Sunday, January 19, 2014

Parshat Mishpatim, (Exodus 21:1-21:19)-1/19/2014

I liked how in this parshah we see one of the ways one becomes an Hebrew slave is to pay for the damages when one causes an injury. In our legal system, we often don't see the victim compensated for their loss.

I liked too the idea that a Hebrew could sell themselves for up to six years if they were in debt. Is this much different than what a doctor, an architect, or a lawyer do after they finish their studies? We might answer, “Well, they aren't a slave." But is there a big difference between being an “intern” and being a “slave”?

There are some laws here that are very different from our own. If a Hebrew slave is given a wife, and has children, the master owns the children. Is this much different that how we treat animals? 

I wonder why so many Jews in Israel and elsewhere don't practice Judaism (whatever that means). Does practicing mean that they follow the commandments ... or is it that they practice the rituals of their religion? I wondered when reading about laws that our so contrary to our ideas of equality of males and females, and our abolition of slavery, how we rationalize laws so different to our own. How is this explained to young kids? Do we say, “Well, there is this G_d, but he is backward in his thinking”?

A friend wrote me and said that she thought Bar Mitzvah meant that you'd follow the commandments. I understand that there are 613 commandments. Certainly anyone who did follow them would be thrown in jail before they could bat an eye. 

How then does one take this book? As Rabbi Folberg asked yesterday, why is the study of the Torah better than any other book? In Zen, we call such challenges as controlling our emotions when we navigate through the laws of ancients as "an opportunity for practice." How might I read this in such a way so that I don't want to just throw the Torah in a fire. 

If a Hebrew man sells himself, he shall only be a slave for six years. But if a man sells his daughter, she shall be a slave for life. Crazy? Yes, today in America, it is not what we do.

I cite these ideas to my female friends and they want to shoot me. How do we explain these laws that supposedly came from God? How do we read this book?

As the Parshah continues, we get in more detail "an eye for an eye ...." So I can accept laws that are closer to our own, and have a hard time with laws that are very different. Is morality just based on the mores of society?

G_d watches man selling daughter


  1. seems like everyday might get to be a chore, a bore.
    what do u hope to learn?

    it is interesting to me personally that i immediately take the rules as sexist.

    my lense is adjusted to see such things.

    i don't think every rule needs to b examined for cosmic significance.

    i bet many were simply practical for the people of that time/place/space.
    or some jerk putting out rules because he's on a powertrip.

  2. I'm learning a lot about my parents and about how our laws were developed. Getting some insight here into our criminal system, and what some alternatives might be.

    We put people away rather than make them pay for their damages.

    It also is an opportunity to practice equanimity.

    I told Bhante about Peg's statement of vows running through us like blood. He said that he disagreed with her. One time she said in a talk that you don't need to know the vows ... you just need to sit.

    I kind of agree with her. That the vows would be self-evident if you were awake.

    I also wonder, in a world where most are sleeping, whether we need to tell people what rules to follow.

    Oh... didn't address the sexist lens. Want to talk more about that.

  3. sleepers love we need to give them some i'm not so sure? what rules do we tell them to follow?

    what if two thousand years from now those rules are no longer necessary for the betterment of society but people are still (maybe sleepily,maybe vehemently) following the detriment of society even.
    can we get rid of them?

    even if g-d decreed them?

    i think someone who had been/is a slave (in the historical and let's not forget modern sense of legally owning another human) might see a difference between their circumstance and those degreed professionals just out of school at their first job. to label them both slavery is incorrect, i think.

    it is beneath bhante to acknowledge women, puts him at risk.

    an an excellent example of ancient rule following not servicing the needs of this time and place.
    except him ... personally ...


Thanks for commenting. One cannot study the Torah alone.