Exodus 21:1-24:18

Exodus chapter 21, verse 1 to chapter 24, verse 18


Parshat Mishpatim lists some of many laws that the people of Israel must follow. The word “mishpatim” means “rules”, which is why this portion has that name.

The laws can be divided up into groups such as:

  1. Laws concerning slaves: If a person is forced to become a slave, he or she must be set free after 6 years of work. If the slave wishes to remain a slave, their ear is pierced.
  2. Laws concerning murder:   A person who has murdered another deliberately shall be put to death. A person who commits an accidental murder will be able to flee to an area where they will be safe from revenge.
  3. Laws concerning injuring other people: These are laws related to punishment for hurting others through carelessness or neglect.
  4. Laws related to theft: A thief is required to pay a penalty based on the value of the stolen item.
  5. Laws related to holiness: These laws relate to dedicating first born children and crops to God; rules prohibiting eating meat with milk and meat from animals that were killed by wild beasts.
  6. Laws concerning loans: One must not take advantage of the poor.
  7. Laws related to the three festivals of Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot.

The Israelites are also commanded not to mistreat strangers, widows and orphans. The idea of the punishment fitting the crime is introduced.

God promises that the Israelites will be led to the promised land: Canaan by an angel, and that God will protect them from people who threaten them on their journey.

Once the people hear these laws from Moses, they accept them by saying “All the things the Lord commanded we will do”.   Moses then writes them down. The parasha ends with God calling Moses to climb Mount Sinai, where he remains for 40 days and nights.

Torah Portion in English

1) These are the rules that you shall set before them: 2)When you acquire a Hebrew slave, he shall serve six years; in the seventh year he shall go free, without payment. 3)If he came single, he shall leave single; if he had a wife, his wife shall leave with him. 4)If his master gave him a wife, and she has borne him children, the wife and her children shall belong to the master, and he shall leave alone. 5)But if the slave declares, “I love my master, and my wife and children: I do not wish to go free,” 6)his master shall take him before God. He shall be brought to the door or the doorpost, and his master shall pierce his ear with an awl; and he shall then remain his slave for life.

7)When a man sells his daughter as a slave, she shall not be freed as male slaves are. 8)If she proves to be displeasing to her master, who designated her for himself, he must let her be redeemed; he shall not have the right to sell her to outsiders, since he broke faith with her. 9)And if he designated her for his son, he shall deal with her as is the practice with free maidens. 10)If he marries another, he must not withhold from this one her food, her clothing, or her conjugal rights. 11)If he fails her in these three ways, she shall go free, without payment.

12)He who fatally strikes a man shall be put to death. 13)If he did not do it by design, but it came about by an act of God, I will assign you a place to which he can flee.

14)When a man schemes against another and kills him treacherously, you shall take him from My very altar to be put to death. 15)He who strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death. 16)He who kidnaps a man—whether he has sold him or is still holding him—shall be put to death. 17)He who insults his father or his mother shall be put to death.

18)When men quarrel and one strikes the other with stone or fist, and he does not die but has to take to his bed— 19)if he then gets up and walks outdoors upon his staff, the assailant shall go unpunished, except that he must pay for his idleness and his cure.

Getting to Know my Parasha

What Does my Parasha Say?

  1. After how many years is a slave allowed to go free? What does this tell you about how slaves are to be treated?
  2. What does Chapter 21, verse 33 say? What does it teach us?
  3. What are the crimes that are punished by the death penalty (Chapter 21)? What surprises you? Understanding that these penalties may not have been carried out, what does this teach you?
  4. What is the main point of Chapter 23, verses 1 to 3?
  5. Chapter 23, verse 10 commands us to let the earth rest every seven years. Why do you think we are commanded to do that?
  6. What details are explained regarding the three festivals (Chapter 23, verses 14-17)?