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    Codes & conventions – Mishpatim

    plaque 10 commandmentsParashat Mishpatim is central to the Torah code of civil law.

    Every culture needs its Mishpatim. Without a legal system, no culture can survive. That’s one of the ideas that Judaism has contributed to civilisation.

    Every group – even criminals – needs values, standards and conventions.

    Sporting clubs, musical societies, political parties, professional bodies, Masonic lodges, whatever example you choose – all have their accepted ways of doing things and their own ways of dealing with infractions.

    In this sense each group is almost like a religion.

    Max Otto (1876-1968) says this about science in his “Science and the Moral Life” (page 21): “Science has its sacred buildings, its mysteries, its esoteric language, its priests and acolytes. To get on the inside takes years of preparation, a ceremony of initiation, disciplined training…”

    The difference between these examples and Judaism is that whilst they arrive at their codes and conventions after trial and error, Judaism believes that the way to act comes from God.

    The Almighty is not only concerned with how we think and feel and how we relate to others (and to ourselves); He is concerned with how we manage our society – how we turn a community into “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (Ex. 19:6).

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