Mishpatim deals primarily with social & civil laws, although we know every Mitzva draws its power & purpose from G-d’s will. Included in our Sedra’s 53 Mitzvot are: laws dealing with the indentured bondsman & his rights, including his going free after 6 years of service; the penalties for damaging a person or his property; the need to respect the sensitivities of the convert, widow & orphan; assisting the needy with free loans; & the obligation to set up a fair system of justice.

Shabbat & Shmita (the Sabbatical year) are discussed, as are the Chagim of Pesach, Shavuot & Sukkot.

Hashem renews His promise to bring all Jews back to Israel. There is a Revelation of G-d, after which the Jewish People declare, “We will do & we will listen!”

For the 7th Aliya, we take a 2nd Sefer Torah and read from parshat Pinchas about Rosh Chodesh.

For Maftir we read from Ki Tisa about the Mitzva of the half-shekel. This donation preceded the month of Adar, & served as an antidote to the money Haman would offer Achashverosh to annihilate the Jews. The Haftora is Melachim II:12; it deals with the system of collecting funds in the Bet HaMikdash, instituted by King Yehoash, and so relates well to Shabbat Shekalim.

As this Shabbat is also Rosh Chodesh, we add “Ya’aleh V’Yavo” to both the Maariv and Shacharit Amida. (Abridged) Hallel is said on Shabbat morning; in the Musaf Amida we say “Ata Yatzarta.”


Our Sedra of Mishpatim is Halacha par excellence – no less than 53 separate Mitzvot are squeezed into this one Sedra. Taken together, they paint a beautiful picture of an ideal world in which we not only serve Hashem, but also treat our fellow
human beings with respect and compassion. Fittingly, there are a significant number of commandments that relate to our obligation to create a system of law and order to redress grievances and insure that justice prevails; these Mitzvot are the basis for several tractates of the Talmud.

In the very middle of the parsha there is a statement that could well be considered the centerpiece, the code and catch-all phrase of the sedra: “And people of holiness shall you be to me.” ((22:30). Does this not sum up everything? Is this not the “bottom line” of what the entire Torah is meant to teach us, the “end game,” what is meant to be accomplished in the training of our neshamot?

And yet, the second half of this same elevated verse is mystifying. It says: “The flesh of an animal that is found torn in the field shall not be eaten; it should instead be passed to a dog.”

What could this possibly to do with the mandate to be holy?! It seems like we are going from the sublime to the ridiculous; I could have thought of innumerable other directives to complement the first part of the pasuk.

But perhaps Rashi – as always – can enlighten us as to what is going on here. He quotes the Mechilta who reminds us that the dogs helped us in Egypt. They did not bark as we left on our exodus, so as not to attract any undue attention to us, which might have caused the populace to react violently against us. For this, Hashem compensates the canine world by ordering us not to simply throw away treif meat, but rather to give it to the dogs. Says Rashi: “the Holy One, blessed be He, does not withhold the reward of any creature.”

Ahh, here is the point then: What most matters in life is establishing a connection, a binding covenant between us and G-d. We have our task to accomplish – to be holy, with all that entails. And Hashem has His committment as well – to recognize what we do and acknowledge it with His blessings. To be “kadosh” is a lot to ask of us, a lifelong task that is extremely demanding; but
it becomes infinitely easier to fulfill when we know that G-d sees & appreciates our actions. Make no “bones” about it: these are the twin towers of any relationship – trust, and mutual respect.