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    Rules, rulings, rulers – Mishpatim

    From the heights of the Decalogue, this week’s Torah reading brings us down to the practical details of life on earth.

    Keeping the peace with our neighbours, living in harmony with the family, helping one another, handling quarrels – it’s all part of the social code that makes us a community.

    The sidra begins (Ex. 21) with the rules about setting up a legal system with judges who are wise enough to be capable of keeping us from destroying one another.

    The Jewish legal tradition expects the judges to be fluent in many languages and to understand the needs and nature of all the different human beings who make up the nation.

    One of the Jewish principles is to be wary of gentile tribunals which were often biased and partisan, kowtowing to the rich and powerful, failing in respect for the little person and showing no responsibility to the Divine Chief Justice. Note that in the Psalm for Tuesday (Psalm 82) God judges the judges.

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