This You Can Do!
Updated: Feb 9, 2021
Parshat Mishpatim begins by talking about slavery and then progresses to list a code of laws to govern ethical behavior. Parshat Mishpatim, and its wide ranging presentation of laws, requires us to be fair to the underdog, to be honest in business dealings and foremost to remember that once we were slaves and to treat others with dignity and respect.
I like to think about Parshat Mishpatim as a constant call to all of us to get beyond the things that we must do in order to create that yet unfinished society, to the things that we potentially can do to continue the fight for fairness, for freedom and for justice. We all have the potential to do more to continue the work of Parshat Mishpatim, to build for justice, for equality and fair treatment. It is the charge to ordinary people to rise and continue the unfinished work for justice.
This You Can Do!
Yes, you can!
You can work against injustice!
You, not your mother or your father
You can work to be fair!
You, in steps small or large
can work to be just.
You, in your humanness,
You, with your faults and imperfections!
You can make a change,
Small or large
for justice is not stagnant,
it needs to be nourished.
You can lift up your eyes!
See past the heavens to humanity!
You can lift up others
with grace and with power
You, and not your sister or your brother.
It's up to you,
clear headed and determined
Your desire to do good
Your ability to change intention to action.
You can make change,
today and tomorrow and
the tomorrows after that.
You can set things right!
You can see the potential!
You can see cracks
and fill them with justice for all!
You can continue the building
that began so many years ago.
You can be fair!
You can read between the lines
and you can inspire!
You, just you, can make this difference.
You, in this hour, on this day.
You see the world clearly!
You can right the wrongs!
You can be fair!
You can make change!
You are the change!
Today, not tomorrow.
All of your yesterdays point to now.
All our nows point to a future
paved with justice for all.
A time of equity, a time of equality.
The job is ancient and never finished.
You stand on the shoulders of giants!
You stand on the shoulders of the ordinary
who see the potential for change,
who work to right wrongs.
You and not an angel!
You have God in your soul!
You have fire in your heart!
You have passion in your veins!
You have your convictions!
You hear the call!
You answer now!
Your answer lifts you higher!
Your answer lifts others higher!
Your call is justice!
There is no end to what you can do!
Hear the blowing of the horns!
Hear the ringing of the bells!
Hear the sound of freedom!
You are the ringer of the bell!
You are part of the chorus of liberty!
You are part of the quilt of history!
You and you and you!
Only you can bring change!
Your actions bring justice!
The following is a list of some of the laws that are introduced in Parshat Mishpatim. The list is far from exhaustive. I hope you will go and read this parsha as there is a lot to learn from it.
When a man lets his livestock loose to graze in another’s land, and so allows a field or a vineyard to be grazed bare, he must make restitution for the impairment of that field or vineyard. Exodus 22:4
You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. Exodus 22:21
If you take your neighbor’s garment in pledge, you must return it to him before the sun sets; Exodus 22:25
You must not carry false rumors; you shall not join hands with the guilty to act as a malicious witness: Exodus 23:1
You shall not subvert the rights of your needy in their disputes. Exodus 23:7
You shall not oppress a stranger, for you know the feelings of the stranger, having yourselves been strangers in the land of Egypt. Exodus 23:9
All translations are from Sefaria