Thursday, February 4, 2016

Parshat Mishpatim, 5th Portion, Exodus 23:6-19, February 4, 2016

“And you shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, since you were strangers in the land of Egypt.” (Exodus 23:9)

“Six days you may do your work, but on the seventh day you shall rest, in order that your ox and your donkey shall rest, and your maidservant's son and the stranger shall be refreshed.” (Exodus 23:12)

There is an interesting connection between these two passages. First we say that we know what it is like to have the feelings of a stranger, and so we shall treat strangers well. A stranger is a convert. The Palestinians are not strangers. But this is a step toward embracing all people... not just those who vow to follow the laws of the Torah. Were the Jews converts in Egypt? Did they follow Egyptian law? We read earlier in Mishpatim that you should not charge interest to “My people.” Oppressing a stranger has to become broader, as I believe it has in Reform Judaism.

Then we read about the sabbath, and how we should observe it because our animals, our maidservant, and the stranger shall be refreshed. This becomes a very practical, business justified, reason for observing the sabbath. It is not about spending a day when we look up rather than down.

I'm not sure what it would be like to follow the sabbath. On the extreme side, I wouldn’t drive and I'd turn off my computer. But since I drive and use the computer to study the Torah, am I really not following the sabbath every day?

Here's a good FAQ on Shabbat:

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