Mishpatim – Obsolete or Absolute

By Rabbi Mendy Wolf


A man drives 10 miles over the speed limit on one of New York’s highways. He is stopped by a police officer who informs him, “That’ll be three points on your driving record.” “Three points?” the man asks. “What can I get with my points?” The officer replies, “With eleven points you can buy a bike.”

This week’s Torah portion discusses laws.

The concept of laws as we know it, is corrupted. We frequently apply laws as they are convenient – “What can I get out of it?” we ask. When it suits our purposes, we carefully follow every rule and regulation. At other times, we find loopholes and excuses.

So often we have seen politicians passionately support passing a bill into law. As soon as its popularity with their constituents diminishes however, they lose their conviction. Their “absolute” principles become obsolete.

A society that stands on wavering morals which must depend on law enforcers to maintain civility, is bound to include wrongdoers. When no one is watching, why not drive through a red light?

There is another form of law. The Ten Commandments, given by G-d, ensure that we maintain our ethical standards and values. The only motive we need for fulfilling them is, “G-d instructed us”. Personal factors are not considered. These laws are absolute. They don’t change over time based on the fancy of mortal beings and they don’t require enforcers. By fulfilling the Ten Commandments we remain moral people despite the changes around us.


Rabbi Mendy Wolf is the educational director for the Institute of American & Talmudic Law, and the director for Project Life, an organization which promotes Jewish values throughout the business community in NYC. Rabbi Mendy is a sought-after teacher and lecturer and resides in Brooklyn, NY with his wife and family. Contact Rabbi Mendy to book him to speak or with feedback at mwolf@iatlaw.org.

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