Below is a collection of Parashat Mishpatim resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
This is a growing collection. Check back soon or write to us at email@example.com if you didn’t find what you’re looking for.
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: How do you know who is in the wrong in different situations? Imagine you’re walking in the halls at school, and you trip and fall over someone’s school bag which was left on the floor. You complain to them, “Why did you leave your school bag on the floor where someone could trip?” They respond, “Why didn’t you watch where you were going?” Who is at fault? Why? Parashat Mishpatim is filled with laws about the relationships between people. Although it doesn’t list school bags left on the floor, it does discuss someone who digs a hole and doesn’t cover it. If an animal falls into the hole and dies, the person who dug the hole is responsible. Do you think it is similar?
Look inside the text (Shemot 21:33-34),
כִי יִפְתַּח אִישׁ בּוֹר אוֹ כִּי יִכְרֶה אִישׁ בֹּר וְלֹא יְכַסֶּנּוּ וְנָפַל שָׁמָּה שּׁוֹר אוֹ חֲמוֹר – When a man opens a pit, or digs a pit and does not cover it, and an ox or a donkey falls into it,
בַּעַל הַבּוֹר יְשַׁלֵּם כֶּסֶף יָשִׁיב לִבְעָלָיו – the one responsible for the pit must make up for it; he should pay the price to the owner of the animal.
Question #2: Parashat Mishpatim has many laws about our relationships with each other. We read that if you find the ox or donkey of your enemy which is lost, you have to return it to him. How do you deal with lost or missing objects? What do you do when you find a watch someone has lost on the lunchroom table? What if you’re in a hurry to go out to recess, and you think probably someone else will find it and deal with it? What do you do if you know it belongs to someone who has been mean to you?
Look inside the text, (Shemot 23:4),
כִּי תִפְגַּע שׁוֹר אֹיִבְךָ אוֹ חֲמֹרוֹ תֹּעֶה הָשֵׁב תְּשִׁיבֶנּוּ לוֹ – When you encounter your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering, you must take it back to him.
Question #3: One of the curious laws about slavery is that the slave can choose to remain with his master rather than going free in the seventh year, but there is a special ritual that must be performed. Laws are often legislated to protect people. Does a person have the right to reject that protection, or should society insist that they be protected? If someone is in an abusive relationship, and although miserable, claim that they want to remain in that relationship, should their friends (or the authorities) encourage/insist that they get out for their own protection?
Question #4: The Torah warns us not to be unkind to the stranger, for we were once strangers ourselves in Egypt. Is there an obligation to be nice to the stranger, or just not to be unkind? Is it possible to draw a line distinguishing between being nice and avoiding being unkind? How far must we take this obligation? Does this apply to every individual, or to the community as a whole? How well does your community accept people who are different?