WWOT: Weekly Words of Torah – Parashat Mishpatim

To inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women
By Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, Executive Director, Women’s League For Conservative Judaism

This week’s Torah reading, Parashat Mishpatim, continues to teach the children of Israel how to behave in a society where they are not slaves. God provides laws to the Israelites through Moses on how to behave while living in freedom. If a group of people who were never able to think for themselves suddenly are a free people, there could possibly be uncontrollable chaos if rules are not in place. Additionally, those rules, if not followed, need to have consequences if not obeyed.

Therefore, Parashat Mishpatim provides additional commandments for the children of Israel to follow, along with consequences if they are not obeyed. For example, we are taught in Exodus, chapter 21, verse 17, “He who insults his father or his mother shall be put to death.” What a difference society would be today if children saw such a consequence, Heaven forbid. However, we do need to teach that there are consequences for what we do, which can be a difficult lesson for some to learn. There are people who do something – perhaps verbally, physically, and also mentally, who do not realize that action will lead to consequences much worse than the action –  even if that consequence was not intended. Therefore, we must all think that what we are about to say or do will lead to the consequence that we truly want to have.

Furthermore, when an action has a positive consequence, we should also recognize and acknowledge this positive consequence – called hakarat hatov – thus acknowledging the good. The concept that “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction” is an important lesson that could be learned from Parashat Mishpatim. May all of our days be filled with a greater balance of positive consequences than negative consequences.

WWOT, Weekly Words of Torah is a brief paragraph prepared weekly by our new Executive Director, Rabbi Ellen S. Wolintz-Fields, presented in our “This Week @ Women’s League.” WWOT will provide meaningful thoughts related to the Weekly Torah Portion, an event on the Calendar, a Prayer, or something of Jewish interest, to inspire, guide, engage, enrich, and empower Conservative Jewish Women. If you have any particular interest in future topics, or want to send Rabbi Wolintz-Fields an email, you can contact her at ewolintz-fields@wlcj.org. Read previous Weekly Words of Torah here.