Leann Shamash
Author of the blog Words Have Wings

Ta- Sh’ma! Come and Listen!

Go and Learn- Photo by Leann Shamash

Parshat Mishpatim seals the covenant for the Israelites but equally important, the Parsha begins to lay out laws for the people to live by. These laws range from property law, to laws that support the powerless and laws that describe conditions for slavery. 

This is a parsha worth savoring, because the transition we witness is sweeping. We have gone from individual contacts with God, to the growth of the tribes, to the emigration to Egypt, to years of enslavement and then newfound freedom for the slaves, to Matan Torah. In this parsha we stand in the desert with the Hebrews, cementing the deal and learning for the first time what will be required from this new covenant with God.

I am fascinated with the evolution of Jewish law. As a fledgling student of Daf Yomi, (Learning a page of Talmud a day for seven plus years), I am aware of the centrality of Parshat Mishpatim in the evolution of the law. It is fascinating to observe the rabbis comb through the Tanach for supporting evidence to create a system of laws. Using Parshat Mishpatim plus every letter, sentence and word in Tanach, the rabbis painstakingly develop a code of law which are recorded for us to struggle with even now.

This poem is a path that leads from creation to our own own daily study of Talmud.  I am grateful to be on that path.

 Ta-Sh’ma! Come and Listen

From nothingness.

From the primordial deep.

From the ruins of the flood.

From individual to family.

From family to tribe.

From tribe to community.

From community to nation.

From nation to society,

to covenant.

From mountain to valley.

From thunder to silence.

From God to human.


From offering to acceptance.


From inspiration to thought.

From thought to speech.

From speech to letter.

From letter to word.

From word to phrase.

From phrase to clause.

From clause to paragraph.


From concept to law.

From fire to stone.

From brush to parchment.

From parchment to page.

From page to chapter.

From chapter to volume.

From volume to collection.

From collections to volumes.


From Chok to Mishpat

From understanding to interpretation.

From interpretation to revision.

From revision to application.

From application to practice.

From practice to questions.

From questions to interpretation.

From minority voice to majority.

From voices left.

From voices right.


From actions to consequences.

From loopholes to exceptions.


From Sinai to the elders.

From the elders to the rabbis.

From Jerusalem to Yavneh

From the Tannaim to Amoraim.

From Amoraim to Geonim.

From the Rishonim to the Achronim.

From Yerushalmi to the Bavli.

From Rashi to ibn Ezra.

From ibn Ezra to Ramban.


From Moshe to Moshe.


From century to century.


From this one to that one.

From that one to this one.

From The Land eastward.

From The Land westward.

From the word to the Daf.

From the Daf to the Masechet.

From day to day.

From month to month.

From year to year.

From questions to more questions

and then begin it all again.

From past to present.

From present to future.


From then until now.

La’zman Hazeh.


A page a day.


And so it goes.

And so it is passed on.


So travels the law from Sinai.

From desert to desk.


Come and listen.

* * * * *

משֶׁה קִבֵּל תּוֹרָה מִסִּינַי, וּמְסָרָהּ לִיהוֹשֻׁעַ, וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ לִזְקֵנִים, וּזְקֵנִים לִנְבִיאִים, וּנְבִיאִים מְסָרוּהָ לְאַנְשֵׁי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הֵם אָמְרוּ שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים, הֱווּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין, וְהַעֲמִידוּ תַלְמִידִים הַרְבֵּה, וַעֲשׂוּ סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה:

Moses received the Torah at Sinai and transmitted it to Joshua, Joshua to the elders, and the elders to the prophets, and the prophets to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be patient in [the administration of] justice, raise many disciples and make a fence round the Torah.

Pirkei Avot 1:1 (Translation from Sefaria)

About the Author
After a career in Jewish education, Leann Shamash is the author of the blog Words Have Wings, which addresses the parsha of the week through poetry.
Related Topics
Related Posts