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    Codes & customs – Mishpatim

    Parashat Mishpatim focusses on the Jewish system of law.

    The basis of this system is the Revelation at Mount Sinai which we read last week. The letter vav (“and”) indicates that just as the Ten Commandments were given at Sinai, so were the laws of Parashat Mishpatim (Rashi on Ex. 21:1).

    The written laws are not, however, the only expression of Jewish law. There are details which were worked out by the rabbis, plus the large body of minhagim (customs) which arise from what the people do.

    Abraham Chill, in his book entitled “The Minhagim” (1980), explains that sometimes the original basis of a Jewish practice is not certain, and customary usage expresses “deeply felt and authentic Jewish values”.

    Custom is particularly evident in rites of passage. The way we carry out the happy and sad events in the lifetime of a Jew often varies from place to place, and that is where we take particular note of community practice.

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