This week's Torah portion, Mishpatim ([Laws], Exodus 21:1-24:18), warns us severely and often about evils of racism. The bible knew no such word, of course, and, ironically, this portion also contains material that appears to accept "bondage" as a normal part of [ancient] life. But messages about racial justice and related concepts are nonetheless there, … Continue reading Mishpatim: Racism and Idolatry
"...to the poor person who is with you [et-he'ani imach]..." (Exodus 22:24) Listen! Did that study group just ask "us" to consider the plight of "the poor"? Did that prayer just focus on "the needy" as though we were weren't present? Is this house of prayer really for all people? Listen! Recognize the special burdens … Continue reading A House of Prayer for All People?
People of holiness shall you be to Me: you shall not eat flesh of an animal that was torn in the field [t'reifah]; to the dog shall you throw it. -- Exodus/Shemot 22:30 The Hebrew "treif" -- Yiddish, "trayf" -- comes from the verb taraf (tav-reish-feh), "to prey, devour," and came to mean, more generally, … Continue reading Mishpatim: Something to Notice
"When you encounter your enemy's ox or ass wandering, you must take it back to him." -- Exodus 23:4 One of the important features found in Mishpatim regarding the regulating of behavior in the public sphere is when it deals with those situations wherein there is a breakdown within the normal and expected realities that … Continue reading Mishpatim: Great Source(s)
In Exodus/Shemot 22:20-23, God commands the people not to "wrong* or oppress a stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt" (Plaut/Stern translation**). adding a note about also caring for widows and orphans and concluding with one of those dire warnings that is apparently so unspeakable, the text breaks off, causing some translators … Continue reading Mishpatim: Language and Translation