Parshat Mishpatim: a quilt of social stories


Tamar Pelleg

Since then, a lot of water has flowed in the river of my life. Today, apart from my everyday writing in my “Morning  Diary”, I write regularly on topics related to the Hebrew Bible’s portion of the week, from a psycho-spiritual perspective and on topics  related to relationships that I post on  Facebook, blog, digital story collections and recently I am engaged in writing a  book and my  dream begins to come true.



After the impressive audio-visual spectacle at the foot of Mount Sinai (the “wedding” between God and his people),  and the receiving of the Ten Commandments (some say the “Ketubah”),  after the people went through an ecstatic experience of seeing the voices, the time has come to “get down” to the ground floor of reality.

      Just as a “bride”, from the moment she marries and becomes a man’s wife, is supposed to act according to certain codes, learn new behaviors, which she was not committed to as a girl in her father’s house —   so also the people of Israel, from now on, are supposed to behave according to certain moral codes, and accept the  moral-ethics-laws  from Moses, in the form of short stories.

     Like a quilt made of squares, each of which tells a little story from everyday life, a possible scenario that could happen between neighbors, between family members, at home, in the field, Moshe explains to the people of Israel the laws: If such and such a case happens, so you will have to act in this way, etc.

   The laws are social and moral laws and the common denominator is: “tooth for a tooth”.

  In other words, every act has a price, there is a responsibility. And in some cases, the price is death.

    Therefore, the absence of the threat of punishment in the case of the poor, who gave his thin bedcovering as collateral for a loan, is very noticeable.

    The lender must return it to him in the evening.

    For only this covers him at night, what else does he have?  And if he calls out to Me, I will hear, for I am the Merciful One.

    The explanation given by Law to return the covers to the poor in the evening shows that God is a compassionate god.

    How might one of the people, who until recently had been a slave and suffered from cruelty, feel when he hears God says he will hear the cry of the unfortunate because he is compassionate?

    It is said that a slave who overcomes his destiny and becomes a master, often behaves as the worst of masters, and is cruel to those inferior to him.  Inversion of the victim’s behavior into the exploiter/master behavior.  

   He who has suffered cruelty, he who has been a victim, may very easily become cruel to others under him.

     Especially if they remind him of the victim he was once.

  And suddenly the word compassionate gives an opening for exit from the pattern of the victim and the victimizer, and allows free choice of other behaviors:

    Maybe I too can fulfill the same virtue of being a merciful person in my behavior, and be saved from the vicious and destructive circle of the victim/victimizer pattern?  And find within me a new quality of compassion ?

    The quality of compassion is a quality that has great healing potential.

    I bless all of us that we may know how to discover this quality within ourselves, and treat others and also ourselves with compassion,       

     Especially in places where we tend to flog and torment ourselves.



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