Torah Portion: Mishpatim (Rulings) Exodus 21-24

HafTorah: Jeremiah 34:8-22; 33:25-26

After the lofty highs of last week’s Parasha of Yitro, this week we are given the details of how G-d expects us to operate in our day to day life. Here we see the connection of Heaven and earth spiritually in how to put into our lives those things that will bring G-d into this world daily.


To get us started let us look at Exodus 22:25, “If you lend money to any of My people to the poor among you.” How does G-d see this law? What is He teaching us spiritually? First, I think it would be good to see how it might apply to us on a personal level. We can and should see everything we have as a loan from G-d, every breath, every day, house, job, whatever we have. It is a divine loan which we are obligated to pay back. It is ours to use. So the question arises how do we pay it back? We pay it back by using everything G-d has loaned us for Him, to make this world a dwelling place for Him. We see the same idea in the New Testament in the parable of the talent in Matt. 25:14-30 where the master entrusted property to his servants and expected them to use what they had been given for the master’s purpose. Everything G-d has loaned us (which is everything) He expects us to use for a sacred purpose.

Never look at what you have as something other than what it is, a loan from the Father to be used in His service and for His purpose. So this verse in She’mot is talking about much more than just a mundane financial transaction. It speaks to our lives and how we are to live. It is to be used to turn this world into a dwelling place for G-d. All of these ordinances are for this purpose. All of these mishpatim are for bringing us closer to Him, to transform the world.

Look at Exodus 23:19, “You shall not boil a kid in its mother’s milk.” From this comes the law today of separating milk and meat when we eat a meal. The questions is why? Would it not have been clearer to simply say, “Do not cook milk and meat together.” The reason must be deeper than mere hygiene. To begin to understand this verse, we must realize the issue here is moral sensitivity. It challenges us to heighten our level of compassion, to lower our tolerance of cruelty. It should be seen as insensitive to cook meat in that which was the symbol of a mother’s nurture and love. Even though the animal is dead and feels nothing we should feel for it. We are called to feel compassion and mercy even for a dead calf floating in its mother’s milk. By these we learn to be compassionate for people who have no voice or are in need. We are to become more and more like Him who made us.

Which brings me to my question of the week, “Whom do we help first a friend or an enemy. Look at Exodus 23:4-5. Helping an enemy, not just an enemy but one you hate. My question asked us to consider who to help, an enemy or a friend first, when a choice has to be made. To answer this question we have to look at ourselves first. When I see a friend and an enemy both in need who gets my help first and why? My battle is within myself. What motivates me in my choice? Does the “yetzer hara” say to me, “Let your enemy work it out the best he can, you don’t owe him anything. He got in this, he can get out.” In fact maybe I can find a biblical reason even for helping my friend first. However the real question I must answer is, which will bring me closer to G-d? Which choice will bring G-d into this world? We battle not against flesh and blood but against powers and principalities… Eph 6:12 Sometimes this puts us in a situation where, if not careful, we can give in to that small voice that is leading us further from G-d not closer to Him. We must nurture our spiritual nature even when our emotions or feelings tell us to take the logical or easy way. Seldom does that bring redemption into the world. G-d gives us these ordinances to train us spiritually each day to become more like Him and in the process bring Him into the world.