Torah: Parshat Mishpatim
27 Shevat/Feb. 21 — by Avielle Movsas
Parshat Mishpatim discusses many laws, most of which focus on the ethics of business deal-
ings. The parshah begins, AND these are the ordinance that you [Moshe] shall place before
them . . ." As the Torah does not contain extra letters, why does the first word start with the
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letter vav, meaning "and"?
Rashi explains that the word "and" teaches us a connection to the previous Torah portion.
The preceding Parshat Yitro contains the Ten Commandments, which were pronounced at
Mount Sinai. The "and" written in Parshat Mishpatim demonstrates that the business laws in
this Torah portion are paramount and were uttered at Mount Sinai just like the Ten Command-
ments in the previous parshah.
The Talmud Bava Kamma tractate (30a) elucidates that a pious person is one who keeps
the laws of nizikin (business laws), follows the teachings in avos (Ethics of our Fathers) and
executes the laws of berachos (blessings). These areas encompass laws between man and
man (business), between man and himself (ethics), and between man and God (blessings).
While one may think that a devout person is someone who fulfills the laws between man
and God, the Talmud first states that a pious person is one who maintains high moral stan-
dards in his dealings with other people (business). Unfortunately, we are now in the midst of a
major economic crisis, which is largely due to the corruption and dishonesty of businessmen.
These "white-collar" crimes are just as much a desecration of God's name as
between man and God (such as kashrut).
Rashi is beautifully teaching us that morality in business is on the
same level as observing the Ten Commandments: Both were declared
on Mount Sinai. It is interesting that the numerical value of the letter
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vav in the Hebrew alphabet is six. The Jewish people received the Torah
on Mount Sinai on the sixth day of the month Sivan. Perhaps, the vav is
to remind us that these commandments were also delivered at the very
same time as the Ten Commandments, on the sixth day.
Avielle Movsas, 17, is a junior at Yeshivat Akiva in Southfield.
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