Family Corner: Parshat Mishpatim

Wednesday, January 26, 2022
Posted by: Family Corner

Family Corner is a space to offer interactive and thoughtful ideas for family engagement with the Parshat Hashavua (weekly Torah reading).   

This week in the Parsha (Mishpatim) we encounter themes of Mount Sinai, accepting the Torah, 3 Pilgrimage Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot, Sukkot), Kashrut (not mixing meat and dairy), being kind to others. 

Parsha Summary 

  • Interpersonal laws ranging from the treatment of slaves to the exhibition of kindness to strangers are listed. (21:1-23:9) 
  • Cultic laws follow, including the commandment to observe the Sabbatical Year, a repetition of the Sabbath injunction, the first mention of the Three Pilgrimage Festivals, rules of sacrificial offerings, and the prohibition against boiling a kid in its mother's milk. (23:10-19) 
  • The people assent to the covenant. Moses, Aaron, Nadab, Abihu, and seventy elders of Israel ascend the mountain and see God. Moses goes on alone and spends forty days on the mountain. (24:1-18) 

Torah Thought – Where to Serve God 

What is the Torah’s view of civil law, the laws that lead to a civil society? Are they part of the religious requirements of the Torah or are they separate and it does not matter to God how we act towards each other. 

Rashi, author of, perhaps the most well-known commentary on the bible notes that the civil laws that are recorded in this week’s Torah portion are presented right after some of the laws of the Mizbeach – the altar. Juxtaposition is important to him so he says this: ו 

וְלָמָּה נִסְמְכָה פָּרָשַׁת דִּינִין לְפָרָשַׁת מִזְבֵּחַ? לוֹמַר לְךָ, שֶׁתָּשִׂים סַנְהֶדְרִין אֵצֶל הַמִּקְדָּשׁ 

“...why is this section dealing with the “civil laws” placed immediately after that commanding the making of the altar? To tell you that you should seat the Sanhedrin in the vicinity of the Temple. 

The Sanhedrin – the great Jewish court was responsible for upholding the civil laws. Locating the court near the place of the altar – the Temple, sent the message that both civil and ritual law are both considered the service of God. 

What a beautiful idea – we serve God in the Temple (or in our case in synagogue and by performing other Jewish rituals and following Jewish law in our homes) and we serve God “in the street” so to speak, during our daily interactions. 

Conversation starters for your family. 

  1. Do you feel like you are serving God when you help others? 
  1. What are some unexpected ways to serve God that you can think of base on the idea in the above essay? 
  1. How do you find a balance between building a life of fulfilling the civil Mitzvot and religious Mitzvot? 

Activities, Videos, Crafts and More!    

  • Craft – Kindness Rocks: A Kindness rock is a rock that someone has decorated with an inspirational message and/or picture.  The point of the rock is to sprinkle positivity around your community.  Simply decorate a rock you find with acrylic paint and spray it with sealant when dry.  Then you can put it somewhere others will see it; in front of your house, in the neighborhood park, or in the J’s Kindness Rock Garden.   
  • Play some music to inspire your family to act with loving kindness (G’milut chasadim) with this playlist  

We learn the value of kindness (chesed) and being good to each other in this Shalom Sesame video about Hillel and Shammai: 

Shalom Sesame: Hillel and Shammai 

PJ Library Recommendation  

The Littlest Mountain by Barb Rosenstock
Ages: 4 to 5 Years
Synopsis: When God decides to speak to people from a mountaintop and give them laws to follow, the mountains vie for the privilege. Which one will be chosen?

Devash (Published by Hadar): Devash is a weekly parashah magazine that makes learning Torah sweet. By engaging directly with texts and taking kids seriously as Jews, Devash helps children and grownups discover new ideas, values, and sweet morsels in the weekly Torah portion. Devash is designed for kids aged 7-11 to read independently, or together with families and teachers.   

Israel Corner  

This week in Israel, 73 years ago, January 25, 1949, the first elections for the Knesset (Israeli parliament) took place. The excitement of the public for the first elections in the sovereign state was so great, that the turnout of voters was the highest in all election campaigns Israel ever had – 87%! 

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Category: Family Corner