The Torah reading today, Shevat 24, 5771 (January 29 2011) in the synagogue is called Mishpatim Exod. 21:1-24:18.

Mishpatim means “rules” or “ordinances”. Parashat Mishpatim is sometimes called Sefer HaBrit (“the Book of the Covenant”). It contains 53 of the 613 mitzvot (commandments) found in the Torah.

I was taken by Exodus 24:7 “ְו ִנ ְׁש ָמע” This is a verb which can be to hear, listen, obey. Obedience often has a negative press – it has been removed from marriage vows. But even the English word “obey” is Latin roots: ob “to” and audire “listen, hear” (cf. audience). The connection between obeying and listening appears closer in other languages. Obeying and listening deeply are connected. The Rule of Benedict begins, “Listen”. The Shema begins with the same verb as in Exodus 24:7: “Hear, O Israel…” (ְׁש ַמע Deut 6:4).

The system of reading the Bible in three years on Saturdays reads part of the Sabbath reading each of the three years. You can find today’s portion and reflection here.

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