Parshas Mishpatim
{Exodus 21:1 - 24:18}

Conduct : The Torah, The Law©
By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Samuel and Mrs. Miriam Goodman, may they rest in peace.

To begin our discussion on conduct, we must actually digress first to explain the term Jewish Law and a few misunderstandings surrounding it. Jewish Law, meaning the Torah, is a subject that for hundreds of years has been so misunderstood! Jewish law has been the object of much abuse and assault especially by unlearned Christians / Messianics who commonly state, 'We live under grace! We don't live under the law.'

In last week's parsha we stated that in the third month Kal Yisroel camped east of Har Sinai. It was there that the Torah, the Law, was given to the Jewish nation. In the same parsha, Yisro offers advice to his son - in - law, Moshe Rebbeinu.

"When Moshe's father-in-law saw all that Moshe had done for the people, he said, 'What is this you are doing for the people? Why are you sitting by yourself and {letting} the people stand around you from morning until evening?'"

"Moshe said to his father-in-law, 'Because the people come to me to seek {instructions from} G-d. Whenever they have a problem, they come to me, and I judge between man and his neighbor. I impart to them G-d's statutes and His laws.'"

"Moshe's father-in-law said to him, 'What you are doing is not good. You are going to wear yourself out, you too and this people that is with you. This {activity} is too heavy for you. You cannot do it alone. Now listen to my voice, I will give you advice and G-d be with you. You must be G-d's representative for the people, and bring the{ir} problems to G-d. You shall enlighten them as to the statutes and laws and impart to them the path in which they must walk, and the deeds they must do. You must seek out from among all the people capable, G-d-fearing men, men of truth, who hate gain. You must then appoint them over {the people} as officers of thousands, officers of hundreds, and officers of fifties and officers of tens. Let them judge the people at all times. Every major problem they will bring to you, and every minor problem they shall judge by themselves.'" Exodus

Now let's consider what is going on here...

Over three million people, a nation, the Jewish Nation, have departed Mitzriam. They have departed the strict, harsh legal structure of Mitzriam. They are on their own as a people, as a Jewish Nation without an established legal system. Moshe is the recognized leader of Kal Yisroel. The people placed their trust in his advice... The nation has placed their trust in his honest judgment. He was very busy as the only respected leader and judge.

Moshe's father-in-law saw the problem and recommended a solution. Now that Yisro's advice has been accepted and officers have been appointed, the Jewish Nation is truly ready to receive the Torah, the law.

After the Torah was given, after Kal Yisroel received all 613 mitzvahs, the mitzvahs {meaning commands} had to be taught. The law had to be studied. The law had to be learned. The law had to be judged by the appointed officers!

The point is Kal Yisroel was a newly formed nation. As a newly formed nation we needed a legal structure. We needed officers! We needed laws to follow. We needed laws to replace what we left behind in Mitzriam.

Last week we began receiving the law that would govern our lives. We will spend the rest of this year studying, learning and following the law we received, G-d willing. Now, can you tell me of a nation, of a state, of a county or of a city that ONLY HAS 613 LAWS governing their entire existence? Over 3,500 years, several thousand rabbinical laws have been added to the original 613 laws. Many of the rabbinical laws were just for certain communities. Many have expired. They are no longer followed. Yet when one even considers three thousand laws to govern an entire nation with districts and cities that is not many laws.

When our Moshiach comes Hashem will give every Jew a special revelation, a special understanding of the 613 mitzvahs, of the Torah given at Har Sinai. We will understand these laws. Everyone will understand these laws. We will understand every aspect of these laws. Everyone will follow these laws in peace.

It is these laws that govern our very existence {today and when Moshiach comes} that have been challenged for hundreds of years by Christians / Messianics.

One should understand that the Hebrew word "TORAH" is translated into the English word as "LAW". So a statement like, 'We don't live under the law' is actually saying 'We don't live under the authority of the Torah.' Immediately this presents a conflict for Christians / Messianics who in the same breath say that the New Testament is founded upon the Old Testament. The problem rests in the fact that present law is based upon previous law. So if we say, 'I live under grace and not under the law,' then what we have just done is to verbally eliminate thousands of years of law, thousands of years of legal foundations that modern day law is built upon.

Torah {Law} is more compassionate than any law, than any legal system in the world today. There are many examples in this week's parsha.

Where does one find the word PRISON - JAIL - INCARCERATION in the 613 commands? If a person is caught stealing we do not remove limbs. Torah requires reimbursement. The thief is required to fairly reimburse the victim. If the thief cannot reimburse the victim the Bais Din {Jewish court} can sell him as a slave, as a servant to reimburse the victim.

If the Bais Din sells a thief into slavery it can only be to another Jew. The Jew making the purchase becomes responsible to properly clothe, feed and care for his newly acquired Jewish servant. The maximum length a Jewish servant must serve is six years, depending upon the year of jubilation.

If the thief has a wife and children, then the Jew making the purchase becomes responsible to properly clothe, feed and care for the thief's wife and children in addition to his newly acquired Jewish servant.

A man may sell himself into slavery because he has become destitute. A father may sell his young daughter{before the age of twelve} into slavery.

In both cases the man or his daughter would receive better care by the slave owner than they could provide for themselves. In each case they could be redeemed by a relative, et al.

The Jewish slave owner is required to treat his Jewish servant with the utmost respect.

When the young girl enters puberty she is immediately released.

If a servant were to lose an eye or a limb, G-d forbid, that servant would immediately go free with compensation for the the loss.

Any Jew, including the Jewish servant, is entitled to bring his complaint before the Bais Din and receive fair judgment.

The point to all this is that G-d has established a system of conduct for all Jews to follow. That system of conduct was established 3,500 years ago at Har Sinai. Our conduct, our method of doing business is intended to be the prototype for the rest of the world. What we do as Jews is intended to enlighten the world NOT BURDEN IT!!

You do not read in our Torah and you will not hear our rabbium say, "If your right eye offends you pluck it out., if your right hand offends you cut it off.." The Torah teaches against self mutilation. The Torah teaches against mutilation of animals also. Torah conduct requires that one respect their body as the house in which G-d's Torah lives!

The Torah, Jewish Law, requires that our conduct be just and fair. If a poor man gives his garment to us for surety we are required to give it back to him immediately.

It is this wonderful, loving method of governing our lives as required by G-d's Torah {G-d's law}, including the rabbinical law, that Christians / Messianics claim G-d has done away with yet it is the best system in the world. It is the most caring system in the world.

Christians / Messianics are waiting "for that which is perfect to come," we the Jewish people already have it. David Ha Melech said the TORAH of Hashem is PERFECT!

Those of us who are struggling with turning over a new leaf, doing shuvah actually are struggling with implementing the Torah, that which is perfect, in our lives.

Other Related Subjects: "Torah Or Bust"

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk

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