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This week's Torah Portion: 

18 MISHPATIM - RULINGS - EXODUS 21:1-24:18

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וְאֵלֶּה הַמִּשְׁפָּטִים אֲשֶׁר תָּשִׂים לִפְנֵיהֶֽם

v'Eyleh hamishpatim asher tasim lifneyhem

"These are the rulings you are to present to them:"


Our portion this week is known as Mishpatim. This word is quite adequately translated as “rulings.” It actually stems from the root word “shaphat,” which means, “to establish, reduce, bring, ordain, set on.” We gain a few other familiar Hebrew words from this stem also: “shophat,” which means, “judge”; its plural is “shoftim”; and the name Jehosaphat (Y’hoshafat) is a combination of this root word, and one of the Hebrew names for God “Yah”). It is important, as we study the Torah, to realize where different words stem from. Knowing the root word can better help us to determine the correct meaning of subsequent words. I encourage you to invest in a good biblical concordance, or lexicon. These are study aids, which provide the root words to the text as we have it translated.

Our parashah follows four separate chapters. Accordingly, we shall examine each chapter individually for its spiritual nourishment. The dramatic shift in the text, from narrative to verbal imperative, signals the “end of the honeymoon” so to speak. Our family of ex-slaves has witnessed the thunders (voices), lightning, smoke and fire of the Holy One, received the initial Ten Words (Ten Commandments), and is now ready to receive the rest of the Torah.
— Parashat Mishpatim