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Parshat Mishpatim - Questions for Self Study

Questions for the Shabbat Table
Questions for Shiur Preparation
Questions on Parshanut

Part I - Questions for the 'Shabbat Table'

The Progression of Mitzvot in Chumash
1. As you may have noticed, not all of the mitzvot in Chumash are given at the same time. Instead, there are different groups of mitzvot, some in Sefer Shmot, some in Vayikra, etc.
Note that the first set of mitzvot is the Ten Commandments. The next set of mitzvot is Parshat Mishpatim. Only afterward do we find other laws, e.g. Mishkan, korbanot, etc.
After reviewing the general topics of the various laws in Parshat Mishpatim, attempt to suggest a reason why specifically this set of laws are given at this time [i.e. after the Ten Commandments].

2. As you study the overall progression of laws in Parshat Mishpatim, see if you can identify any sort of 'parallel' to the Ten Commandments.
If so, can you find a progression?
Relate your answer to the question above.
[Note Rashi on 24:12!]
Attempt to relate this to the concept of "avot" & "toladot".

3. As your study the laws of damages in chapter 21, see if you can identify a pattern that explains their order. Relate to both the type of cases, as well as to the punishments.

For God and/or for Society
As you probably noticed, most of the mitzvot in Parshat Mishpatim are "bein adam l'chaveiro". Note how 23:10-19 appear to 'break' this pattern, as they are primarily "bein adam la'makom".
Can you suggest a logical reason for this progression? Is the a certain aspect of "bein adam la'chaveiro" in the mitzvot of 23:10-19 as well? If so, explain what that is. [Note the reason given for shabbat & shmita! Compare this to other reasons for these mitzvot found elsewhere in Chumash.]

What Happened to Chur?
In 24:14, Moshe Rabeinu leaves instructions to the elders concerning WHO they should turn to should any problems arise while he is gone. Attempt to relate this pasuk to the famous Midrash that Chur was killed when he refused Bnei Yisrael's request to make an "egel"?
[Would you consider this pasuk the 'source' for this Midrash?]

Part II - Questions for Preparation (for weekly shiur)

A. Identifying the units od Ma'amad Har Sinai
1. Recall how chapters 19->24 form a distinct unit - which we refer to as Ma'amad Har Sinai. Carefully review the events that take place within this unit, i.e. from the time that Bnei Yisrael arrive at Har Sinai (see 19:1) until Moshe Rabeinu ascends Har Sinai to receive the "luchot" (at the end of Parshat Mishpatim/ see 24:12-18). Note as well how 20:19 introduces a very lengthy unit (the "ko tomar" unit), which includes a series of mitzvot.
Make a list of each of the major units and topics with this entire Ma'amad Har Sinai section, and attempt to organize it into an outline. [Carefully define the headers for each sub-section.]
Make sure that you can follow the flow of events.
Attempt to determine where the topics flow in a logical manner, and where they may be some 'sticky' points.

2. Parshat Mishpatim includes a lengthy list of mitzvot. Based on your outline, when were these mitzvot given to Moshe Rabeinu, and when did Moshe teach them to Bnei Yisrael?
As you answer this question, answer the following questions as well:

    a) Where do the set of laws that begins with "v'eylah ha'Mishpatim" end?
    b) Are these "misphatim" part of a larger set of laws? If so identify this 'larger set'. i.e. where does it begin and end, etc.
Is there any time in Chumash when a set of mitzvot are presented which are not first introduced by either "va'yomer Hashem el..." or "va'ydaber Hashem el..." or a similar type of introduction. If not, explain why not. If yes, bring an example. Does Parshat Misphatim have such an introduction? If so, where?
Based on your answer, where does the set of mitzvot which include "v'ayleh ha'mishpatim" really begin?!
Where does this unit end?
[In other words, how does the first pasuk of Parshat Mishpatim (21:1) connect to the last set of psukim in Parshat Yitro (20:19-23)?]
Does this unit contain only mitzvot? If not, what else is included? Can you explain why?
Are the mitzvot in this unit only "mishpatim"? Is there a difference between the word "mishpat" and "mitzvah"?
Based on this parsha, attempt to define a "mishpat".
Who is responsible to execute these "mishpatim"?

3. Does the Torah ever tell us when Moshe told the mitzvot in Parshat Mishpatim to Bnei Yisrael?
If so, where and why?
[In your answer, relate to 24:2-8.]

4. In 20:19, God commands Moshe to tell Bnei Yisrael several mitzvot.
How does this commandment relate to 20:15-18?
Relate also to Devarim 5:20-28.
[Take into consideration the machloket Ramban/Ibn Ezra concerning when 20:15-18 took place!]

B. Brit Na'asseh V'Nishma - Before or After
5. Read 24:1-11 carefully.
In your opinion, when does this story take place (before or after Matan Torah)?
What in this account is similar to perek 19?
[Who are the "kohanim" in each account?]
Can you relate 24:3 to 20:19, or possibly to 19:8?
Can you relate 24:2 to 20:18?
Can you relate 24:1,9-10 to 19:20-24?
See the machloket Rashi/Ramban (24:1) concerning when this parsha takes place.

6. See Rashbam on 24:1. How does he relate to the above questions?
See also Ibn Ezra, Sforno, and Chizkuni on this pasuk.

7. Based on the machloket Rashi/Ramban on 24:1, what do "divrei Hashem" and "ha'mishpatim" (in 24:3-4) refer to?
(See mforshim on these psukim after you work it out yourself!)
Are the "divrei Hashem" which are 'written down' (24:4) the same "divrei Hashem" that Moshe conveyed to them in 24:3?

8. In your opinion, what is the purpose of the "brit" in 24:3-8?
In what way is 24:9-11 connected to this "brit?"
In what way is 24:12-13 connected to this "brit?"

C. A Significant Progression
9. Scan the mitzvot from 20:20 until 23:33 [note that this constitutes a complete unit] and attempt to organize them in an outline.
Can you detect any sort of a logical progression or any special order, or do the mitzvot appear to be random?
In your answer, relate to the types of mitzvot, such as:

    a) "Bein adam l'chaveiro" / "bein adam la'makom";
    b) Laws written in the 'causative' style (if... then...) and/or 'absolute' style (do.../ don't...);
    c) Laws that "beit din" (a jewish court) must enforce;
    d) Laws that "beit din" does not or cannot enforce;
    e) Psukim that are not laws (explain what they are!)
10. Read 23:20-33 carefully, especially 23:20-23!
Is this still part of the unit which began in 20:19?
Explain your answer.
Do these psukim constitute a promise or a 'deal' of sorts? If so, who is it between?
How do these psukim relate to the primary themes of Sefer Breishit and Sefer Shmot, i.e. to the purpose of Yetziat Mitzrayim?

Now that you've prepared, go to the shiur.

Part III - Parshanut

1. Review once again 24:1-11. How does this parshia relate to the unit which was discussed above (i.e. 20:19->23:33)?
[Re: the questions which follow, first try to answer them on your own. Afterward see the commentators, especially Ramban, Ibn Ezra, Rashi, Rashbam, Sforno & Chizkuni.]

24:1 - What is difficult about this pasuk?
Who is speaking to Moshe?
Where is Moshe speaking when this is told to him?
Does Moshe fulfill this commandment immediately?
Where does Chumash tell us when it was fulfilled? What is the purpose of this commandment?

24:2 - Does 24:2 contradict 24:1?
In your opinion, is 24:2 an additional instruction to Moshe (i.e. in addition to the instruction in 24:1) or it is a narrative that explains what Moshe did after God's command in 24:1.
How do 24:1-2 relate to 24:9 and 24:12?
Could these psukim relate as well to 20:18?

24:3 - How does this pasuk relate to 20:19?
What does "va'yavo Moshe" mean? Where was he coming from? What are "divrei Hashem" and the "mishpatim"?
See Ramban and Rashi!

24:4-6 - What specifically do you think is being written down in 24:4? How does this relate to the "sefer ha'brit"? described in 24:7?
How do these psukim relate to 20:21!

24:7 - Should Bnei Yisrael's reply of "na'asse v'nishma"
relate to the content of what is written in this "sefer ha'brit"? If so, how does it?
[If "sefer ha'brit" includes 23:20-22, how would that help you answer this question!]

24:8 - What is the significance of this ceremony?

24:9-10 How does this relate to 24:1? In your opinion, what is the purpose of this joint "aliyah" up the mountain?

24:11 - Was it proper or improper for this group to 'see God'?
See the two different approaches suggested by the commentators.

24:12 - What is the purpose of this "aliyah" of Moshe to Har Sinai? According to pshat, what is the "torah" & and what is the "mitzvah"?
What has Hashem 'written' for Moshe, only the "luchot", or also the torah & mitzvah?

24:16 - When did these six days transpire?
In other words, is the day on which Moshe ascends to receive the "luchot" the first of these six days, or does he ascend on the seventh day and enter the "anan" immediately?
[See mforshim! How does this relate to our calculation of the date of Matan Torah?]

2. See Rashi and Ibn Ezra on 21:1 and Rashbam and Sforno 24:1.
Then, review Rashi and Ramban on 24:1-7.
What is the reason for this major "machloket" between them?

3. Read 24:12.
In your opinion, what specifically do "torah" and "mitzvah" in this pasuk refer to?
Note the phrase "asher katavti" ["that I wrote"]. What does this phrase relate to - the "luchot ha'even," or also the "torah" and "mitzvah?"

Now, read Ramban very carefully.
How does he answer the above questions [i.e. how does he explain this pasuk]?
How does Ramban understand Rashi?
Why does Ramban disagree with Ibn Ezra.
[See Ibn Ezra inside; what is his main point?]
Why does Ramban conclude with "al daat Raboteinu" concerning when the Torah was first given!?

Now, see Seforno.
How does he answer the above questions?
How is his approach different than Ramban's?

Finally see Ibn Ezra, "yeish omrim...," concerning "torah sh'bktav" and "torah sh'baal peh."
What is the significance of this Midrash?
Would you consider this "pshat" or "drash"?