Parashat Mishpatim מִּשְׁפָּטִים

This Parasha speaks of laws (Mitzvot) that HaShem was teaching Bnei-Yisrael after giving them the Ten Commandments. The Torah writes “Ve’ele” “ואלה“ (and these are) to teach us that these are an addition to other laws. The word “Mishpatim” (מישפטים) means trials and sentences, and this comes to lay out the foundation for the sentencing for such laws in trials in a court of law. The root word of “Mishpatim” (מישפטים) is “Shaphat” (“שפט“), meaning judged as HaShem will be judging us with such laws in the Heavenly courts. The Torah writes “place in front of them”, to teach us that these laws will be placed in front of Bnei-Yisrael both in this life and in the afterlife. In our Parasha there total of 53 Mitzvot that focus on the civil laws. The word “גן” “Gan” (alluding to Gan Eden) is also 53 in numerical value, as we will be honored with while keeping HaShem’s laws.

The numerical value of the words “Ve’ele” (“ואלה“ – “and these are) is 42. In the “שמע” “She’ma” prayer we say “Vedibarta Bam” “ודברת בם”; the numerical value of the word “בם” “Bam” is also 42, alluding to both the Written Torah and the Oral Torah and journeys. The word “Bam” ”בם” is the acronym of the first words in the Written and Oral Torahs.  “Beresheet” (“בראשית”) and the first word of the written Torah, and “Me’Amataie” (“מאמתי”) is the first word in the Mishnah known as the Oral Torah. The number 42 is also the number of journeys Bnei-Yisrael traveled in the desert prior to arriving in the promised land of Israel. The Mitzvah of “Vedibarta Bam” (“ודברת בם”) is HaShem’s commandment to learn “from them” and teach Torah.

In Parashat Yitro we read about the Ten Commandments. The question was asked: Why these were these specific commandments were chosen as the first ten, out of 613 Mitzvot? There are many other sets of ten Mitzvot that could be just as important as these ten. The Ten Commandments start with knowing HaShem (“אנכי, יהוה אלהיך”), meaning we should use our brain first; (top to bottom) then, we should not have other gods (“לא יהיה-לך”); The next commandment has to do with our mouth, as we shall not misuse God’s name (“לא תשא את-שם”); the next two commandments require us to use our heart when observing the Shabbat (“זכור את יום השבת”) and honoring our parents (“כבד את אביך ואת אמך”). The next three commandments require us to use (or not) our hands – you shall not murder (“לא תרצח”), you shall not commit adultery (“לא תנאף”), you shall not steal (“לא תגנב”); then it goes back to our mouth with you shall not give false testimony (“לא תענה ברעך עד שקר”); the last commandment goes back to using our brain with you shall not covet your neighbor (“לא תחמד”) which requires us to control our minds. From this we learn that we must always think before we act and have in mind this wonderful structure HaShem created for us with the chosen Ten Commandments that are the founding blocks of life and our moral compass, now and forever. I would like to point out that the so called “prophet Muhammad” name is the root word of  “חמד”, you shall not covet your neighbor items.

The Torah’s first law is about a Hebrew slave; why? This comes to teach us that first and foremost we must humble ourselves, and learn Torah as slaves who learn from their master, as HaShem is our master. Only when one can truly feel as “slaves” without any pride, can one attain true learning. We were taken out of slavery in Egypt by HaShem’s great mercy; in order to achieve true freedom, we must always serve HaShem. We were slaves and we had nothing, not even straw to build bricks; yet we left Egypt with massive fortunes, both physical and spiritual. When we recognize that all that we have as physical items is given to us by HaShem, we will understand that these are merely temporary possessions here on earth, and we shall be rewarded with true freedom from “slavery” of materialism and from our evil inclinations.

When we are ordered to give Tzedakah (“צדקה”), HaShem writes “Kach” (“קח“), “take for you…and give it to the poor”. The word should be “give” and not “take”; it comes to teach us that all was given to us by HaShem, and so we take from Him in order to give to others. The word “Kach” has a hidden meaning; when switching the letters we get the word “Chok” (“חק”) which means law. This teaches us that Tzedakah is not just a good deed, but it is also the law and it will help us in our Mishpatim, our trials.

The second verse says “If you buy a Hebrew servant, six years he shall serve and in the seventh he shall go out free” “כִּי תִקְנֶה עֶבֶד עִבְרִי, שֵׁשׁ שָׁנִים יַעֲבֹד; וּבַשְּׁבִעִת–יֵצֵא לַחָפְשִׁי”. The Zohar tells us that these laws refer to the reincarnation of one’s Neshamah“נשמה” (his soul). Rabbi Shimon Bar Yochai (“רבי שמעון בר יוחאי“), the author of the Zohar, teaches us that this first law is a hidden secret about how to fix our Neshamah and redeem it once and for all. We have six chances to achieve such freedom, and be free on the seventh time. The six years (working as a slave/servant) represent the six levels of elevation of our soul. Our soul has the opportunity to come back six times in order to have a “Tikun” “תיקון“ (fix) and only after a successful “fix” we will merit true heaven. These six levels are: Chesed, Gevurah, Tiferet, Netzach, Hod, and Yesod (“חסד, גבורה, תפארת, נצח, הוד ויסוד”), creating the acronym “Yiten Cha’gah” (“יתן חגה”), meaning HaShem will give the soul its holiday, its freedom).

According to Kabbalah everything up to the value of six is part of nature, as everything is within the realm of North, South, East, West (acronym of news), Up, and Down. Seven is above nature, as it is the realm of the Shechinah (“שכינה”). Everything up to six is limited by time and materialistic aspect; everything above is spiritual, such as Shabbat.

In verse 21:3 we see the term “If he comes in by himself, he shall go out by himself” (“אִם-בְּגַפּוֹ יָבֹא, בְּגַפּוֹ”). The first letter of each word will spell the word “Aviv” (“אביב”) which means spring and freedom. It teaches us that when one choses to redeem himself from the Evil Inclination, one will be truly free. The word “Aviv” also has two parts; the word “Av” (“אב”) and the letters “Yud – Bait” (“יב”), alluding to HaShem as the Father of the twelve tribes known as Bnei-Yisrael. Only due to these two elements did Bnei-Yisrael merited redemption.

The seventh year represents our true freedom from “slavery”. When one dies his soul has six chances to reach a full “Tikun” (fix), and only afterwards can one remain in Heaven (“גן-עדן”) as a free soul. Once one’s soul achieves such elevation, his Neshamah will reach the freedom that is the Shechinah. In Parashat Ki-Tavo (“כי תבא“) the Torah lists all the ninety-eight curses HaShem warned Bnei-Yisrael about; the last one and most devastating is “being sold as a slave”. The people of Israel suffered such devastating “slavery” many times in the past by Egypt, Rome, Greek, Persia, Spain, Russia, and Germany and others (to name a few). Only after returning to HaShem and the Torah, Bnei-Yisrael were saved from slavery. The second verse says “In the seventh will go out free, without pay” (“ובשבעית יצא חינם”). The word “חינם” (without pay), means without liability. The numerical value of the word “חינם” numerical value is 98 the same number of curses mentioned in Parashat Ki-Tavo. A true freedom is when we are truly free of these ninety-eight curses. In this verse we notice an extra word “Yetze” ”יצא” (will go out), meaning HaShem will free you and your soul will go out of “bad” places.

The second verse also teaches us a way of life. When someone buys a slave, he is obligated to provide this slave with all his needs; shelter, food, clothing, medical care, rest, etc. The master may be buying himself a slave, but in reality he becomes one as well. Most would think that it would be great to be a slave or a servant since they are provided with all that they (and their family’s) need to survive. It is farther from the truth. Even though a slave is provided with all his needs, according to Torah laws, the one most important need that every soul yearns for is not fulfilled; the freedom of choice. When Noach (“נח”) cursed his son Cham (“חם“) for his sins, he cursed him with servitude to his brothers (slavery); Noach understood that being one’s slave is against all nature’s rules. A slave might be provided with all the physical needs, but true freedom is not provided and forever makes one feel as a slave.

How come the Torah starts with the laws of a Jewish slave (“עֶבֶד עִבְרִי”) and not with other slaves? The Torah wants to teach the Jewish people that we always must remember our humble beginnings as we too were slaves in Egypt. A Jewish master must release his Jewish slave after six years; this period alludes to working for six days and resting on the seventh, the Shabbat. If the Jewish slave likes his master and would like to remain a slave after six years, the master must pierce a hole in his ear. The word for the specific tool used to perform this action is called Martzea (“מרצע”), and its numeric value is 400, symbolizing the four hundred years of exile in Egypt and slavery. The act of piercing a hole in a salve’s ear is performed at the door post, the Mezuzah (“מזוזה”). The reason it must be done on the ear and no other part of the body, as we heard HaShem as slaves first.

It is worth mentioning here that the word “Mezuzah” has two words hidden in it; a combination of the words “Miza VeZe” (“מזה וזה”), which means from this side and from the other side, alluding to the protection inside and outside of the house. The word “Mezuzot” (“מזוזות“ – plural for Mezuzah) also has two words hidden in it. The words are “Moziz“ (“מוזז”) and “Mavet” (“מות“), death; gaining protection from death by having more Mezuzot.

If a man “sells” his daughter as a maidservant she shall not be sold as a slave, why? To teach us that only a father can “sell” his daughter and only for the purpose of a kosher marriage to a suitable groom. The Midrash teaches us that when a woman is “sold” it as if a Neshamah descends from Heaven to be placed in a body and ultimately be united, just as marriage is an act of unity between a man and a woman. That is why the Torah writes (verse 21:7) that she as is “a Jewish daughter” will not be sold as slave, and if a man sells his daughter to be a maidservant, she shall not go out as menservants do. There are many reasons why women are compared to the soul (Neshamah). Women were given extra Binah (“בינה“), an understanding, as they were created from above the earth (unlike man), from a strong rib-bone. The ribcage is designed to protect some of the most essential parts in our body, just as women are supposed to do with herself and her family. A woman can help define ways of Jewish life and provide inspiration along with guidance to her whole family and a nation. As we know there were many examples of women in the Torah who helped shape and save Bnei-Yisrael.

Throughout the Parasha the laws and their punishments are clearly laid out for Bnei-Yisrael in order to eliminate any misunderstanding and so called “grey-area”, as it says in the first verse “these are the laws (ordinances) which you shall set before them” (“אֲשֶׁר תָּשִׂים, לִפְנֵיהֶם”). Some of the grave sins have harsh punishments; for example, the punishment for killing a person is death. The Torah uses the word “Yeanesh” (“יענש“ – will be punished), referring to death as taking one’s “Nefesh” (“נפש“ – a soul), as both words have the same numerical value of 430. In some cases, when breaking certain laws, the punishment is “Mot Yumat” (“מות יומת” – die twice), meaning the punishment is death in both worlds, this world and the world to come. When speaking of conditional crimes, the Torah uses the word “Im” (“אִם” – if) is used for sins that one might do in the future and the word “Ki” (“כִּי”), is used for accidental mishaps and actions one might do in the future when dealing with people, to teach us that we should avoid any mistakes as they might cause sins.

We are introduced here to the cities of shelter, the forty-eight plus the six Levites cities that are also used as shelter cities. These cities provided refuge to people who accidentally caused death to others; there the refugees learnt Torah and worked to pay for their stay. Only in the six Levites cities the stay is completely free, as they are reserved for accidental murder.

HaShem conveys to Bnei-Yisrael many powerful messages within the laws and their outcome in the event of not keeping those laws. For example, transgressing the mitzvah of honoring our parents carries a hefty punishment of death. HaShem warns Bnei-Yisrael about mistreating converts, widows, and orphans. In verses 22:20-23 there is an interesting hidden code; HaShem said to Bnei-Yisrael “remember you were just as them before while in Egypt”, and He warned them ‘if the converts, widows, and orphans will cry to me (just as you did) and I will hear their outcry, I myself will make sure to punish you and make your wives widows and your children orphans’. The word that is used in this verse is “Yitza’ak” (“יצעק” – will cry out); its numerical value is 270, sane as the word “Ra” “רע“ (evil), to teach us that such an act is considered evil in HaShem’s eyes. The word “Nefesh” (soul) has numerical value of 430, to teach us that we were as strangers (“Ger”) in Egypt for the same number of years, 430.

This Parasha provides the following group of laws and their conditions:

Laws of slavery
Laws of assault and kidnapping
Laws of negligence and theft
Laws of four guardians
Laws of illicit and idolatry behavior
Laws of helping the unfortunate
Laws of respecting leaders
Laws of agriculture offerings
Laws of judicial
Laws of avoiding prejudice
Laws of Shabbat and Yom-Tov (holidays)
Laws of mentioning idols
Laws of Shemitah (sabbatical year)
Laws of prohibition of mixing milk and meat
Laws of dispersion of enemies
Laws of conquest of the land of Israel

The Kabbalah teaches us a beautiful understanding of the laws prohibiting the mixing of milk and meat. These two opposing types of food have unique spiritual forces and powers. The meat is the physical manifestation of the Divine power of “Gevuraha” “גבורה “ (strength/severity) as suggested by its red color. The milk has spiritual roots in the Divine powers of “Chessed” (“חסד “ – kindness), indicated by its white color. These two powers have opposite effects and should not be mixed together. It is interesting to note that the word “Gevuraha” (severity) has in it the word “Hereg” (“הרג” – killing), as we must kill an animal for its meat. The word “Chessed” (kindness) has in it the word “Sod” (“סד “ – secret), as we do such an act in secret. In the days of Mashiach such a prohibition will not exist since all forces will be united and no physical barriers will exist.

Following the fifty three laws HaShem promises an amazing prophecy to Bnei-Yisrael related to the Promised Land The numerical value of the word “Gan” (“גן”), as in Gan-Eden, is 53. HaShem promises Bnei-Yisrael that when they arrive at the land of Israel, He will send “hornets swarms” before them. The Midrash tells us that these hornets will inject venom into the eyes of the inhabitants of the land and they will flee from Bnei-Yisrael. HaShem also promises that He will not have them flee fast and in one year, since the land has lots of wild beast and they will be their victims, and little by little HaShem will drive them away until Bnei-Yisrael populates the land.

In verse 23:31 we read about the Promised Land and its borders, as the Torah writes “I will set thy border from the Red Sea even unto the sea of the Philistines, and from the wilderness unto the River” (“וְשַׁתִּי אֶת-גְּבֻלְךָ, מִיַּם-סוּף וְעַד-יָם פְּלִשְׁתִּים, וּמִמִּדְבָּר, עַד-הַנָּהָר”). The designated the land of Israel shall be from the Sea of Reeds in Egypt to the Euphrates (Prat) River in Iraq, and from the Sinai desert to the Mediterranean Sea (by Lebanon). The exact center of all this land is Jerusalem.

Bnei-Yisrael entered the covenant with HaShem (verse 24:3). Moshe was instructed to go up to the Mount Sinai to receive more commandments and to teach them to the people of Israel; Bnei-Yisrael’s response was “Naase Ve’Nishma” (“נעשה ונשמע”), as it says:

וַיָּבֹא מֹשֶׁה, וַיְסַפֵּר לָעָם אֵת כָּל-דִּבְרֵי יְהוָה, וְאֵת, כָּל-הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים; וַיַּעַן כָּל-הָעָם קוֹל אֶחָד, וַיֹּאמְרוּ, כָּל-הַדְּבָרִים       אֲשֶׁר-דִּבֶּר יְהוָה, נַעֲשֶׂה

Moshe taught them (the converts) and the entire nation of Israel, “Accept all that HaShem commanded you”, the word the Torah writes is “נעשה” “Naase” we shall do! (the converts stated):

  1. The seven laws of Noach (the only laws the gentiles are obligated to observe)
  2. The laws of Shabbat
  3. The laws of honoring parents
  4. The laws of the Red Heifer

These laws were given in a place called “Marah” (“מרה“ – bitterness); Moshe taught Bnei-Yisrael these laws in details, and then wrote them in the Torah, from the book of Beresheet until the giving of the Torah (this point in time). The book of Beresheet spans a period of fourteen hundred year period. The Torah is not written nor was given in chronological order; here is the sequence of events:

  1. Sivan 2nd, 3rd and part of 4th – Preparing to receive the Torah (The Ten Commandment)
  2. Sivan 6th and 7th – The Ten Commandments were given at Mount Sinai
  3. Sivan 6th and 7th – Receiving additional Mitzvot (Yitro)
  4. Sivan 7th until – Tamuz 17th –  Receiving additional 53 Mitzvot (Mishpatim)
  5. Sivan 7th until – Tamuz 17th – Moshe ascends to Mount Sinai
  6. Av 9th – The sin of the Golden-Calf – Moshe descended from Mount Sinai and broke the first set of tablets who were made by HaShem
  7. Av 10th until Tishrei 10th (Yom Kippur) – Moshe ascends to Mount Sinai (to receive the second set of Luchot)
  8. VIII. Tishrei 10th (Yom Kippur) – Moshe descends from Mount Sinai with the second set of tablets that he constructed (and not HaShem).

On the 5th of Sivan, after Bnei-Yisrael accepted all that HaShem commanded them, Moshe built an altar to offer a sacrifice to thank HaShem in the name of the twelve tribes as he also built twelve Monuments. Moshe sent all the firstborn called “Na’arim” (teens) of Bnei-Yisrael to offer a particular sacrifice to HaShem called “Olah”, same as the type of sacrifice that was used in the Akeidah of Yitzchak (“עקידת יצחק”).


Yoram Dahan
Founder / CEO

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