Torah Portion

Mishpatim

משפטים

Exodus 21:1-24:18
Jeremiah 34:8-22 & 33:25-26

Onah: A Husband’s Conjugal Duties?

Onah: A Husband’s Conjugal Duties?

The Torah requires a man who marries his maidservant to treat her as a wife, providing her with food, clothing, and onah, a term that has been interpreted as shelter, anointing oil, or conjugal rights. The latter is the traditional understanding, which Shadal defends. Critiquing Maimonides’ philosophical attitude to sexuality, Shadal claims that the Torah here is recognizing a woman's sexual needs.

Prof. Rabbi
Marty Lockshin
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Do Not Cook a Kid Still Suckling Its Mother’s Milk

Do Not Cook a Kid Still Suckling Its Mother’s Milk

The original biblical prohibition before it was interpreted to forbid cooking or consuming meat and milk together.

Prof.
Stefan Schorch
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The Torah’s Use of Mise en Abyme

The Torah’s Use of Mise en Abyme

After Sinai, Moses writes down YHWH’s Laws on a scroll and reads it to the people (Exodus 24). Similarly, Moses writes down the Deuteronomic Torah, which will be read to the people every seven years (Deuteronomy 31). Using the literary mirroring technique, mise en abyme, the Torah connects its authority to these ancient scrolls on one hand, and its readers with the ancient Israelite audience on the other.

Prof.
Jean-Pierre Sonnet
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Israel’s Incomplete Conquest of Canaan

Israel’s Incomplete Conquest of Canaan

Biblical authors struggled to explain why Canaanites remained on the land after Israel settled it. Exodus (23:29–30) and Deuteronomy (7:22) suggest that Israel needed time to settle the land. The opening of Joshua reimagines the past to include an Israelite Blitzkrieg that removed the inhabitants entirely. Other approaches see the remaining Canaanites as a punishment (Judges 2) or a test of Israel's resolve (Joshua 23).

Prof.
Mordechai Cogan
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Accusing Women of Witchcraft

Accusing Women of Witchcraft

It is clear in the Bible and ancient Near Eastern texts that men were sorcerers, yet Exodus 22:17 seems to single out women in its command, “You shall not permit a witch to live.”

Prof.
Jonathan Rabinowitz
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Did the Discovery of Hammurabi’s Laws Undermine the Torah?

Did the Discovery of Hammurabi’s Laws Undermine the Torah?

In 1902, Friedrich Delitzsch argued in his Babel und Bibel (Babylon and the Bible) lecture series that the biblical texts are dependent upon and inferior to those of Babylonia. A key piece of evidence was the Hammurabi Stele, discovered only months before, but traditional scholars responded by maintaining the ethical superiority of Mosaic law.

Dr.
Felix Wiedemann
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Suftaja and the Laws of Interest in a Post-Biblical Economy

Suftaja and the Laws of Interest in a Post-Biblical Economy

The Torah’s prohibition against loaning money with interest addresses a culture of subsistence farmers. Later Jews devised halakhic loopholes to enable them to make use of credit instruments such as the suftaja and to participate in market economies.

Prof. Rabbi
Phil Lieberman
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Did Rashi Experience Divine Inspiration?

Did Rashi Experience Divine Inspiration?

Rashi’s Torah commentary is largely adapted from classic rabbinic sources, including midrash halakhah. And yet, he often changes their meaning in his revisions. Where does Rashi get the authority to make these changes?

Dr.
Yehudah Cohn
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Deathblows to a Pregnant Woman – What Restitution Was Required?

Deathblows to a Pregnant Woman – What Restitution Was Required?

When a man accidentally kills a pregnant woman in a brawl, Exodus requires him to pay “life for a life.” This is generally understood as either capital punishment or monetary repayment. Its legal formulation in context, however, suggests substitution, i.e., the offender has to hand over a woman from his own family.

Dr.
Sandra Jacobs
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Is the Autumn Ingathering Festival at the Beginning, Middle, or End of the Year?

Is the Autumn Ingathering Festival at the Beginning, Middle, or End of the Year?

The Feast of Ingathering is “at the tzet (צֵאת) of the year” (Exod 23:16). This phrase is generally translated as “the end of the year,” but a closer look at the meaning of the Hebrew verb in biblical Hebrew suggests it may mean the beginning.

Harvey N. Bock
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How Exodus Revises the Laws of Hammurabi

How Exodus Revises the Laws of Hammurabi

The author of the Covenant Collection in Exodus knew the Laws of Hammurabi and revised them to fit with Israelite legal and ethical conceptions. This is clear when we compare their laws of assault in each.

Prof.
David P. Wright
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Does the Torah Differentiate between an Unpaid and a Paid Bailee?

Does the Torah Differentiate between an Unpaid and a Paid Bailee?

For the first nine hundred years after the writing of the Mishnah in the early third century, Jews thought that laws about bailees or custodians (שומרים) in the Mishnah and in the Talmud corresponded closely to the plain meaning (peshat) of the Torah. But in the Middle Ages, Rashbam challenged that assumption, proposing an understanding of the Torah that contradicted Jewish law.

Prof. Rabbi
Marty Lockshin
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Bring the Man to the Carcass or the Carcass to the Man?

Bring the Man to the Carcass or the Carcass to the Man?

A 2000-year-old question on how to read a single word in the Torah has generated different opinions on how a custodian for someone’s animal should go about proving that the animal was killed by a beast and not stolen.

Dr. Rabbi
Zev Farber
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Who Is the Eved Ivri?

Who Is the Eved Ivri?

The designation ivri in the legal corpora of the Pentateuch is found only in the laws of slavery. So who is this ivri slave and why was he sold?

Dr.
Albert D. Friedberg
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What Is Wrong with Charging Interest?

What Is Wrong with Charging Interest?

The Torah prohibits lending to poor people with interest. Why did Jewish law include business loans and how did this effect the law’s original purpose?

Prof.
Michael L. Satlow
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The Law of the Goring Ox: Is It Neutered?

The Law of the Goring Ox: Is It Neutered?

The word שור in Hebrew can refer to an ox or a bull, but which animal is the protagonist of the celebrated law of שור נגח, “the goring bovine”? 

Dr.
Elaine Goodfriend
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Civil Laws from Sinai

Civil Laws from Sinai

The religiosity of civil law and the obligation to use only Jewish courts: Rashi’s fourfold homily on Exodus 21:1.

Prof. Rabbi
Herbert Basser
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What Did God Write on the Tablets of Stone?

What Did God Write on the Tablets of Stone?

“YHWH said to Moses: ‘Come up to me on the mountain and stay there so that I might give you the tablets of stone and the teaching and the commandment that I have written to teach them.’”—Exodus 24:12

Prof. Rabbi
David Frankel
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Giving Your Firstborn Son to God

Giving Your Firstborn Son to God

Exodus 22:28 commands Israel to give its firstborn sons to God, and makes no mention of redeeming them. What exactly is being commanded?

Dr.
Eve Levavi Feinstein
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Shabbat of the Full Moon

Shabbat of the Full Moon

Early biblical laws demand a cessation of labor every seven days, but that was unconnected to Shabbat, which was originally a full moon celebration.

Prof.
Jacob L. Wright
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Prohibition of Meat and Milk: Its Origins in the Text

Prohibition of Meat and Milk: Its Origins in the Text

A bold interpretation of the verse “do not cook a kid in its mother’s milk,” from medieval commentator Bekhor Shor (12th cent. CE) leads to an intriguing academic explanation of inner-biblical exegesis charting the development of the mitzvah. 

Dr. Rabbi
Zev Farber
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Mishpatim

משפטים

Exodus 21:1-24:18

וְנָתַתָּה נֶפֶשׁ תַּחַת נָפֶשׁ, עַיִן תַּחַת עַיִן שֵׁן תַּחַת שֵׁן יָד תַּחַת יָד רֶגֶל תַּחַת רָגֶל

שמות כא:כג-כד

the penalty shall be life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot

Exod 21:23-24

Exodus

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