Parshat Mishpatim (Laws)

The Torah portion is Mishpatim, Exodus 21:1-24:18. In synagogues using the Triennial system, 5784 is year 2 and the Torah reading is Exodus 22:4-23:19.

Mishpatim means ordinances or rules, and this week's parshah begins to lay out the detailed rules that flow from the Ten "Commandments" that were laid out at the end of last week's reading. Many of these rules seem cruel to modern eyes, but they are far ahead of the Code of Hammurabi that they are often compared to, and many of them are the basis for modern civil law. Most famous is "an eye for an eye" (Ex. 21:24), which is often trivialized by saying "an eye for an eye leaves everyone blind," but the rabbis always understood that this did not mean taking out another person's eye, but only compensation of the value of the eye, rather than the up to 30-fold retribution that the Code of Hammurabi required when the victim outranked the perpetrator.

There is a special maftir portion (the final piece of the Torah reading) for Rosh Chodesh Shabbat: Numbers 28:9-15. This portion lays out the offerings made on Rosh Chodesh (the beginning of the new month) when it occurs on a Shabbat.

The haftarah is for Rosh Chodesh, Isaiah 66:1-24. This portion speaks of the many sins committed by the People in Isaiah's time and the consequences, but promises that some will prosper and endure.