parashah mishpatim (ordinances) Exodus 21 – 24

The Torah serves four main purposes:

  1. It is a Ketuba (marriage certificate) between God and the world, through the Jewish people, who are the recipients of the Torah
  2. It is a national constitution, outlining all the laws and ordinances that a nation needs to survive
  3. It is a covenant between God and the world (through the Jewish people)
  4. It teaches us about sin

In this chapter, and repeatedly throughout the Torah, we are told by God how we are to treat each other. This is the the constitutional framework of the nation of Israel that God provided.

The ordinances included in this parashah talk about the rights of people: the rightful treatment of slaves and concubines, a penal code outlining the punishment for crimes of passion, crimes against another person, kidnapping, torts (people against people) and restitution of property, sexual perversions, witchcraft, and polytheism.  It also outlines the rules regarding contracts, offerings, kashrut (kosher laws regarding meat), the Sabbath Day and the three annual pilgrimages to the Temple (Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.)

The parashah ends with the covenant being ratified by all the people, who announce, “All that the Lord has spoken, we will do.” In one accord, all the people made this solemn promise to God. And all of us who have accepted Yeshua (Jesus) as our Messiah have, by doing that, reconfirmed our own, personal adherence to God’s commandments and laws, as well.

How quickly we forget.

How sad it is that the Torah is so misunderstood, not just by the Christian world, but by the Jewish people, as well. So many of us have been taught that the Torah is “the Law”, and it does have laws, ordinances, commandments and such, but it is so much more than that! It also is the history of the Jewish people, how God took one man and built his family up to a mighty nation, through which the world was blessed in all types of ways: music, poetry, science, mathematics, art, and so much more. God also made the Torah the most humane and just set of penal laws in the world at that time. Many “experts” who live to debunk and demean the Torah will point out that these laws were not original, that Hammurabi had these laws, and many other cultures. That is true, but no other culture had them as humanly codified as within the Torah. Torts, capital crimes, and spiritual crimes are all there, outlining the punishment and the level of retribution for each type of violation.

It outlines the difference between crimes of passion and crimes that were premeditated, applying just punishment for each case. It outlines the basic rights of humans, whether free or slave, and treats all with respect. The Torah is the foundation stone upon which all laws and religious practices should be centered upon. It is God’s gift to mankind.

Please understand this: the Torah is for all mankind, not just for the Jews. As I have said, over and over, the Jewish people are not the ones the Torah was exclusively written for, they are the ones God gave the Torah to, with the obligation to demonstrate to the world how we all should worship God and treat each other.

We have all grown up in a modern society, and the “pecking order” of our laws start at the US constitution,  then the state, then municipal and (finally) religious laws. Christian religions (remember- God has no religion) do start, one way or another, with the Torah, but they all have their own set of “lesser” laws and rituals, canon, etc. that have been devised for it’s membership. Even in Judaism, which regards the Torah as absolute, we have other laws, Rabbinic laws called Halacha (the Way to Walk) for those things that are not specified in Torah. These laws are found in the Talmud, which is called The Oral Torah. For example: in the Torah we are told what animals are acceptable sacrifices and what to do with the blood of the sacrifice, but there is nothing in there telling us how the animal is to be killed. In Talmud we are given the laws regarding slaughter of animals, called Shechita. If an animal, either for sacrifice or just to be eaten, is slaughtered in any other fashion it is rendered treif, or unacceptable under Kashrut law.

The point is this: Torah gives us what we need to be acceptable to God, both in our relationship to Him and our relationship to each other. There are also subordinate regulations, dealing with areas not specifically covered by Torah, which are just like our civil legal system, where what the constitution doesn’t specify we can find in state and municipal laws. The point is that these laws must be obeyed, whether federal or municipal, and whether Torah or Talmud (Canon), in the proper order: in other words, a municipal law that overrides federal law will be considered invalid, and the canon and rituals of religions that override the laws of God (Torah) should also be considered invalid.

That means, simply, that if what Talmud or religious Canon say we should do is contrary to the Torah, we shouldn’t do it. That is what Yeshua said was wrong with the religious system during His days on earth- the laws of men took precedence over the laws of God.

Don’t let that happen in your life. Know the Torah, know your own sets of Canon, and make sure you give obedience where obedience belongs.

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