Mishpatim – Breaking the Law

Mishpatim is about civil and criminal law. Most societies promulgate laws for governing law and order. These are abided by through the concept of a social contract. Torah law is beyond contract, and therefore cannot be rationalised out of existence. It is in sync with the template of creation. Notes: • Our Parsha, Mishpatim, discusses civil and criminal law. Everyone will agree that society must be regulated by the rule of law. Until it offends our pet peeves or personal sensibilities. Then one faces the spectre of demonstrations, lawlessness, and anti-social behaviour. • Instituting a legal system is a universal requirement and hence it is one of the Noachide Laws that forms the basis of a just and moral society. • Commonly society abides by its legal system through a ‘social contract’ between the government and the people. But contracts can be broken and torn up. Contracts are man-made and therefore products of the sensibilities of the people of the time. • That is why Noachide laws that seem totally logical, universally reasonable, and historically repeated, are also legislated in the Torah – seemingly redundantly as they already exist anyways in many societies. But they are enshrined as Torah for the very reason that human beings can always rationalise them out of existence. Nazism rationalised mass murder by legislating that Jews were vermin and to be eradicated ‘to protect German society’. Rationalization can always undo laws that safeguard. • Torah law is accorded the status of permanency with the imprimatur of the Creator. No human rationalization can undo them. That is why seemingly reasonable laws are in the Torah, like not to steal or murder – to prevent the contract being torn up at the whim of a misguided people. • Torah law is not a contract. It is a Divine template, totally in sync with the nature of creation.