latest Post

Two Minutes of Torah: Mishpatim – Do not exploit the weak

With a two year old, when she's playing with her friends and with other children there is often a lot of negotiation that goes into who plays with what toy.  For some reason it seems that the toy that someone else wants is always the most desirable; and so there needs to be some form of borrowing, lending, and negotiating to ensure that all the children are happy with the toy that they have and not simply sitting there coveting what their neighbor has. 

In this week's Torah portion of Mishpatim there are many laws and commandments that we receive.  And while none of them talk about how children should share their toys, we do get an insight into how we should behave with another person's belongings. 

In the midst of these laws we get given instructions about how to care for the weaker embers of our society.  It reminds us that we should not oppress the stranger or treat the widow or orphan badly, and then it talks about lending money to the poor amongst us.  In illustrating this idea of lending someone something God says: ‘If you take your neighbor's garment in pledge, you must return it to him before the sun sets; it is his only clothing, the sole covering for his skin. In what else shall he sleep? Therefore, if he cries out to Me, I will pay heed, for I am compassionate’ (Ex. 22:25-26). 

In this way, if a person lends someone an item of clothing as a guarantee to repay a debt you can keep that item of clothing during the daylight hours but as soon as it becomes night, it must be returned to that person so they have something warm in which to sleep.  We might think about how this example could be transferred to those who put their homes as guarantees for loans and for money that they borrow. 

But for us, what is striking here is that if the person does not receive his clothing back and cries out to God then God will listen because God is compassionate.  Therefore, underlying this commandment, there is an instruction that we should not be exploitative of others, but that we should be compassionate towards one another.  We should listen to their cries before they are compelled to cry out to God. 

With this instruction we are therefore urged not to exploit the weak, but rather to be compassionate to them.  If this is the law when taking their clothing as a guarantee for a debt, how much the more so with their homes and other possessions?  

About Rabbi Danny

Rabbi Danny
Recommended Posts × +


Post a Comment