Perashat Mishpatim

Perashat Mishpatim

I have a friend who now lives in Australia, several years ago he said that when he was becoming more observant it disturbed him that some observant people were kind because it is a mitzvah and not because it is inherently good. This friend said that it no longer bothered him now that he is observant.

I have heard many people claim that they are “good people” and do not need the Torah to tell them what to do. I have, at some point, seen almost all of theses people transgressing the very rules discussed here. They tyrannize others who do not know their legal rights. In addition to this they transgress many other humanistic laws. This seems especially appalling because many of these people have put humanism in place of orthodoxy. Humanistic ideas are only a part of orthodox Torah observance. You would think that when established as the whole religion people would be uncompromising in following these humanistic statutes.

Duties of the Hearts is a book which was written about a thousand years ago in Spain. It says that although it is best to serve G-d because it is logical you need the Torah to tell you what to do. This service includes the humanistic commandments. He cites many reasons why this is so. One of these reasons is that if you follow your own rules you will apply them at your own convenience.

I believe that this is a problem with many “good people.” Most honestly intend to be kind but are tempted by a fleeting pleasure or the opportunity to make a dollar. When a person is religiously committed to refraining from tyrannizing people he will, hopefully, be less apt to rebel.

This is alluded to in our Perasha:

He who sacrifices to gods should be annihilated unless he sacrifices to G-d. Do not tyrannize an out-of- towner and do not oppress him, because you were foreigners in the land of Egypt. Do not afflict any widow or orphan. If you afflict him and he may scream to me, I will certainly hear his screams. And I will be angry and I will kill you by the sword and your wives will be widows and your children or will be orphans.

Why should a discussion on humanistic laws be introduced with a Pasuk forbidding sacrifices to other gods?

In an idolatrous world where people invented and physically formed their own deities they also concocted their own morality. In our atheistic world many come to do the same. If we do not accept the fact that G-d gave us the Torah as a guide book then morals are affected by the whims of society.