and obey His voice. We are not to rebel against Him, for He will not pardon our transgressions if we do because Y’H’V’H’s Name is in Him. But if we do diligently obey Him and do all that Y’H’V’H speaks, then Y’H’V’H will be an enemy to our enemies and a distresser to those who distress us.
In 23.24-25 we are promised that if we refuse to bow down to other mighty ones, nor serve them, nor do any of their works but without fail overthrow them and without fail break down their pillars AND serve Y’H’V’H our Elohim, He will bless your bread and water AND He shall remove sickness from your midst.
In our three o’clock study today I want to pursue some of these commandments further to insure we fully understand what Y’H’V’H requires of us. I also want to study chapter twenty-four in more detail.
For now, we need to review and study all of Y’H’V’H’s commandments, not just the Ten Declarations. It is through understanding His commandments and living them that we come to know Y’H’V’H and learn to be set-apart as He is set-apart. This led Yeshayahu to declare, It has delighted Y’H’V’H, for the sake of His righteousness, to make the Torah great and esteemed.Yesh.42.21 Years later, Sha’ul of Tarsus also wrote to the Messiah’s followers in Rome, So that the Torah truly is set-apart, and the command set-part, and righteous, and good.Romans 7.12
There is a passage in T’hillim 69.4 that closes with these words: What I did not steal, I restored. The Messiah did not steal, or take the Torah away from His people, He restored it. We need to do the same.
27 Shevat 5776
6 Feb 2016
1 S’forno, see the Artscroll Chumash, pg. 435-435 to verse thirteen.