Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
1. This week's Torah portion of Mishpatim is the sixth in the book of Exodus. In the previous five parashot, we read about slavery in Egypt, the ten plagues, the Exodus itself, and the Revelation at Mount Sinai. After all these dramatic episodes, this week's Torah portion sets an entirely different tone, listing a host of instructions, mitzvot and halachot or laws that touch on everyday life. 53 of the 613 mitzvot found in the Torah appear in this week's parasha alone.
2. Among the subjects addressed in this parasha are relationships at work, among neighbors, and between family members, tzedakah, festival observance, kashrut, treatment of the poor, the widow, and the orphan, payment of debts, entry into the Land of Israel, and many, many others.
3. Rabbi Professor Jonathan Sacks explained the importance of connecting the Revelation at Mount Sinai in last week's Torah portion to the mitzvot in this week's parasha. "The one time experience of the Revelation at Mount Sinai," he wrote, "requires translation into a code applicable to our daily lives and this is accomplished in parashat Mishpatim. Our mission in life is to convert Sinai's awe-inspiring revelation into meticulous attention to the details of everyday life, to reconstitute the 'wow' as timeless, immutable laws."
4. Towards the end of the parasha, Moshe Rabbeinu reads the Torah to the people and they declare: "Na'aseh venishma" -- we will do and we will hear (or obey or understand).
5. This Shabbat is Shabbat Mevarchim (Shabbat when we bless), because we bless the new month of Adar that begins next week. "When Adar enters, our joy increases"; Rosh Chodesh Adar will enter this coming Tuesday and Wednesday.
Have a good, joyful month and Shabbat shalom.