.וְדָל, לֹא תֶהְדַּר בְּרִיבוֹ

neither shalt thou favour a poor man in his cause.

This week’s parshah is packed with mitzvot and is a fine parshah to study if you wish to understand what Judaism is truly about in form and essence.
Thus you can’t fully understand the whole meaning and spectrum of these laws if you ignore the Oral Law and might quickly dismiss them as outdated; after all who owns a slave or even an ox nowadays?

A closer examination of the mitzvot will soon show you that numerous laws which are part and parcel of Jewish ethicq have derived from laws that were given to the Jewish people thousands of years ago. For more about this, check Rachel’s post.

One that particularly appeals to me as a teacher is found at 23:3. In the educational field I find that we often favor the “poor” (either literally or academically) to the detriment of other students with the disastrous effect that the latter find the system unfair with those who more or less respect the rules most of the time. In the end it makes them distrustful of both adults and the Law. Not exactly the kind of message a school is supposed to send.

I don’t mean that students with very particular circumstances should never receive special treatment but that, in the end, they should be helped to be held liable just like their peers. It is a narrow path for a school administration and for teachers but one that responsible grown-upss should feel it is their duty to follow.

7 thoughts on “Mishpatim

  1. Interesting take on the pasuk. I looked it up:
    וְדָל, לֹא תֶהְדַּר בְּרִיבוֹ

    “they should be helped to be held liable just like their peers” – when you have 3 children and one doesn’t do well, if you always give that child attention you are kind of reinforcing that not doing well deserves attention. The other two would probably get discouraged. So I am agreeing with your basic premise on this.

    Now I need to get off, but after I pack for my trip I’m going to look up the Rashi on that pasuk.

    • Thank you Leora for providing the pasuk. I first posted from my phone – a first for me – and then added the pasuk when I was fully ready to go as we were taking my niece to school and I didn’t want her to be late because of my morning blogging.

  2. Pingback: Weekly Review from HK « Ilana-Davita

  3. Firstly, thank you for the link!

    Secondly, I was finishing up reading the 5th t0 7th readings last night on my (once again, dealyed) train journey home and picked up on that bit about not giving the poor special treatment. There is far too much of it around in my country, I think. It erodes self-respect and totally removes the ability and initiative of the person to get out of their situation.

    I don’t mean this to be as harsh as it sounds – but there are ways and ways of helping people to live good quality lives that have purpose. These days, there is far too much talk about ‘rights’ and not enough about ‘responsibilities’. (And believe me, I have been perilously close to being one of those people who the state seem to babysit, these days).

    • Rabbi Levi Meier, z”l, in one of his books, talked about a Statue of Responsibility in addition to the Statue of Liberty – he agreed with too much about ‘rights’ and not enough about ‘responsibilities.’

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