Mishpatim (Exodus 21:1-24:8)

I have been home sick for the past few days, so I am using comments from last year and jokes from various years.  Some of the joke links may be dead.

Where do laws come from?

My work group was recently absorbed by the Legal Department, so I am even more immersed in laws and the ways of lawyers than before.  That makes three family members  – two sisters and me – working in the proximity of attorneys without actually being one.  My father, of blessed memory, thought lawyers were the scum of the earth, so I expect he is now spinning in his grave.  Anyhow –

Laws give rise to other laws because, no matter how carefully they’re worded, words are inherently inexact; thus, there will always arise some question of interpretation.  Also, situations unanticipated by existing laws result in still more laws, which one hopes will be consistent with existing law, unless there’s a good reason for existing law to be overturned (“good reason” TBD).  Last week we read about the giving of the Ten Commandments.  Wasn’t that enough law? Obviously not, if you look at this week’s portion, Mishpatim (Rules), which contains a code of behavior between human and human, human and animal, and human and the Lord.  It is intended not just for wanderers in the wilderness but residents in the Promised Land.  Part of Mishpatim reads like a fleshing out of specific commandments.  For example, the two-word commandment “Lo tignov” (you will not steal) is explicated in 8 verses (22:1-8). And “Honor your father and your mother” turns up in 21:15 and 17: 15 He who strikes his father or his mother shall be put to death.” “17 He who insults his father or his mother shall be put to death.”  Various rules resemble current law (e.g., homicide is a capital offense if it’s premeditated, not if it’s accidental) or moral values (take care of the needy, return lost items, don’t spread rumors).  Others are more bound to ancient societies (like what to do when your slave doesn’t want to be freed and forcing a virgin’s rapist to marry her).  Chapter 21 also includes the commonly misinterpreted verses, 23 …the penalty shall be life for life, 24 eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot, 25 burn for burn, wound for wound, bruise for bruise.”  This is ancient legalese for “appropriate compensation,” not maiming.

How do the Israelites react to this litany?  Ch. 24: 7-8 “And they said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will faithfully do!” 8 Moses took the blood and dashed it on the people and said, “This is the blood of the covenant that the Lord now makes with you concerning all these commands.”  I’m sure the blood impressed them, but I’m equally sure that all they were agreeing to obey didn’t really sink in, nor  how badly things would go if they didn’t.  At this point, the Lord appears to Moses, Aaron, Aaron’s sons Nadab and Abihu, and 70 elders, after which Moses is commanded to go up the mountain to transcribe the law onto stone tablets.  Confident that Aaron and Hur can take care of the people for 40 days, Moses leaves.  What happens after that we’ll read about in a few weeks.

Shabbat shalom,
Sent out in 2000

                                   A REJECTION LETTER FROM THE TOOTH FAIRY                                                                        

                         Dear _________________ :

                         Thank you for leaving [ ] tooth/teeth under your pillow last night.
                         While we make every attempt to leave a monetary reward in the case of lost or stolen children’s teeth,
                         we were unable to process your request for the following reason(s) indicated below
                         ( ) the tooth could not be found
                         ( ) it was not a human tooth
                         ( ) we do not think that pieces of chicken bone are very funny
                         ( ) we were unable to approach the tooth due to excessive odor
                         ( ) the tooth has previously been redeemed for cash
                         ( ) the tooth did not originally belong to you
                         ( ) the tooth fairy does not process fingernails
                         ( ) your request has been forwarded to the Nerve Ending Fairy for appropriate action
                         ( ) you were overheard to state that you do not believe in the tooth fairy
                         ( ) you are age 12 or older at the time your request was received
                         ( ) the tooth is still in your mouth
                         ( ) the tooth was guarded by a vicious fairy-eating dog at the time of our visit
                         ( ) no night light was on at the time of our visit
                         ( ) the snacks provided for the tooth fairy were not satisfactory, or were missing
                         ( ) we discovered evidence of unsafe tooth extraction as follows:

                                  [ ] string
                                 [ ] pliers
                                 [ ] gunpowder
                                        [ ] hammer marks
                                 [ ] chisel
                                 [ ] part of skull attached to tooth
                                 [ ] no dental care

                         ( ) other:

                         Thank you for your request, and we look forward to serving you in the future.


                         The Tooth Fairy

Dog Property Rules (sent out in 2004)

1. If I like it, it’s mine.
2. If its in my mouth, it’s mine.
3. If I can take it from you, it’s mine.
4. If I had it a little while ago, it’s mine.
5. If I’m chewing something up, all the pieces are mine.
6. If its mine, it must never appear to be yours anyway.
7. If it just looks like mine, it’s mine.
8. If I saw it first, it’s mine.
9. If you are playing with something and you put it down, it automatically becomes mine.
10. If its broken, it’s yours.
(You know, there’s a very similar set of rules for toddlers…)
http://www.jokester.com/cj/clean-shorties3.html (sent out in 2005)

During break time at obedience school, two dogs were talking. One said to the other…”The thing I hate about obedience school is you learn ALL this stuff you’ll never use in the real world.

Dumb Laws [selected]  (Sent out in 2005)

These dumb laws have been gathered from newsgroups, past archives of government statutes, old county records, and visitors to the site. They are listed here only for your personal humorous enjoyment.  We make no assertion or validation that these laws were ever real laws anywhere [Typical lawyerly weasel words. IGP comments are  below in brackets.]

Alabama        It is illegal for a driver to be blindfolded while operating a vehicle.
·                It is illegal to wear a fake moustache that causes laughter in church. [but is it OK in a synagogue or mosque?]

Alaska                Moose may not be viewed from an airplane. [I guess it’s a right to privacy thing?]
·                It is considered an offense to push a live moose out of a moving airplane.        

California        No vehicle without a driver may exceed 60 miles per hour.
·                Nobody is allowed to ride a bicycle in a swimming pool.

Connecticut        In order for a pickle to officially be considered a pickle, it must bounce twice. [I wonder if Pennsylvania had a similar law for Jell-O cubes in school cafeterias?]
·                You may not educate domestic cats or dogs.

Delaware        It is illegal to fly over any body of water, unless one is carrying sufficient supplies of food and drink.

Georgia        It is illegal for a chicken to cross the road. [Even to get to the other…never mind.]
·                Though it is illegal to spit from a car or bus, citizens may spit from a truck. [Of course.]

Hawaii                Coins are not allowed to be placed in one’s eyes when driving. [They’re only allowed if you’re a dead Roman.  But then you shouldn’t be driving.]

Illinois                You may be convicted of a Class 4 felony offense, punishable by up to three years in state prison, for the crime of  “eavesdropping” on your own conversation. [How do you…never mind.]
Indiana                You are not allowed to carry a cocktail from the bar to a table. The waiter or waitress has to do it. [Darn unions.]
·                Drinks on the house are illegal. [Darn.]
Iowa                 A man with a mustache may never kiss a woman in public.

Kentucky        It is illegal to fish with a bow and arrow in Kentucky. [Also kinda dumb.]
·                It’s illegal to fish in the Ohio River in Kentucky without an Indiana Fishing License.

Louisiana        It is illegal to rob a bank and then shoot at the bank teller with a water pistol. [But a real gun’s OK.]
Maine                You may not step out of a plane in flight.
Maryland        It’s illegal to take a lion to the movies without a leash.
Minnesota        All men driving motorcycles must wear shirts. [Darn.]

Nebraska        It is illegal to go whale fishing. [There are whales in Nebraska?]

New Hampshire You cannot sell the clothes you are wearing to pay off a gambling debt. [See also Ex. 22:25-26 in this week’s portion.]
New York         While riding in an elevator, one must talk to no one, and fold his hands while looking toward the door. [Quite reasonable for NY, at least NYC]
North Carolina Fights between cats and dogs are prohibited. [Yeah, right.]        

North Dakota        Beer and pretzels can’t be served at the same time in any bar or restaurant. [WHAT?]
·                It is legal to shoot an Indian on horseback, provided you are in a covered wagon.

Ohio                It is illegal to fish for whales on Sunday. [There are whales in Ohio?]
·                You cannot eat a doughnut and walk backwards on a city street. [Yes I can.]
Oklahoma        Dogs must have a permit signed by the mayor in order to congregate in groups of three or more on private property.
Oregon        It’s against the law for a wedding ceremony to be performed at a skating rink.
·                Ministers are forbidden from eating garlic or onions before delivering a sermon. [But it’s OK for rabbis, priests and imams?]

Pennsylvania·        You may not sing in the bathtub.        
·                        All fire hydrants must be checked one hour before all fires. [Isn’t that kind of like, “Repent the day before your death”?]

Tennessee                You can’t shoot any game other than whales from a moving automobile. [There are whales in Tennessee?]
Texas                You can be legally married by publicly introducing a person as your husband or wife 3 times. [Only in Texas…]
·                It is illegal to drive without windshield wipers. You don’t need a windshield, but you must have the wipers. [Ditto]
Utah                Birds have the right of way on all highways.
·                It is considered an offense to hunt whales. [There are whales in Utah?]
Vermont        At one time it was illegal to tie a giraffe to a telephone pole. [But now it’s OK.]
·                Women must obtain written permission from their husbands to wear false teeth.

Wyoming        You may not take a picture of a rabbit during the month of June. [You’ve got to wonder what the impetus was for some of these laws.]

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