This week's parsha
Unless otherwise noted, "This week's Parsha" comprises articles taken from contributors to the Chabad.org website. We show the original author's name here, so that proper attribution is given. For the sake of brevity, footnotes cited in the original author's writings are omitted from this website. If you need to see the citations, please refer to the original articles on the Chabad.org website.
First in Yitro there were the aseret hadibrot, the “ten utterances” or general principles. Now in Mishpatim come the details. Here is how they begin:
If you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve you for six years. But in the seventh year, he shall go free, without paying anything . . . But if the servant declares, ‘I love my master and my wife and children and do not want to go free,’ then his master must take him before the judges. He shall take him to the door or the doorpost and pierce his ear with an awl. Then he will be his servant for life.
There is an obvious question. Why begin here? There are 613 commandments in the Torah. Why does Mishpatim, the first law code, begin where it does?
Kingdom of Priests
Scientists have claimed that the Jewish priests, the Cohanim, are distinguished from other Jews by a particular gene transmitted through the male line. This distinction applies both to Ashkenazim (western Jews) and Sefardim (eastern Jews).
According to the Torah, all Cohanim are descended from one man: Aaron, the brother of Moses. Further, while any human being can convert to Judaism, no one can convert to become a Cohen. These points help to substantiate the claim that Cohanim are actually genetically distinguished from other Jews.
Two Loaves of Manna
Every Shabbat table boasts a goblet of wine and two loaves of bread -- challah. Why do we have two loaves? Our Parshah teaches that, in the desert, G‑d gave our ancestors a daily portion of manna. On Friday He gave them two portions, one for Friday and the other for Shabbat. We mark this miracle by placing two loaves of bread on our Shabbat table.