Personal Injury – Parshat Mishpatim 5779



Since becoming a parent I have learned that I need to look at every situation with my children through multiple lenses. When they’re hurt it’s easy to judge the physical injury. I can look for a bruise or a scrape, clean it off, apply kisses and a bandage (usually My Little Pony), and physically they’re on their way to healing. But that’s just a surface cure. If they fall and hurt themselves on the playground, that might result in a fear of the monkey bars for a while. I might have to offer extra guidance and support on the monkey bars, even if they had successfully conquered them prior to the fall. Or if they fell in front of their friends, they might be shy or embarrassed and need some time to recover their pride. There are so many situational layers in everyday life, and sometimes it’s hard to see them all.

This week we read Parshat Mishpatim, the middle section of text in Sefer Shemot, the Book of Exodus. The Israelites are on their way out of Egypt to Israel. They have begun to set up their own system of laws and rules, beginning last week with the Ten Commandments. This week, Parshat Mishpatim focuses on interpersonal laws with regard to business. The main idea of this section of text is that we have the obligation to treat each other in business and in relationships as complete, equal human beings.

The laws about injuries inflicted person to person are numerous. Chapter 21, verse 19 teaches that the perpetrator of an injury is required to pay for the treatment as well as the idleness that results. The Mishnah in tractate Moed Katan teaches us that a person who injures another is liable for five types of restitution: for the injury itself, for pain, for medical expenses, for absence from work, and for humiliation and mental anguish. Now that’s what you might call comprehensive health coverage. Life is complex, and the whole person must be taken into account as we work towards healing. In other words, physical healing is only the beginning of how we can support and guide one another through the challenges we face.

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