> Weekly Torah Portion > Shabbat Shalom > Shabbat Shalom Weekly

Mishpatim 5778

Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING!  Did you ever hear the old joke, "Do you know the difference between a Jewish pessimist and a Jewish optimist? The Jewish pessimist says, 'It can't get worse!' The Jewish optimist says, 'It can!' " Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you view it. Our attitude is really the only thing that we can have hope to control in our life.

Our attitude affects not only our own happiness, but if affects others. We often look at people who have a happy, positive attitude as pie-eyed optimists who aren't living in reality. We often find them irritating and exasperating. But ... who is better off in the end -- the one who looks at things positively and has energy to persist and accomplish or the one who is the "realist" looking at life with a negative attitude that it probably will get worse? Here's an apocryphal story that hopefully you'll find not only amusing, but will have an impact on how you choose to look at life.

A king in Africa was out hunting. His companion and gun bearer was a person whose attitude towards life is "It couldn't be better. This is for the good." The gun bearer erred in loading the king's rifle causing a misfire which blew off the king's thumb. When the gun bearer exclaimed, "This is for the good," the king replied, "No, it's not!" and had the gun bearer put in jail.

Close to a year later the king was once again hunting; this time he was captured by cannibals. They were ready to prepare the king for dinner when they noticed the missing thumb; being superstitious, the cannibals would not eat someone who was less than whole, so they let the king go!

Immediately, the king went to the jail to free his gun bearer. "You were right," said the king, "this was for the good! I am so terribly sorry that I sent you to jail." "No," replied the gun bearer, "being in jail was for the good, too."

"What do you mean? Look how you have suffered," said the king. "Yes," responded the gun bearer, "but if I wasn't in jail ... I would have been with you!"

It is so very important to train oneself to look positively upon life's situations. From a Torah point of view, all that happens in life is ultimately for the good. The Almighty loves us and wants only the best for us. He gives us opportunities for spiritual and character growth every day.

So many times what appears as "bad" or "negative" ends up being a blessing. In the meanwhile, we have invested so much time and energy into worrying or regretting -- all for nothing and all to our detriment. It is wise to remember that worry is defined as interest paid in advance on a debt which oftentimes never comes due.


The Shabbat preceding the new Jewish month, we recite a special prayer, Birchat HaChodesh, Blessing of the New Month. The beauty and the comprehensiveness of this prayer makes it special. Perhaps it is a prayer that articulates your needs and that you may wish to recite from time to time:


"May it be Your will, Lord our God and God of our forefathers, to make this new month one for goodness and for blessing. Give us long life, a peaceful life, a good life, a life of blessing, a life of sustenance, a healthy life, a life in which there is fear of Heaven and fear of sin; a life in which there is no embarrassment or humiliation, a life of wealth and honor; a life in which there is love of Torah and fear of Heaven, a life in which the requests of our hearts will be fulfilled for the good."


By the way, if you are wondering why "fear of Heaven" is mentioned twice: once one has a life of wealth and honor, it is harder to keep one's fear of Heaven. Therefore, the prayer includes a second request for "fear of Heaven" ... after one has wealth and honor. Prayer is talking with God and an excellent way of helping to see the positive in life!


Torah Portion of the week

Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1 - 24:18

One of the most mitzvah-filled Torah portions, containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative commandments. Included are laws regarding: the Hebrew manservant and maidservant, manslaughter, murder, injuring a parent, kidnapping, cursing a parent, personal injury, penalty for killing a slave, personal damages, injury to slaves, categories of damages and compensatory restitution, culpability for personal property damage, seduction, occult practices, idolatry, oppression of widows, children and orphans.

The portion continues with the laws of: lending money, not cursing judges or leaders, tithes, first-born sons, justice, returning strayed animals, assisting the unloading of an animal fallen under its load, Sabbatical year, Shabbat, the Three Festivals (Pesach, Shavuot & Succot).

Mishpatim concludes with the promise from the Almighty to lead us into the land of Israel, safeguard our journey, ensure the demise of our enemies and guarantee our safety in the land -- if we uphold the Torah and do the mitzvot. Moses makes preparations for himself and for the people and then ascends Mt. Sinai to receive the Ten Commandments.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"Do not go after the majority to do evil" (Exodus 23:2).

Rabainu Bachya explains that the plain meaning of our verse is that if you see many people doing something that is wrong, you should not follow their example.

It is natural for a person to imitate the behavior of others and say, "So many other people are doing this, it can't be so wrong if I do it also." The Torah is telling us that every person is responsible for his own behavior and that Truth is not legislated by majority rule. It takes courage and strength of character to be different from other people and to live your life by your ideals. If you appreciate that the most important thing in the world is to do the will of the Almighty, you will be able to withstand social pressure.

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"And bribery you shall not take, for a bribe will blind those who can see, and distort the words of the righteous." (Ex. 23:8)

What is the difference between a person who is blind and a person who is prejudiced because of a bias?

Rabbi Avraham of Sochotchov commented that when a person is blind, he realizes it and will ask someone who can see to help him; if a person has a bias, the bias blinds him to such an extent that he does not even realize that he is blind. He feels that what he perceives is reality and will refuse to listen to others.

Every human being is biased towards himself that he is correct. This keeps us from recognizing our mistakes and faults when people point them out. If you have an emotional knee-jerk reaction to reproof, weigh the matter very carefully. You will benefit in the long run.


Candle Lighting Times

February 9
(or go to

Jerusalem 4:45
Guatemala 5:46 - Hong Kong 5:59 - Honolulu 6:08
J'Burg 6:37 - London 4:46 - Los Angeles 5:14
Melbourne 8:08 - Mexico City 6:16 - Miami 5:52
New York 5:05 - Singapore 7:03 - Toronto 5:22

Quote of the Week

Life is not a problem to be solved,
but an adventure to be lived!

A pessimist sees the difficulty
in every opportunity.
The optimist sees the opportunity
in every difficulty.
--  Winston Churchill



With Deep Appreciation to

Daniel Friedmann

With Special Thanks to

Dr. Bruce Greenstein


1 2 3 2,898

🤯 ⇐ That's you after reading our weekly email.

Our weekly email is chock full of interesting and relevant insights into Jewish history, food, philosophy, current events, holidays and more.
Sign up now. Impress your friends with how much you know.
We will never share your email address and you can unsubscribe in a single click.
linkedin facebook pinterest youtube rss twitter instagram facebook-blank rss-blank linkedin-blank pinterest youtube twitter instagram