Mazal Tov to his Honour Judge Michael Wise on his appointment as a Judge in the County Court

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Shabbat starts on Friday at 8:08pm and ends on Saturday at 9:07pm. The weekly Torah portion is Mishpatim.

Mincha at Ainsworth Property – GF/459 Collins is in recess for the summer and will resume in March if we get numbers and if not, after DST ends. Join the WhatsApp group for updates

Weekly sushi & shiur has resumed on Wed at 1.30pm at A-P GF/459 Collins – and via zoom. Current topic: adjoining property rights. Details here and on the WhatsApp group.

Thought of the Week with thanks to Asher Seifman.

In this week’s Torah reading of Mishpatim, we read about a thief who is caught stealing. If the thief has no assets, he is sold into servitude (Exodus 22:2).

One might query the proportionality and fairness of the punishment – is it fair for this thief to forfeit the benefits of a free lifestyle and become subservient to another, merely because he does not have the money to compensate the person from whom he stole? We do not see examples elsewhere in the Torah of a person’s body seemingly being treated as collateral to a financial obligation. This also appears at odds with how modern society would treat such a situation.  

The commentator Seforno offers some insight on this form of punishment: Without this punishment, most poor people would steal, for if [after stealing an item] they were to destroy or consume the stolen item, there would be no avenue for restitution given they have no assets, and “the world would fill with depravity” (Genesis 6:11) [as there would be nothing to deter poor people from stealing].

That is, this form of punishment is not aimed at addressing the grievance of the victim of theft; rather, it functions to protect civil order and the public interest (Rabbi Cooperman’s commentary on Seforno).

This should remind us of the deep and sacred wisdom that underlies all portions in the Torah. Concepts which appear unfair to us, are underpinned by a divine rationale and sound societal principles, which can often be discerned through considered analysis and the guidance of our sages. 

We are living in strange times; many in this generation have adopted foreign moral sensibilities from the influence of social and political media. Now, more than ever, as traditional notions of morality erode in the context of global conflict, we must refer back to the Torah as our point of exclusive didactic reference and not be distracted by other value systems which do not form part of our religious inheritance.

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