Mishpatim - February 13, 2021

Torah Portion:
Mishpatim - February 13, 2021

Torah: Exodus 21:1-24:18
Haftarah: 2 Kings 12:1(11:21)-17(16)*
Portion Summary:
—Laws on slaves.
—Criminal laws on death penalties and lesser penalties.
—Laws on sexual misconduct and witchcraft.
—Treatment of the poor and honor of God.
—Treachery and injustices.
—Shabbat of the land and practice of the Shabbat.
—Commanded festivals.
—Commandments are given to the people; offerings are made and leaders ascend the mountain.
—Moses ascends the mountain to take down the commandments on stone.

Devotional by Janet Cothrell:
Getting Out of Debt
“When you buy a Hebrew servant, he is to serve for six years, and in the seventh, he is to go free, without payment. If he comes in by himself, he is to go out by himself. If he was married, then his wife will go out with him.” Exodus 21:2-3 (TLV)

The Hebrew word “eved” can mean either indentured servitude or to be in slavery. In those days, the purpose of these roles wasn’t how we see slavery or forced labor through our post-modern lens. It was often a way for an individual to get out of debt; a person would commit to a seven-year period of work and afterward the amount owed would be forgiven. The person would then be set free, but also be owed no further compensation. They would be responsible for caring for themselves and their futures.

This is not a preferred way of settling debts, even in ancient Israel. It was something that everyone was to try to avoid. The community would often come together and try to help the debtor by loaning them money or by providing employment, which would allow repayment without being beholden to a master. Those who were “sold” into slavery were usually either thieves or had habitual financial problems.

Financial hardship can happen to all of us for a variety of reasons. The issue being addressed here isn’t whether one is experiencing that hardship due to one-time events (catastrophes, lost or stolen income, family problems, etc.) but rather because of bad financial habits. If we continually find ourselves having difficulty paying our regular bills, we must be willing to embrace radical change in order to be free from our debts. We could choose to undergo financial planning or use debt reduction educational tools like Financial Peace University. Even just seeking out the advice of those who are wise with their money can help us greatly. Although this is one of those “hard changes” I wrote about a couple of weeks ago, it will be worth giving up the helplessness we feel when we are overwhelmed with debt.

Dear Lord,
I confess that I have been irresponsible with the resources You have given me. I wish to repent, but I need help. Guide me to the help I need, and give me strength to make the changes that are necessary to be a better steward of Your bounty to me.
In Yeshua’s name, amen.
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