Judgment Calls

Jan 28th, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Portion of the Week

Making Decisions

It’s challenging to review the numerous and diverse laws in this week’s portion, Mishpatim, and distill a theme: A man sold into slavery to repay a theft and the ensuing steps. A young girl sold into slavery, the laws of marriage, murder, manslaughter, injuries caused by a person or an animal, theft, self-defense, a borrower, seduction, loans, the judicial process, and more until its conclusion back at Revelation. The theme must somehow be connected with Sinai and Revelation. What is the theme?

Judgment Calls/Choices

The man who steals to feed his family makes a judgment call. He is offered another choice when the time arrives for him to leave his master, second ‘wife’ and ‘children.’

A man so desperate to feed his family that he must ‘sell’ his daughter and find a good husband for her.

A woman who wants to protect her husband as he is being attacked and attacks the attacker.

People who avoid choices by using magic. (22:17)

Using extra sensitivity when dealing with the vulnerable. (22:20-23)

The risks involved with loans. (22:24-26)

The judicial process. (23:1-3)

Israel’s choice at Sinai. God’s choice of Israel. (23:20)

“Whoever has a grievance should approach them.” (24:14)

This portion was to teach Israel that our relationship with God is one of constant judgment calls and choices.

There is a way to put all these ideas into practice: A “Bein Adam L’chaveiro” – “Between One Person and Another” – Workshop:

Gather a group of people and allow each person to share a challenging situation with an anonymous person. Allow each member of the group to offer suggestions and strategies how to best handle the situation. Then review all the suggestions through the eyes of the laws in this week’s portion.

The members of the group will practice making judgment calls and choices based on Mishpatim. They will then be prepared to commit to Halachah as a Choice; they will have the same opportunity as did the Children of Israel at Sinai.

Author Info:
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