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Length: 33 minutes
The first aliyah (section) of Parshas Mishpatim discusses the mitzva of eved ivri (Jewish slave). If an eved ivri decides that he would like to work for his master after his term has ended, he has his ear pierced beside a doorpost. There is much significance in the fact that his ear is pierced, as the ear represents listening and absorbing the wisdom we hear from others. When we accepted the Torah, the real acceptance came from our agreeing to keep the mitzvos even before we heard what Hashem demands from us. The eved’s ear is pierced as a reminder that he is choosing to listen to a human master instead of Hashem. We have a resistance to the concept of servitude to a human because we want to exclusively hear the call of Ol Torah (yoke of Torah), to ensure that we are doing only that which Hashem wants.
Length: 56 minutes
In the 2nd aliyah (section) we have a famous verse that illustrates Torah Shebaal Peh, the oral Torah, which is “Ayin tachas ayin, shein tachas shein…”, an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth… This passuk (verse) is not translated literally but rather that the person is obligated to pay the monetary value of the damage. Midas Hadin is the midah in which we have that which we deserve and have worked for using our gift of Bechirah, free will. The giving of the Torah is what moved us Jews from the world of Chessed, kindness, to the world of Din, judgement, by showing us the path of earning through our own handiwork in order to produce a deserved reality and to produce our essence.
Length: 43 minutes
In the 3rd aliyah (section) of Parshas Mishpatim, many interpersonal laws are discussed, and Hashem promises that He will listen to those who are oppressed. The giving of the Torah is surrounded by these mishpatim (laws), indicating their significance. The way that we care for each other is of paramount importance, as Hashem does not want a dynamic is which one person is taking advantage of another. Hashem Himself is so great, but concerns Himself with the every individual, and we must do the same, expressing our care and concern for each person.
Length: 53 minutes
In the 4th aliyah (section) of Parshas Mishpatim, there are many laws relating to judges. However, the aliyah ends off with mitzvos of compassion. This balance between mishpat (justice) and chessed (kindness) creates a fascinating dynamic. The ideal is mishpat, which is truth, and the original way that Hashem intended to create the world. However, He added chessed and rachamim (mercy) when He saw that it would be unable to stand. The Torah begins and ends with both of these elements, and there is a balance between the two that we must work to find and implement.
Length: 40 minutes
The 5th aliyah (section) begins with Mishpatim (laws) for judges and then switches to the topics of Shmitta, Shabbos, and Shalosh Rigalim ending with the law that we shall not cook the goat in the milk of its mother. We discuss the nature of this transition, exploring the events that seem more spiritual among the laws that seem more mundane. The clarity from these encounters with Hashem by Har Sinai, Shabbos, Shmitta and Rigalim serve as bookends for these laws of mishpatim.
Length: 56 minutes
In the 6th aliyah (section) of Parshas Mishpatim, Hashem tells Moshe that He will send a malach (angel) to guide Bnei Yisroel instead of traveling in their midst. This is referring to after we sin with the Golden Calf. Moshe davens to Hashem that He should not leave them, and Hashem indeed does not send the malach to replace Himself until Yehoshua’s time, after Moshe’s death. Hashem’s closeness to us is challenging, but with only a malach to guide us we have no chance to daven. Malachim (angels) are pre-programmed, and if we sin, there is no way to ask for forgiveness. In Parshas Mishpatim, Bnei Yisroel tell Moshe that they want him to act as an intermediary because they cannot stand to hear from Hashem directly. We can stand far away from Hashem where it is less intense, but we lose out from that distance, and we have less Giluy Shechinah (revelation of Hashem’s presence) from that place.
Length: 35 minutes
In the 7th aliyah (section) of Parshas Mishpatim, we revisit the story of Matan Torah (the giving of the Torah). This follows the laws of justice with a brief interruption about entering the land of Eretz Yisroel. These two concepts, Matan Torah and entering Eretz Yisroel are deeply intertwined. They are connected by the bris, the treaty, of Na’aseh V’nishma, “we will do and we will hear”. Both receiving the Torah, and receiving the land of Israel are dependent on our trust in Hashem that is expressed through the bris(treaty).
Length: 59 minutes
When Hashem offered the Torah to the Jewish people, he told Moshe to approach the women before the men. Women have the power and ability to motivate, and the men will follow after the women’s lead. This motivation leads to an inspired relationship of ahavah (love). When the Jewish people come face to face with Hashem at Har Sinai, they are not committed to serve Him out of fear, but rather a deep desire and love to connect and fulfill His will, due to the motivation of the women.
Length: 47 minutes
Mishpat (justice) plays an important role in tefillah; ironically, in combination with rachamim (mercy). Tefillah is standing in judgement while begging for mercy. The structure of strict mishpat helps us to understand that we stand before Hashem, and can only rely on Him. We recognize this when we turn to Hashem in tefillah, but beg for His compassion as well, because we have not met the strict standards that mishpat demands.
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