by Robin Sobol
Rules! Rules! Rules! In last week’s Torah portion, God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses on Mount Sinai. This week, in Parashat Mishpatim, God legislates a series of laws for the people of Israel. There are 613 commandments in the Torah and this week’s portion contains 53 mitzvot: 23 imperative commandments and 30 prohibitions.
What are these laws that God legislates? They include penalties for murder, kidnapping, assault, and theft; civil laws pertaining to redress of damages, the granting of loans; and the rules governing the conduct of justice by courts of law. There are also laws warning against mistreatment of foreigners; the observance of the seasonal festivals, including the agricultural gifts that are to be brought to the Holy Temple in Jerusalem; the prohibition against cooking meat with milk; and the mitzvah of prayer.