12 Feb Mishpatim: Just everyday life…
For some, religion happens mostly in the synagogue, church, mosque or temple and even then, only on holidays and/or certain days of the week. But for many others, all around the world and in all sorts of faith traditions, religion, that is, the quest for holiness in life, is pursued each and every day and in all aspects of life.
This week’s Torah reading, Mishpatim, is filled with laws that govern everyday life. In fact 53 of the 613 mitzvot, or commandments, in the Torah are found in this week’s portion and they deal with anything from slavery and property management to speaking truthfully and letting the land rest every seven years. Ritual regulations having to do with the blood of animal sacrifice appear side by side with fair treatment of the stranger without any type of prioritizing.
Much of the material covered in the order of Nezikin, or damages, one of the six parts of the Mishnah, is based upon passages found in our reading. The image below is from the first translation of the Mishnah into Latin, published in Amsterdam in 1698. The nine pictures represent each of tractates, or volumes, in this part of the Mishnah, all but two dedicated to different areas of civil law:
Many of us strive to live our lives based upon the Jewish tradition while constantly updating practice and belief in accordance with the world around us. And while holidays and synagogues might still be major focal points for our search of the sacred, holiness can definitely be found in just every day life.