Haftarah and Torah Summaries for Mishpatim – Jan. 29, 2011

Torah Summary – Parshat Mishpatim – p. 456, Jan. 29, 2011

In today’s Torah reading: we continue to understand the shape,
meaning and moral dimensions of our brit, our sacred relationship with
God. We again receive 53 of our 613 mitzvot. And we again trustingly
accept all of them, without yet fully knowing or understanding how to
live in a way that respects each other’s human dignity. We are
uncharacteristically compliant when we say, “na’aseh v’nishmah” — “we
will do as you instruct us, God, and then we will understand.”

Parshat Mishpatim paints with a broad brush – we receive laws of
torts, damages, and property ownership (including the laws of slavery),
selected capital offenses, ritual observances, and moral imperatives. We
are to act justly, blind to any individual’s social or other status, and we
are to help out our enemies. We are not only to refrain from exploiting
the most vulnerable members of society — the stranger, widow, and
orphan, we are to identify with them. And we are to lend money freely
to poor members of our community who are trying to get back on their

People get a day off every seven days, the land gets a year off
every seven years, and we all are to walk to Jerusalem for designated
festivals three times every year. And we are, as always, to steer clear of
being taken in by beliefs, thoughts, and actions that are not going to
bring us collective joy, prosperity or proximity to God. We experience
transcendance through meditative visualization, as Moses disappears
into the cloud, in close communication with the Transcendant One.

Haftarah Summary – Mishpatim – Jan. 29, 2011 – p. 482

Can one human being own another human being? This is the
question answered by todayʼs Haftarah. The setting is the royal court of
King Zedekiah — Jerusalem is under siege by the Babylonians and is about
to collapse — King Zedekiah proclaims that all slaves are to be set free. At
first the slaveholders comply with the Kingʼs decree, but they soon regret
having freed their slaves and they force them back into slavery. Jeremiah
sees this as a violation of not just a brit – not just any old covenant – but the
covenant. We read the law in our parashah that Hebrew slaves are to be
set free every seventh year.

Jeremiah sees the slaveholdersʼ backsliding not only a problem with
being good citizens of Judah, but also as a profanity — against the
Israeliteʼs redemption from Egyptian slavery — against the covenant made
at Mt. Sinai — and against the essence of creation — that all human beings
are created in the image of God.

Although at the end of the reading God promises to take the people
back in love, the consequences for this very unfortunate action will be the
destruction of Jerusalem and all who live within the cityʼs walls.