Women and Children First: Mishpatim 2021

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: Have you ever needed to tell someone, “Do as I say, not as I do”? If so, did you feel hypocritical? Or did you reason that different people need different kinds of advice?

As God continues to reveal laws at Mount Sinai, the threats of anger and vengeance unseemly among people also appears to be Godly:

The Pitch: “You shall not ill-treat any widow or orphan. If you do mistreat them, I will heed their outcry as soon as they cry out to Me, and My anger shall blaze forth and I will put you to the sword, and your own wives shall become widows and your children orphans.” – Exodus 22:21-23

Swing #1: “Since widow and orphans have no father, husband, or master to protect them, and since, in theory anyway, they cannot care for themselves, they are the direct responsibility of no one. Thus, in terms of covenant law, they are treated as outsiders, of the same category as non-Israelites. Protecting them is up to God.” – Jennifer Wright Knust, Unprotected Texts: The Bible’s Surprising Contradictions About Sex and Desire

Swing #2: “[In the Mekhilta,] Rabbi Ishmael interprets this [phrase] to mean any kind of abuse, great or small. Thus according to Rabbi Ishmael’s reading, God promises, for any mistreatment, no matter how trivial, ‘I will kill you with the sword.’” – Chaya T. Halberstam, Law & Truth in Biblical and Rabbinic Literature

Swing #3: “As for Hillel, because of his great modesty, no man could make him angry, for he who holds himself back from anger will acquire the qualities of modesty and compassion, while from wrath comes the quality of cruelty.” – Orchot Tzadikim

Late-Inning Questions: Is God’s threats of violence understandable given God’s promise to protect the vulnerable? Or do they seem excessive for a religion that also preaches tolerance and patience? How can we tell the difference between justified and unjustified anger?

On-Deck at TBT: We’ve almost reached the month of Adar, which means Purim is coming! Check out this link for all that we’re doing for the holiday.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of anger and wrath, Earl Weaver, the legendary Baltimore Orioles manager, once said that his tombstone should read, “The sorest loser who ever lived.” I’d be indebted to anyone who could show a picture of his actual tombstone …

Shabbat Shalom!