Alt Right Torah: Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1–24:18)

This week’s Torah portion follows the giving of the Ten Commandments. We are live with Leanne.

* Growing up as a Protestant, I heard all the time from clergy about the Bible teaches this and that, and almost none of these clergy were fluent in Hebrew. If you take the Bible as your guide book, you might want to make sure your guides to the Bible are fluent in the languages of the Bible.

* God is still talking to Moses as the portion begins, “And if you buy a Hebrew slave.”

When the Torah says, “If…”, it is usually not happy with your choice. As in, “If you lust for meat.”

The Torah is not outraged by slavery. It is outraged by Jews being slaves to goyim.

A Jew can become a slave if he is a pauper, a debtor or a criminal. This strikes me as a more moral system than allowing people to take welfare or declare bankruptcy or commit crimes without repayment.

A slave can always run away and he can’t be forcefully returned to his master, so you better treat your slaves well.

“Slave” is a problematic translation because the Hebrew word “eved” also means “servant” or “bondsman.” Moshe is described as an “eved” of God. Was Moshe God’s slave?

A lot of Jews are shocked when I point out that Judaism is a system of dual morality — there’s one morality for how you treat your fellow Jew and another morality for how you treat everyone else. WASPs, on the other hand, have a universal morality. There’s one moral standard for how you treat everyone. The first verse of this week’s Torah portion outlines the differences in how you treat a Hebrew slave vs a gentile slave.

* There is no separate realm of religion in Torah. Torah covers everything. So how do Orthodox Jews deal with falling short of the Torah’s commands? They have much less guilt about it than Christians. Living in an Orthodox community, they will try to keep their sins quiet. They accept that they fall short of the mark.

If Torah covers all of life, including business dealings, then you might expect Orthodox Jews to be more honest and upright than most people. If they are not, whose fault is it? Torah’s or their’s?

Artscroll says that “justice in monetary affairs is a prerequisite to Israel’s national security.” Isaiah 1:27: “Zion will be redeemed through justice, and its captives through righteousness.”

* Ex. 21:16. You can’t kidnap people and sell them into slavery.

* Ex. 21:18. If you fight with a guy and hurt him, you have to pay his medical bills and lost wages.

* If you kill your own slave, you are put to death for murder. If you maim your slave or knock out a tooth, your slave is set free.

* Ex. 21:23. Abortion is not murder.

* I’m not sure how I think about the morality of slavery. The Torah accepts it, so why should I get haughty about it? So long as the slave is free to run away and cannot be forcibly returned to his master, then I don’t think I have a problem with it.

* A Jewish woman (as opposed to a child) can’t become a slave for reasons of sexual morality.

* Did you watch the Super Bowl?

* Exodus 23:25: God says, “I will remove illness from your midst.” Has this ever happened?


About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been followed by the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
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