Parashat Mishpatim

Here Comes The Judge

Parashat Mishpatim teaches us that our society cannot function without laws, judges, and courts of justice.

Print this page Print this page

Out of the 613 biblical commandments, only seven pertained to B’nei Noah (the children of Noah), all of humanity.  These laws were of such import that no person could claim to be civilized, or fully human, without embracing them. For the Rabbis, establishing courts of justice was a fundamental human act, one that allowed for the values of ethical monotheism to extend to everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation or social status. 

Ours is a religion of law. Take away the force of law and Judaism is nothing more than (at best) helpful suggestions.  Just as one cannot claim to embrace American values without adhering to American law, so too one cannot distinguish Jewish values from Jewish law. But the point here goes beyond the structure of our faith, beyond a definition of what it means to be an American. 

By insisting that the establishments of law courts are part of the laws of B'nei Noah, our tradition reminds us that the key to human potential and harmony is adherence to a legal system that is accessible, fair, speedy and just. As Jews, as Americans, and as human beings, we all have an interest in that.

Did you like this article?  MyJewishLearning is a not-for-profit organization.

Please consider making a donation today.

Rabbi Bradley Artson

Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson is Vice-President of the American Jewish University in Los Angeles and Dean of its Ziegler School of Rabbinical Studies. He served as a congregational rabbi in Southern California for ten years. Rabbi Artson?is the author of The Bedside Torah and co-author of a children's book, I Have Some Questions about God.