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Mishpatim 5763


Mishpatim (Exodus 21-24 )

by Kalman Packouz

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GOOD MORNING!  There is an old Jewish story about a man in the late 1800's who visited his rabbi before leaving Europe for America. "Rabbi," asks the man, "What is life all about?" And the rabbi answers, "Life is like a mountain." The man leaves for America and for the next ten years torments himself to understand the depth and the meaning of his rabbi's words. Finally, he can bear it no longer; he purchases a ticket and sails back to Europe to beseech his rabbi for the meaning of the elusive comparison. "Rabbi," he pleads, "What do you mean, 'Life is like a mountain?' " And the rabbi replies, "So, nu, ... maybe life isn't like a mountain?"... What is life? I saw the following piece tacked to a cork board:


Life is a challenge ... meet it.
Life is a gift ... appreciate it.
Life is an adventure ... dare it.
Life is a sorrow ... overcome it.
Life is a duty ... perform it.
Life is a game ... play it.
Life is a mystery ... unfold it.
Life is a song ... sing it.


Kaddish is the prayer which a mourner recites for 11 months following the passing of one's father and mother. It is recited for one month for one's brother, sister, spouse, son or daughter. It is commonly thought of as "the prayer for the dead." In reality, as we will see in looking at the words, it is an affirmation of the belief and trust in the Almighty. Here is the Artscroll Siddur translation of the Mourner's Kaddish:

"May His great Name grow exalted and sanctified in the world that He created as He willed. May He give reign to His kingship in your lifetimes and in your days, and in the lifetimes of the entire Family of Israel, swiftly and soon... (The congregation then responds: 'Amen. May His great Name be blessed for ever and ever.') Blessed, praised, glorified, exalted, extolled, mighty, upraised, and lauded be the name of the Holy One, blessed is He (Congregation responds: 'Blessed is He.') beyond any blessing and song, praise and consolation that are uttered in the world.... May there be abundant peace from Heaven, and life, upon us and upon all Israel.... He Who makes peace in His heights, may He make peace upon us, and upon all Israel."

As one can see, there is no mention of the deceased, death or mourning. Kaddish is an affirmation of life - a recognition of the Almighty, a prayer that His greatness should be recognized and a request for peace and life for the Jewish people. Besides affirming or reassuring the mourner's belief in the Almighty, the reciting of Kaddish gives merit to the soul of the deceased because the one who recites Kaddish (the mourner) causes the congregation to praise the name of the Almighty: "May His great name be blessed for ever and ever" and "Blessed is He." There are many stories in the Talmud and the Midrash about the great benefit of this merit to the soul of the deceased in the World to Come.

A close friend confided to me that the obligation to say Kaddish not only gave him a way to show respect and gratitude for his parents, but tremendously comforted him by placing him in the synagogue in the company of other Jews twice each day.

Torah Portion of the Week

One of the longest Torah portions, containing 23 positive commandments and 30 negative precepts. 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:

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


"Let the honor of your friend be as dear to you as your own honor, do
not anger easily and repent one day before you die."
    -- Rabbi Eliezer

(or go to

Jerusalem  4:34
Guatemala 5:42  Hong Kong 5:53  Honolulu 6:01
J'Burg 6:41  London 4:29  Los Angeles 5:03
Melbourne 8:12  Miami 5:45  Moscow 4:44

New York 4:54  Singapore  7:03


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

Mazal Tov on
the Forthcoming Marriages of
Malka Sacket & Akiva Yasnyi
Rachel Sacket & Chaim Keller

With Love,
Eric & Shoghag Singman

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