Parashat Mishpatim

At the same time as the rabbis wrote Midrashim, they also worked to perpetuate the importance of practicing rabbinic law, in addition to the laws of the Torah itself. This week’s Torah portion, Parashat Mishpatim, presents the rabbis with a field day of Torah laws and statutes. Several Midrashim explore the meaning of the very first Pasuk of our Parasha, “These are the rules [Mishpatim] that you shall set before them” (Exodus 21:1).

The Midrash in Exodus Rabbah 30:14 states that the function of these Mishpatim, these laws, can be compared to a man who brags to his friend, “I have a thousand measures of grain, a thousand of oil, and a thousand of wine.” His friend says to him, “Do you have the space to store them? If you do, then these things will belong to you, but if you do not have the storage space, then you really own nothing.” So too, the Midrash explains that if a person who studies the Torah and its rabbinic interpretations (including Midrash itself) does not internalize their teachings, then this person might as well have nothing. This parable highlights the importance of not only studying the written and oral Torah, but also applying their principles and laws to our daily lives. It is only then that we will we have devoted the proper storage space to God’s teachings.

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