There are a lot of commandments in this weeks parsha. Some of them are wonderful moral laws. Some made a lot of sense at the time but are not so apt today. A few seem downright odd to us.
The parsha starts on the high and idealistic note of justice: “You are not to favor the poor”. That sounds awful, but the very next sentence is “You are not to show favoritism to the great.” In other words, treat all people equally before the law.
Compare the Torah’s stress on everyone being equal with this description of Ancient Rome: “The Roman legal system recognized or created a variety of inequalities. Younger children had fewer rights. The blind and the deaf were restricted, as were the ‘insane.’” A freed slave’s estate went to his former owner when he died. In early Rome you had to be a nobleman to serve on a jury.
So, on the one hand, a society that stressed treating all equally before the law (ancient Israel), on the other, a society with a system of laws that were different for different members of their society (Ancient Rome.)
But right after this glorious statement of justice, we get a law saying you can’t mate animals of two kinds (which is how we get mules today.) Then we’re told not to wear something made out of a cotton and linen blend! Some laws make sense, some – not so much!
Next, we have witchcraft and divination. Have you ever hung around with a witch? Have you ever had your fortune told?
Well don’t. It’s forbidden. You’re not allowed to seek out ghosts either.
Here’s a good commandment: Stand up to honor the elderly. Don’t insult your parents.
Here’s another good one: when there’s a stranger living in your land, be “loving” to him, as you would yourself. Why? Because we were strangers in Egypt.
Getting back to justice, the Torah is dead set on having honest weights, from an ephah (a bushel) to a hin (1/6th of that). In other words, don’t cheat somebody by selling him less than you say you’re selling him. The Torah specifically refers to false weights as a “corruption in justice.”
“You are to be holy to me, says God, for I am holy. I have separated you from other peoples to be mine.”
Food for Thought
Why do you think the Torah specifically mentions ghosts, witches and fortunetellers?Add block