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[Dvar Torah] Mishpatim

This week's Parsha is Mishpatim, which means "laws” or "judgements". In this Parsha, Moshe details many of G-d’s laws to the Jewish people. These include laws about worshiping other gods, kashrut, business ethics and treatment of animals. G-d also outlines the details of three holidays, ‘Shloshet Haregalim’, Passover, Shavuot and Sukkot, when the Jewish people should bring their offering to The Temple. 

In last week’s Parasha ‘Yitro’, Moshe and all the Israelites heard the Ten Commandments. At the end of the Parasha, Moses ascended to Mount Sinai to meet with G-d for 40 days and 40 nights. One of the laws mentioned in the Parsha is "Hashavat Aveda". It means you are required to return anything lost to its owner, even if the owner hasn’t missed the loss. As it is written in Shemot 23,4:  “When you encounter your enemy’s ox or donkey wandering, you must take it back.”

According to the Mishnah, when the item is found the finder must try to locate its owner by publicizing it. The Mishna describes in detail the ways to return the lost item. In ancient days, the finder would go to a specific place in Jerusalem called ‘Even Ha-Toen’ during ‘Shloshet Haregalim’ and there they must tell about the find and bring it back to the owner just after the owner provides proof of ownership.

It is an obligation not just to return the item but keep and take care of it. The Talmud (Ta’anis 25a) relates a story on this subject : 

“A man once passed by the house of Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa and left some chickens nearby. Seemingly, the man forgot about them, and when Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa’s wife found them, he instructed her to hold on to the chickens without consuming the eggs that they laid. As time went on, the eggs amounted to a hefty number and the chickens themselves began increasing in numbers. 

The new “chicken farm” started becoming quite a burden on its finders, and they sold all the chickens and the eggs, as one is permitted to do with unclaimed animals after a certain amount of time. He took the money and invested it in goats. One day, Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa overheard a conversation between two people passing by his home, as one mentioned to the other, “I once left some chickens in this place.” 

When Rabbi Chanina Ben Dosa heard this, he turned to the man and said, “Can you identify a sign [on the chickens proving that they are yours]?” The man gave an identifying sign of the chickens, and received a herd of goats!”

Wording by Rabbi Yitzchok Aryeh Strimber

The Torah teaches us that we should be more caring and responsible for others and their property.

Shabbat Shalom 

Shahar, Grade 7