Mishpatim: Sequel to Sinai

February 12, 2021 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
It is common after a major event to have difficulty getting back into our daily routine. Whether it is a child's wedding, an exotic vacation or a summer at camp, rarely do we feel ready to return to our daily schedule—something we all yearn for at this time. Surely the excitement of the events surrounding the receiving of the Torah at Sinai would qualify as a major event—and then some. The thunder, lightning, and masses...
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Mishpatim: Free the Slaves

February 20, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
One of the revolutions that Judaism brought to the world was its attitude towards, and its treatment of, slaves. Whereas in the ancient world slaves were considered to be no more than chattel, Judaism taught that slaves are to be accorded the same rights and privileges as their masters.  Parshat Mishpatim, following immediately after the Divine revelation at Sinai, opens with the laws of slavery. On the heels of Sinai,...
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Mishpatim: Divine Justice, Human Mercy

February 01, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"An eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot” (Shemot 21:24). Perhaps no Biblical verse has generated as much controversy regarding its true meaning. As is well known, traditional Jewish exegesis has always maintained that this verse requires monetary compensation for bodily injuries caused and monetary compensation only. Critics throughout the ages have argued that the true meaning of the text is...
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Mishpatim: Talking Points

February 05, 2016 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"Sticks and stones may break my bones but names will never hurt me". This popular aphorism reflects the notion that it is physical harm to others that is most dangerous. As we all know this is a simplistic and ultimately dangerous notion. Emotional and psychological harm can be and usually does have deeper and longer lasting impact. The severe Torah prohibitions on gossip and slander reflect this reality. Inflicting non-physical hurt...
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Mishpatim: Say What You Mean

February 24, 2015 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Modern man loves his freedom. No one is going to tell him how to act. This is why giving criticism, even when constructive, is so hard and usually ineffective. It is no coincidence that the obligation to rebuke a person committing a wrong is juxtaposed with the prohibition “Do not hate your brother in your heart” (Vayikra 19: 17). While constructive criticism is a sign of love, it often generates friction between people. We like to...
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