Parshat Mishpatim Sweets and Treats
In this week’s Torah Portion, Parshat Mishpatim, Hashem gives the Jewish People a series of 53 mitzvot (commandments) – 23 positive mitzvot and 30 negative mitzvot. The laws cover the indentured servant, punishments for murder, kidnapping, assault and theft. Civil damages when destroying the property of another is in this week’s Parsha, even if the damage was done by someone’s animals or his negligence (such as leaving a pit uncovered). Some mitzvot in the Parsha deal with how we treat our fellow Jews, such as the mitzvot to take care of foreigners, widows and orphans, giving loans to the poor, including the prohibition against charging interest, and the code of conduct for judges. Some mitzvot deal with the food we eat, including the requirement to eat meat that has been ritually slaughtered, the tithing of one’s harvest and the prohibition against cooking a kid in his mother’s milk (from which we derive the prohibition of combining meat and milk). We are also taught laws regarding our animals – we may not bring a sacrifice to Hashem that is less than eight days old, we need to help unload an overburdened animal, and we must return lost animals to their owners. The rules of Shmittah, the Sabbatical Year in which we leave the fields of Israel fallow every 7th year (which we are observing this year in Israel) are introduced in this week’s Parsha. Similarly, we are told to rest on the 7th day (Shabbat) each week, and that everyone in our household, including servants and even animals should rest as well. We are given the Shalosh Regalim – the festivals of Sukkot, Passover and Shavuot, in which the Jewish People traveled to Jerusalem to celebrate together at the Holy Temple.
Hashem promises that He will send an angel to lead the Jewish People to Israel and promises great rewards if they follow the mitzvot and reject the idol worship of the people who currently are in the land. The Jewish People reply, “Na’aseh V’Nishmah – We will do and we will hear all that G d commands us.” Leaving Aaron and Hur in charge, Moshe goes up on Mt. Sinai to begin the 40 days and 40 nights to receive the Luchot (tablets containing the Ten Commandments) from Hashem.
This week is also known as Parshat Shkalim. In the Time of the Temple, each Jew paid a half-shekel to the Temple every year Rosh Chodesh (first of the month of) Nisan. The signs reminding people of the collection were posted one month earlier on Rosh Chodesh Adar. To commemorate this, we read a special maftir and haftorah that describes the commandment of the half-shekel on the Shabbat the precedes (or is on) Rosh Chodesh Adar. One explanation of the giving of the half-shekel is to remind us that, as Jews, we are only whole when connected with the rest of our People.
There are many symbols in this week’s Parsha! Candy coins symbolize the civil damages in this week’s Parsha as well as the mitzvot of giving loans and not charging interest. Candy coins also represent the special maftir and haftorah read this week regarding the giving of the half-shekel. Animal crackers represent the many laws related to animals in this week’s Parsha. Candy fruit symbolize the tithing of our fields and the mitzvah of Shmittah. Feet lolly pops represent the pilgrimage festivals in which the Jewish People gathered in Jerusalem to celebrate together at the Holy Temple, and Moshe going up on Mt. Sinai at the end of the Parsha. Marshmallows could symbolize the angel that Hashem promises will lead the Jewish People to the Land of Israel and pillows for the day and year of rest mentioned in the Parsha (Shabbat and Shmitta). Candy lips could symbolize the words the Jewish People spoke “Naaseh V’Nishmah” in response to the laws, as well as the many laws regarding speech and the food we eat in this week’s Parsha. Finally, blue and white nonpareils represent the Land of Israel that the Jewish People are promised is their destination and their destiny. Do you have other ideas? Please share them in the comments section below!