Mishpatim 5774

Posted on February 24, 2014


By Gila Fridkis

Every child, teenager and adult has a prized possession, something they wouldn’t trade for the world, something MasterCard would call “priceless”. In this week’s Torah portion, Mishpatim, the Israelites are given 53 of 613 mitzvot. The portion begins with the instructions for slaves, then deeds with what we would call capitol punishment consequences, and continues on with detailed rules for livestock. We are told in this portion “When a man steals an ox or a sheep, and slaughters it or sells it, he shall pay five oxen for the ox, and four sheep for the sheep.” But what if the oxen that was stolen was a prized possession or even an owner’s only friend. Now, we have a friendless and oxenless person roaming the world, and what is commanded that he gets in return is five more oxen that he doesn’t know… Stranger danger! Although this is a generous gesture that the Torah requires to be equivalent with what the owner lost, it is not. These extra animals amount to more responsibility, take up more room in the pasture and produce more brown circles. In addition, these five together will never equivelate to the owner’s first oxen, for he was priceless. In this parasha, we also hear “life for a life, eye for an eye, tooth for a tooth, hand for a hand, foot for a foot…” etc. Although this fits into other laws about equivalence, is this spiritually equal? Is one hand the same as another? Maybe one is softer, or has weird nails. The point is, that although physical appearances may be the same, an internal connection between the owner and the object is not.

The same can be said for USYers. Each person’s individual experiences in this organization are unique and specific to that individual. Each convention, each program, each conversation one USYer has with another has the potential to mean the world to all those involved, to become priceless.