Shabbat Bulletin for

the Temple Sholom Community

8 February 2024 ~ 29 Shvat 5784

Parashat Mishpatim

Shalom, chaveirim - hello, friends - 

Want to know how to "do" Jewish? This week's Torah portion is a great resource! Whereas last week we read "the Big 10" mitzvot (commandments), this week we are receiving a whole host of commandments that range from agricultural to interpersonal.

Every year, in reviewing the text of the parasha, different lines stand out. I want to grab a few lines from Exodus 23 and explain.

Exodus 23:1-2 reads as follows, "Do not spread false reports. Do not help a guilty person by being a malicious witness. Do not follow the crowd in doing wrong. When you give testimony in a lawsuit, do not pervert justice by siding with the crowd." 

One man's "wrong-doing" may be another's justifiable action. After all, it would seem that raping women and beheading babies would be a clear and exact definition of "wrong-doing" and yet we have countless examples of various community leaders, politicians, university professors justifying the atrocities as legitimate "resistance" when it comes to Hamas' attacks against Israelis. And while some justify these actions and even call them "exhilarating" others deny the very existence of the atrocities despite evidence. The Torah expects us to know that murder and rape are forbidden (those are commandments by the way) and so not only are we to stay away, or encounter the consequence, we are not even to associate ourselves with those who do such things.

The very next verse grabs me as well. Exodus 23:3 reads as follows, "Do not show favoritism to a poor person in a lawsuit."

The Torah commands that justice be just. Fairness is commanded for someone regardless of their financial realities. Expectations must remain consistent for the integrity of the society and therefore we read in Leviticus 19:15, "Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly." Neither the rich nor the poor get to exploit the justice system.

It is tempting to say, "As Jews, we believe ..." but the truth is, it's easier to go with "As Jews, we do ..." And yes, there are a host of varieties within that "doing" and subsequently a host of beliefs. But it is in the actual living of Judaism that we find the greatest meaning and understanding.

After all, it is toward the end of the parasha where we get the significant line: "We will do and we will hear/understand, na'aseh v'nishma ~ נעשה ונשמע." That line reminds us that sometimes we will act without full knowledge, based on faith. In the doing, we come to understand and appreciate, seeking further definition and appreciation. Our ancestors received Torah unaware of all of its implications but they had faith in its words. So may we and so may we find ways to strengthen our doing and deepen our understanding.

Shabbat shalom,

Rabbi Mark Cohn

Recommended Resources from the Rabbi's Desk(top) for the weekend ...

Constant and important updates, podcasts, blogs, and articles from Times of Israel, Tablet Magazine, and Sapir Journal.


"The Other Side of the Rain" by Haviva Ner-David in The Free Press. A "post-denominational inter-spiritual rabbi, mikveh specialist, spiritual counselor, author" Ner-David addresses the realities of death and life in Israel today from her Kibbutz in the northern part of Israel.

"Fighting antisemitism, bridge-building at the core of 'teach-in' at Temple Israel of Hollywood." An important look in eJewish Philanthropy at how directed donating and finding moderate partners can create a positive future.

"Pro-Israel students, we applaud you for standing strong," by Debra Messing and Hen Mazzig in The Jewish Journal.


"Israel at War: The Politics of Fantasy," from Rabbi Donniel Hartman & Yossi Klein Halevi of the Shalom Hartman Institute on For Heaven's Sake.

"The Cost of Starting a (losing) war." Dr. Einat Wilf discusses with Dan Senor on Call Me Back. Each time a war or wave of terror is launched, and Israel perseveres, the Palestinian leadership tries to dictate the terms of what comes next, as though they were the victors in this defensive war, rather than the aggressors and the defeated. Why? And will this time be any different?

"Lunch & Learn" with Rabbi Mark Cohn

NOON - 1:00 PM

Bring a friend! Bring lunch if you want (dairy only - no meat)!

Our exploration of Jewish Priorities, (edited by David Hazony) continues!!


February 14*, 20, 27


February 14, Hen Mazzig's essay: "An End to Ashkenormativity: Let's put bagels and lox behind us."

February 20, Izabella Tabarovsky's essay: "How to beat the New Antisemitism: It's Not about Human Rights. It's about Soviet Propoganda."



Services & Study

Kabbalat Shabbat on Friday Evenings 6:30PM

VIA ZOOM - this week!

February 9, 23


Meeting ID: 876 2982 2282

Passcode: shabbat


February 16

March 1, 15, 29


Shabbat Morning Torah Study - 9:30am


February 10, 17, 24