Parashat Mishpatim: Peshat Hapesukim
Illustration credit: Rivka Tsinman
Parashat Mishpatim is filled with mitzvot about how we should treat other people. There are even mitzvot about how we should treat other people’s animals!
כִּ֣י תִפְגַּ֞ע שׁ֧וֹר אֹֽיִבְךָ֛ א֥וֹ חֲמֹר֖וֹ תֹּעֶ֑ה
הָשֵׁ֥ב תְּשִׁיבֶ֖נּוּ לֽוֹ׃
כִּֽי־תִרְאֶ֞ה חֲמ֣וֹר שֹׂנַאֲךָ֗ רֹבֵץ֙ תַּ֣חַת מַשָּׂא֔וֹ
וְחָדַלְתָּ֖ מֵעֲזֹ֣ב ל֑וֹ
עָזֹ֥ב תַּעֲזֹ֖ב עִמּֽוֹ׃
When you encounter your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering,
you must return it to them.
When you see a donkey that belongs to someone you hate, and it’s struggling under its burden,
you might not want to loosen it for that person,
but you must loosen it together.
  • What do you notice? What stands out to you?
  • What is similar between these two pesukim? What is different?
  • Why do you think the Torah specifies that you might not want to help? What’s hard about helping here? What is the Torah trying to teach us?
  • Why does the Torah say that you have to help “together”? What are situations when you do all the work of helping on your own, and what are situations when you only need to help if the person you’re helping is also doing the work with you?
  • Compare our pesukim to Devarim 22:1-4, where the Torah describes some situations that are similar to the cases here in Mishpatim. But what’s different in Devarim? How do you understand these differences?