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Torah Commentary - Mishpatim

                                                                                                                                           *Commentary courtesy of Menahem Me-Zahav
 

Our Sidrah is named for its 2nd word: “Ve’eile HaMishpatim – And these are the Laws that you should put in front (introduce) of the Jewish people” (Exodus 21:1). The Ten Commandments are mentioned at the very end of last week’s Sidrah, and today’s Sidrah starts with a connecting “Vav” or “Vav Ha’Chibur” (“Ve’eile”). It seems to us therefore, that the Torah intends to link both Sidrot together. 
Per Midrash, all the Laws that will be listed from now on - The Mosaic Code of Laws – are as significant as the Ten Commandments. Both, the Ten Commandments and The Mosaic Code of Laws, originate at Mount Sinai, and both convey therefore the message of God to his people - Israel. 

The Mosaic Code of Laws (613 or Taryag Mitzvot)
The Mosaic Code consists of 613 Mitzvot - Taryag Mitzvot.                          
“Tav” + “Reish” + “Yud” + “Gimmel” = 400+200+10+3=613.
                    
The above 613 Mitzvot are divided into 2 groups: 
                                   (a) “248 To Do Mitzwot” or Mitzwot Asse.
                                   (b) “365 Don’t Do Mitzwot” or Mitzwot Lo-Ta’asse.
                           Total:      613                          
Also……
Per Midrash, the word ‘Torah’ (Tav, Vav, Reish and Heih) equals 611, (400+6+200+5=611). 
Let us add a 1 for the 1st of the 10 commandments: “Anochi Hashem Elohecha Asher Hotzeiticha Me’Eretz Mitzraim.,.
Let us add another 1 for the 2nd of the 10 commandments: “Loh Ta’asse Lecha Pessel Ve’chol Tmunah…
Ki Anochi Hashem Elohecha…                                                                  
These 2 Commandments (The 1st and the 2nd), were specifically mentioned, in last week’s summary, as they were pronounced by God Himself. (The other 8 were mentioned to Moses who related them to the Israelite People).
The total of the above value of the word “Torah” plus the 1 and 1 just added, will equal: (611+1+1) = 613. 
                                     
The Halacha 
Following the destruction of the 2nd Temple, there was a need to make adjustments to the Mosaic Code, as not all laws could be observed anymore. On the other hand, many new rules and regulations had to be added, mainly because of the substantial changes in life conditions, due mainly to technology. Our Rabbinical leaders modified, added to, and where necessary deleted, existing rulings. Volumes of information were produced along hundreds of years of study, with a result that we refer today to, as “The Halacha”. 
    
Contents of the Sidrah of Mishpatim 
It encompasses more Mitzwot than any other Sidrah in the Torah. We can find laws that carry human, physical or spiritual characteristics, laws of a national or civil nature and such that are focused solely on the preservation of our religion. 
Here are some laws that are mentioned in our Sidrah: 
           (a) Laws Regarding Slaves: A Israelite who was forced to sell himself as slave to work off a debt, 
                 must be set free on completion of 6 years of work.
           (b) Laws Concerning Murder: A distinction is made between deliberate killing (murder) and an
                accidental one (Non intentional killing). The person who kills another human accidentally, must               
                flee to, and live in an asylum. (6 Cities of Kohanim were later designated for this purpose).  
           (c) Laws concerning Injury to others. There is punishment for hurting other humans, especially if it 
                 happened due to negligence.
                IE: Injuries resulting from not watching one’s animals, or – not covering an open hole, or   
                neglecting to fence off a rooftop, etc. 
           (d) Laws Dealing with Theft: Stealing is to be punished. The thief must pay back restitutions for the                
                 theft and many times also a penalty for the wrongdoing. 
           (e) Laws Concerning Loans: These laws are intended to protect the poor, who must borrow money  
                 to survive.  One must not take advantage of the poor at any time. Usury is strictly forbidden. 
            (f) Laws regarding equality among people. There must be absolute fairness in administering the 
                law. The wealthy, the noble, the poor, the local and the stranger - all are to be treated equally:  
               “You shall not wrong the stranger or oppress him for you were strangers in Egypt…You shall not 
                oppress the stranger for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers 
                in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 22:20 & 23:9).
            (g) Laws of a religious nature: Requirement to observe the Sabbath, the Sabbatical Year (Shemita)  
                 and the festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

Our Sidrah ends with Moses ascending Mount Sinai for the sole purpose of receiving the “Two Stone Tablets” - “Shnei Luchot Ha’brit” - that will encompass The Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were already given verbally, to the Jewish people (Last week’s Torah reading). 
A ‘documented format’ written in stone by God Himself, is destined to be delivered to the Jewish people through Moses. “And Moses entered the cloud and he ascended the mountain (Mt. Sinai). And Moses stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights” (Exodus 24:18).                                                 
Afterwards (Exactly 40 days later) Moses is destined to descend the mountain, on his way back to his people. He is expected to be carrying with him, the Two Stone Tablets.

                                                                                                                          
Haftarah for Shabbat Rosh-Chodesh: Isaiah 66:1-24, Page 1220     
Our Haftarah is taken from the last chapter in the Book of Isaiah.
It is the Prophet’s final plea for Israel’s complete loyalty to God. Isaiah witnessed (722 BCE) the destruction of the Northern Kingdom of Israel (Samaria). He is trying to convince his brethren that a return to God is the only way to avoid a similar outcome that befell the Northern Kingdom.    
The Prophet reminds his people, of God’s expectation from them. They must fully understand that God’s dwelling, encompasses the whole wide world. The Temple is therefore only a symbol to God’s presence among his people, and it is hardly limited to the Temple alone. The purpose of the Temple is inspiration,
an inspiration for reverence and full devotion to God Almighty. 
The worship in the Temple should lead them to ethical living. The bringing of sacrifices, is only the means toward the larger goal in one’s life - righteousness. If the people fulfill this high ethical goal, then Zion shall be beautifully transformed. And Jerusalem will again become, the model city it used to be, for the whole world. “Rejoice with Jerusalem and be glad for her, all you who love her, join in her jubilation all those who mourned over her” (Isaiah 66:10).                  
The reason for chanting this Haftarah on a Rosh Chodesh. 
The Rosh Chodesh was observed at the time of the Temple with great festivities. Our Haftarah was assigned to Shabbath Rosh Chodesh, for the following (last) two Pessukim:                                               
“For as the new heaven and the new earth that I (God) have created, will endure, so will your (Israel) name endure…And (Rosh) Chodesh after (Rosh) Chodesh and Shabbat after Shabbat, shall all humans come to worship Me, said The Lord“ (Isaiah 66:22-23).                                         

Trivia
There are 3 types of months, representing The Month of Adar:
(a)    The Month of Adar  
(b)    The Month of Adar I       (c)    The Month of Adar II  

Q.  Which Adar is really the correct one?   
A.  All are correct.  
      (a) Adar represents the 12th Month in a Regular Year.
      (b) & (c) Adar I & Adar II represent the 12th and the 13th Months (Adar I Adar II), in a Leap Year. 

Today is the 2nd day of Rosh Chodesh, and it is also the 1st day of the Month of Adar I.
In about 29 days, there will be the 1st day of the Month of Adar II. 
Only at the end of the month of Adar II, will we ‘meet’ the Month of Nissan (Meaning the Month of Pessach). Why all these changes?  

Our Regular Year consists of around 6 months that are 29 days long and around 6 months of 30 days of length. This is based on the cycle of the moon.
The total number of days in our Regular Year is therefore approximately (6 x 29) + (6 x 30) = 354.  

The Common Year however, is based on 30 or 31 days per month (except of course for February).
Its number of days is usually 365.        (7x 31) + (4x30) + 28 = 365

We ‘miss’ therefore in Every Regular Year, around 10 days.  

Due to the above ‘shortage’ of 10 days per Regular Year, there was a chance that the month of Nissan (The Month of Pessach) will be ‘wandering’ between all the 4 seasons of the year. 
The Torah is very clear: Pessach Must fall in the Spring. In order to emphasize this requirement, let us mention that one of the Holiday of Pessach’s 4 names is none other than “The Holiday of the Spring”. (By the way, the other 2 names, are The Holiday of the Matzot and of Freedom).

Our sages added therefore (Well over 2,000 years ago) a 13th Month to some years. We call a year with 13 months: “A Leap Year”. 
This explains the presence of the 2nd Adar (Or Adar II) representing the 13th Month. 

There are 7 “Leap Years” within a cycle of a total of 19 years. 
These are Years:   3,  6,  8,  11,  14,  17 & 19.    
Our current year happens to be A Leap Year, hence the 2 Adar Months (Adar I and Adar II).

To demonstrate the important ‘service’ that the Leap Year performs, let’s look at the following:
The 1st day of Pessach in the current year, is on 4/23/2024.    (A Leap Year)
The 1st day of Pessach in the next year, is on     4/12/2025.    (A Regular Year)
The 1st day of Pessach in the next year, is on     4/1/2026.      (A Regular Year)
The 1st day of Pessach in the next year, is on     4/21/2027.    (A Leap Year) 
Note in the above list, that the 1st day of Pessach goes down thru the years (2025 & 2026)…until another leap year “shows up” (2027). When the next Leap Year soon arrives, the 1st day of Pessach goes back up. a.s.o.

 

Tue, February 20 2024 11 Adar I 5784