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 feet. 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.

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