Parashah of the week: Mishpatim

“Do not favor [even] the poorest man in his lawsuit” Exodus 23:3


Who is the underdog?

Nicky and Tracy are fighting and their mother walks in, to see Tracy lying on the floor, weeping.

“Oh, Nicky, look what you've done!” shouts Mum. “Why can’t you just play nicely? You are grounded.”
This mum passed judgment on her son without first checking the facts. She cares deeply and it is so important to show compassion, but the problem is that it is not always clear who is the victim and who is the perpetrator.

Social media is mostly unregulated and it is quite easy to become a "journalist" with minimal qualifications. Unscrupulous people post fake news of illness, tragedy or abuse to awaken the compassion within us to fund their pockets. As we watch the situation in Israel with horror, reputable news outlets reprint unverified reports as truth, pulling on the heartstrings of the population.

When giving to charity or supporting an individual in distress, it is vital to check the facts with others to ensure your money and care is going to the right place.

The recent Post Office scandal reminds us how lives can be ruined by the sharing of false information. Honest workers lost their jobs and reputations due to computer malfunctions. A horrific video, supposedly showing Israeli tanks running over civilians was, actually, an old video of Egyptian army tanks killing protesters in Cairo, in 2013.

They say that "seeing is believing" but even videos can be doctored to spread false rumours.

In our parashah the Torah teaches us not to favour the poor in judgement. Why not? They are having a difficult time — why not be compassionate towards them?

We do not know the full story of each individual and the law must be fair to all. Wealthy or poor, popular or unknown, prominent or regular, the law must be unbiased.

Before sharing information with others or acting on news, the Torah advises us to hold off for a few extra minutes to check the facts and ensure our actions will help those who sincerely need it.

On a more personal level, when we interact with friends and family, it is helpful to remember to ask questions before making judgements. The weeping child, Tracy, may very well have been tormenting Nicky for ages before he finally responded!

Whatever the situation, a minute more of research before could save hours of repairing after.

Rebbetzin Shuli Liss

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