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Saturday, February 10

Parashat Mishpatim 5784 /משפטים

Exodus 21:1-24:18


God, through Moshe, enunciates a civil and criminal code outlining legislation that pertains to:


  • proper treatment – thus, duration of service, respect for human dignity, physical security, marital status and rights – of Hebrew indentured servants

  • capital punishment for Israelites guilty of murder, sorcery, bestiality, and idolatry

  • protections for and indemnifications against fellow Israelites guilty of involuntary manslaughter; and those liable for physical injury, property damage, or seduction of virgins

  • the lex talionis (retributive justice in cases of physical injury)

  • protection against theft and embezzlement

  • lending practices (including prohibition of usury) and possessions in pledge, bearing in mind the need to treat with dignity indigent persons who have had to cede their possessions to a creditor

  • kindness toward strangers, widows and orphans

  •  respect for civic leaders

  • taxation (in the form of agricultural produce) and conscription (of first-born sons for priestly service – this rule evolves into a redemption payment)

  • prohibition of libel, rumor-mongering, and bribery

  • ensuring equal administration of justice (without prejudice as to one’s status, power and wealth)

  • safeguarding fellow Israelites’ (including enemies’) property

  • Shabbat, Pilgrimage Festivals (Pesah, Shavuot and Sukkot) and Sabbatical (seventh) year

  • kashrut (specifically, separating dairy from meat).


The text underscores Moshe’s role as God’s authoritative spokesman, states that obeying His every command will guarantee Israel’s security and prosperity, and further stipulates that Moshe alone may climb Mount Sinai to approach and speak with God.  The people, upon hearing Moshe’s repetition of this list of commandments, unanimously and repeatedly endorses it.  Moshe writes down the commandments, arranges an altar at the foot of the mountain, conducts sacrifices to God and reads the laws to the people Israel, who experience a mystical vision of God and celebrate with a feast.  Instructing the elders to wait for him below, Moshe deputizes Aharon and Hur as leaders in his absence and ascends the mountain – shrouded in the divinely appointed cloud – that smokes and flames with the presence of God.  Moshe will remain on the mountain for forty days and nights.

Torah Blessings

Rabbi Seth has prepared the attached recording for those who wish to practice the Torah blessings ahead of being called up for an aliyah at our services.  The recording includes both versions - Reconstructionist and traditional - of those blessings and explains the ritual "choreography" that goes with their recitation.  Please   CLICK to contact Rabbi Seth   if you have questions or need help in learning how to do this mitzvah.  

Torah BlessingsRabbi Seth
00:00 / 03:49
Click the box above to read the Torah blessings while listening to the audio.

 February 3, 2024

Parashat Yitro 5784 /יתרו 

Exodus 18:1-20:23


Moshe’s father-in-law, Yitro, brings Moshe’s wife (Tziporah) and two sons (Gershom and Eliezer) to the Israelite encampment at the base of Mount Sinai.  During the family reunion, Yitro praises God for having freed Israel from slavery in Egypt, observes Moshe’s activities as leader of the community, and offers constructive criticism, urging Moshe to delegate authority to avoid professional burnout.  Moshe recognizes the wisdom of this advice and follows it.  Yitro departs.  Moshe climbs the mountain to consult with God, who expresses confidence in Israel’s ability to obey His teachings so as to be “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.”  Moshe conveys this encouraging message to Israel, which gives its enthusiastic assent.  After further instructions, warnings for the people to keep a safe distance, and dramatic atmospheric effects, Moshe assembles his Hebrew flock below the mountain, from which God descends to speak to them a series of utterances (proverbially referred to as “the Ten Commandments”).  The people are awestruck.

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