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Parashat Mishpatim - 5776

My friends,

Last week we read how the Children of Israel witnessed the Revelation at Sinai. This portion begins with the words "Ve-Elleh Hamishpatim" - "and these are the laws which you shall set before them." What is the meaning of "Ve-Elleh" - "and these are"? To teach us that, just like the Ten Commandments were given at Sinai, so were all the laws that Moses taught the Children of Israel during the wandering in the wilderness.

This Parasha contains fifty three various 'dos' and 'don'ts'. The list includes laws that are between man and G-d - like Shabbat, offerings, the wearing of a tsistit, etc. - and laws that pertain to our relationship with other humans. We are commanded to return a lost object to its rightful owner, show compassion to animals, and there is special emphasis on treating with kindness and compassion those who are vulnerable; i.e., orphans, widows, the poor, the stranger.

There is an entire section urging judges to do the right thing and not to accept bribes.

Are these topics relevant to the situations we are facing today? For example, politicians who accept major gifts and become obligated to those donors. How do they reconcile their situation with the commandment in the Torah that states categorically, "Do not take bribes, for bribes blind the clear-headed and upset the pleas of those who are in the right." (Exodus 23:8) Can these individuals really enact laws that are right and equitable?

Also, the influx of so many strangers and refugees from all parts of the world. How do we ensure our security and at the same time fulfill the Mitzvah of showing particular compassion to strangers who knock at our doors for shelter and for a better life?

This Parasha gives us lots of food for thought.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram