Parashat Mishpatim

Rights And Obligations

When you lend money to My people(22:24)/ In Judaism you are what you do

I live in a city of kindness.

In Jerusalem, if your daughter suddenly becomes engaged and you dont have a bottle of whisky to make the customary lchaim with family and friends, dont worry, look in the phone book and call the gemach! (A gemach is a free loan organization.) Youll be able to borrow a bottle of Johnny Walker black label (could even be gold but I dont think they stretch to green or blue). Later on, just replace what you took. No charge. There are gemachs for everything under the sun.

Lets say its Shabbat, the drugstores are closed and you need a certain unusual antibiotic. No problem. There are people with gemachs of medicines in their homes that rival a commercial drugstore. There are gemachs for clothes, chairs, cameras, tapes, tables, telephones, money, free advice hotlines, mezuzot, tefillin, bridal outfits, wigs, cooking gas cylinders, baby strollers, cribs, lactation pumps, drills, saws and other tools, embroidered cushions to bring a Jewish baby to the arms of the Sandek for his brit mila. In fact, I have a friend who has a talent for dreaming up new gemachs for people.

And Jerusalem isnt alone in its kindness. Many, many cities share this distinction. We are a kind people. Its in our genes.

Gemach is an acronym for Gemilut Chassadim the bestowing of loving-kindness. In Judaism you are what you do. Kindness is not a viewer sport, being kind means doing kindness.

There is no word for charity in Hebrew. Look up the word for charity in the English/Hebrew dictionary and youll find the word tzedakaTzedaka doesnt mean charity. It means righteousness. Theres no such thing as a Robin Goodfellow in Jewish thought. We believe a person who gives charity doesn’t deserve a slap on the back. Someone who doesn’t give charity deserves a slap on the wrist.

If you look in the written Torah, you’ll be hard pressed to find a single mention of the word rights. Obligations of these, the Torah is full. Look at this week’s Torah portion: obligations of a master to a slave; the obligations of a child to its parents; of a pupil to his teacher and vice versa; of a community to the poor; of the individual to the community; obligations to the orphaned, to the sick, to the convert; the obligations of man to G-d. Rights, however, are something that the Torah hardly mentions. Why?

Because to the extent that I have obligations you don’t need rights.

You can construct a legal system that spells out people’s rights or you can write a code that lists their obligations: All men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with certain absolute rights comes to the same thing as And these are the laws that you should put before them. The end result will be the same, but with one big difference.

A system that focuses on rights breeds a nation of takers. One that focuses on obligations creates a nation of givers.

Linguistic idiom reveals national character. In English, we say My duty calls. Meaning, I start off imaginative by obligation. My obligation calls to me. I am over here and my duty is over there. If I’m a good person I will listen to that call. But still, my duty calls. I have to go to it. In the Holy Tongue, we talk about a person being yotzei chovotav, literally going out from his obligation. In other words, a Jew starts off by being obligated. He doesn’t have to go anywhere or pay attention to any call. Life and obligation are the same.

There are three places in the Torah where the Hebrew word im is not translated by its usual meaning if but when. One of those is in this week’s Torah portion:

When you lend money to My people.

Lending money to the poor is not optional, it’s obligatory.

What reads like an if to the rest to the world, to the people of G-d is a when.

Sources:Rabbi Sinclair

Rashi; Rabbi Uziel Milevsky, zatzal


Parsha Summary

First Aliyah: This section discusses laws pertaining to the Israelite servant, his mandatory release after six years of service, and the procedure followed when a servant expresses his desire to remain in his master’s service. The Torah continues with the laws of the Israelite maidservant, and her terms of release. Other laws contained in this section: a husband’s obligations towards his wife; punishments for murder, manslaughter, kidnapping and abusing parents; and the penalties accrued by a person who injures another.


Second Aliyah: This section continues with laws of personal injury: the punishment for one who kills or injures his servant and for one who causes a woman to miscarry. The Torah then shifts its focus to a person’s liabilities for damages caused by his possessions, such as an ox that gores; or his actions, such as leaving an open pit uncovered. A person who steals is liable to pay the capital plus punitive damages. The section concludes with a person’s right to self-defense when facing a marauding thief.


Third Aliyah: An arsonist is liable for damages caused by fires he ignites. The Torah then details the potential liabilities of an individual who undertakes to be a guardian of another’s possessions, a borrower, and a renter. More laws: the punishment for seducing a young woman, sorcery, bestiality and offering an idolatrous sacrifice; prohibitions against harassing a foreigner, widow, or orphan; the mitzvah of lending money to the poor and the prohibition against lending with interest.


Fourth Aliyah: This section, too, introduces us to many new mitzvot: the prohibitions against cursing a judge or leader, consuming meat that was not ritually slaughtered, offering a sacrifice before the animal is eight days old, perjury, and judicial corruption; the commandments to separate all agricultural tithes in their proper order, sanctify the first-born son, return a lost animal to its owner, and help unload an overburdened animal.


Fifth Aliyah: We are commanded not to lie or take a bribe. The mitzvah of the Shemitah (Sabbatical year) is introduced: six years we work and harvest the land, and on the seventh year we allow the land to rest. Similarly, on a weekly basis, six days we work and on the seventh day we – and our cattle and servants – must rest. We are forbidden to mention the name of other gods. We are commanded to celebrate the three festivals — Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot – and to make pilgrimages to the Holy Temple on these occasions. Finally, we are told not to cook meat in (its mother’s) milk.


Sixth Aliyah: G‑d informed the Israelites that He would dispatch an angel to lead them into Canaan. This angel would not tolerate disobedience. If, however, the Israelites would hearken to the angel, and get rid of idolatry from the Promised Land, then they will be greatly rewarded. Their Canaanite enemies will fall before them and G‑d “will bless your food and your drink, and will remove illness from your midst.”


Seventh Aliyah: This section continues describing the blessings the Israelites will receive if they faithfully serve G‑d: no miscarriages or barren women, long life, wide spacious borders and supernatural assistance in their quest to conquer the Holy Land. G‑d warns the Israelites against entering into treaties with the Canaanite natives or allowing them to remain in the land after the Israelite invasion. The Torah now relates some of the events that occurred in the days immediately prior to the giving of the Torah. Moshe went up the mountain and received a message from G‑d which he communicated to the people. The Israelites enthusiastically committed themselves to following all of G‑d’s laws. Moshe transcribed the “Book of the Covenant” and read it to the people. Then, together with the Israelite firstborn, Moshe offered sacrifices and sprinkled the blood on the people, bringing them into a covenant with G‑d. This section concludes with G‑d summoning Moshe – after the giving of the Torah – to ascend the mountain where he would remain for forty days and nights, and would then be given the Tablets.


God Wants You to be Happy / When Rules Become Delicious Recipes for Your Soul

Says in this week parash“And these are the judgments that you shall place before them.” 21:1

Rashi explains  “You shall place before them, that is, like a table that is set and ready for eating.” —

“Taste and see that G-d is good.” — Psalms 34



The job of a teacher of Torah is not to be a philosopher, ethical guide or law giver but rather a gourmet chef. A gourmet chef has the ability to bring the taste out of every ordinary cabbage, every simple bean sprout, as well as present it all in a delicious tantalizing way.

The job of a Torah teacher is to present the Torah in an appetizing way; to reveal the beauty and flavor of G- d’s laws for all to see and taste.



The Zohar, which is the Jewish mystical classic, written two thousand years ago, cautions us not to perform Gd’s commandments like cows eating grass. Doing so brings ruins upon us. Let’s try to understand what this means. Essentially, the cow chews its food, stores it and then chews its cud, thereby re-chewing the food, over and over again. The Zohar is using this metaphor as a symbol for something that is done mindlessly without intention or taste. In Torah tradition there is a concept called taamei mitzvot, which can be described as the “reason for the commandments.” But taamei Mitzvot can also mean the “taste of the commandments.” In Hebrew, taam means  both “taste” and “reason” — and there is definitely a connection between the two. Without understanding the reason behind Torah living it can become mindless and tasteless. Imagine a person who observes Shabbat, but it has no meaning to him — no taste. The only thing that keeps him doing it is guilt, or respect for the tradition, or simply habit. Without his understanding the meaning behind the observance, it will eventually stop sooner or later, in this generation or the next. We can perform the commandments and the traditions like cows eating grass. They chewed before, they chew now, and they’ll chew later because they chewed before — and that’s when it all starts breaking down. That’s when children say to their parents, “Why should I do this? This is not interesting. This is restrictive and meaningless.” And that’s when some parents respond, “You should. You must. You have to.” Rarely do people respond positively to empty demands; instead, they rebel against them. People respond to what they find clear, fascinating, relevant, inspirational and meaningful. Most people do what they want, not what they should. When the meaning and the taste of G-d’s commandments are lost, then there is no love for it and no joy in it. When a person whom you don’t like asks you for a favor, it can be the hardest thing in the world because there are no good feelings surrounding it. When a person whom you love asks you for a favor, it is easy to do it, it’s a pleasure. The Talmud says that when a person embraces the commandments with joy and happiness, these feelings are guaranteed to be long lasting.

Source ; Sparks Rabbi David Aaron


Something to Think About

You Can Take Your Money With You

“Im Kesef Talveh Et Ami HeAni Imach; When you lend money to the poor man in my nation.” (Mishpatim 22:24)  This is the mitzva of lending money to the poor. The Kotzker Rebbe learns this pasuk B’Derech Drush.

The Mishna in Pirkei Avot (6:9) says that when a person leaves this world, “Ein Milavin Lo LiAdam Kesef V’Zahav… Ela Torah U’Maasim Tovim; His money does not accompany him, only his Torah and good deeds.” The Kotzer says, “We find a remez to this in our pasuk. ‘Im Kesef Talveh Es Ami; If a person dies and finds that his money is accompanying him on his journey to the next world, Es HeAni Imoch; it is not the money you enjoyed, but rather the money that you gave to a poor person.’ That money will stay with you for eternity.”