Parashat Mishpatim

“These are the rulings you are to present to them: If you purchase a Hebrew slave, he is to work six years; but in the seventh, he is to be given his freedom without having to pay anything. If he came single, he is to leave single; if he was married when he came, his wife is to go with him when he leaves. But if his master gave him a wife, and she bore him sons or daughters, then the wife and her children will belong to her master, and he will leave by himself. Nevertheless, if the slave declares, ‘I love my master, my wife and my children, so I don’t want to go free,’ then his master is to bring him before G-d; and there at the door or doorpost, his master is to pierce his ear with an awl; and the man will be his slave for life.”

In this Torah portion, Moshe details many of G-d’s laws to the Israelites. These include laws about worshipping other gods, kashrut, business ethics and treatment of animals.  G-d outlines the details of three holidays: Passover, Shavuot, and Sukkot. G-d provides an angel to protect the Israelites from their enemies, and warns the Israelites not to worship other gods. Moshe goes up to Mount Sinai to meet with G-d for 40 days and 40 nights, leaving Aaron and Hur in charge.

The exodus from Egyptian slavery culminated with the giving of the covenant to a new nation of ex-slaves. The people of Israel carried in their bodies and souls the indelible marks of their former brutal and harsh slavery. The people of Israel were free men and their relationship with the Torah was to be one of voluntary compliance, not forced compulsion.

B’nei Yis’rael suffered great cruelty whilst slaves in Egypt. HaShem announced to Moshe their freedom. And in Sh’mot 7:16, Par’oh was told: “And thou shalt say unto him: The L-RD, the G-d of the Hebrews, hath sent me unto thee, saying: Let My people go, that they may serve Me in the wilderness…”

The Children of Is’rael were not set free to do as they liked. Many people today think exactly that. They walk in and out of congregations, walking all over G-d’s anointed leaders and the people as they wish. All in the name of freedom: “because I have been set free from the law, It’s G-d and me, I hear from G-d”. But do they?

Hashem sets us free, to serve Him. How can we serve G-d, who is a Spirit? Whilst the JPS and NKJV and AV all use the word serve in Sh’mot 7:16, the CJB, NIV and others use the word ‘Worship.’

So firstly we serve G-d with worship.

We serve G-d in our worship, in our singing, praying and reading his word. The Cohanim served G-d in the Tabernacle and the temple, preparing the way for our corporate worship.

Secondly, our service to HaShem is not just spiritual, but physical. How then can we serve a G-d who is spirit?

Well, G-d may be spirit, but He does have a body. And that is where we serve Him. Are we not all Talmidim of Messiah? And yet He showed us examples of service when He took a towel and washed His talmidim’s feet, the work of the lowliest servant in the house.

Rav Sha’ul says to the Messianic community in Galatia: “For, brothers, you were called to be free. Only do not let that freedom become an excuse for allowing your old nature to have its way. Instead, serve one another in love.  For the whole of the Torah is summed up in this one sentence: “Love your neighbour as yourself””

We are all SAVED to SERVE; we are the called out ones, called out of bondage in Egypt to serve the living G-d. We do this by worshipping Him and by serving each other through our community. And if you are not participating in the community, if you turn up on a Shabbat and that’s it for the week, then you are not serving. We need to be fully involved, looking for what needs to be done, seeing a need, seeing where our gifts can be best used.

Hear the call and respond. A number in the scriptures responded immediately: Kefa and Andrew straight away left their nets and answered Yeshua’s call. Kefa’s mother-in-law, after Yeshua had healed her, got up and ministered (served) them.

FINALLY – JOY IN SERVICE  “With joy they offered great sacrifices that day, for G-d had made them celebrate with great joy. The women and children too rejoiced, so that the celebrating in Yerushalayim could be heard far off.” Nehemiah 12:43.

After all the hard work of rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem, there was great joy. There is joy in serving our great G-d if we love and serve Him with all our heart, soul and mind.

Rabbi Boaz