Exodus (Shemoth) 21:1 – 24:18
The Hebrew Slave
These are the laws that you must set before the Israelites: If you buy a Hebrew slave, he shall serve for six years, but in the seventh year, he is to be set free .
If he was unmarried when he entered service, he shall leave by himself. But if he was a married man, his wife shall leave with him.
If his master gives him a wife, and she bears sons or daughters, the woman and her children shall remain her master’s property. The slave shall leave by himself.
If the slave declares, “I am fond of my master, my wife and my children; I do not want to go free,” his master must bring him to the courts. Standing the slave next to the door or doorpost, his master shall pierce his ear with an awl. The slave shall then serve his master forever.
The Hebrew Maidservant
If a man sells his daughter as a maidservant, she shall not be freed as male servants are released. Her master should provisionally designate her as his bride, and if she is not pleasing to him, he must
let her be redeemed. He is considered to have broken faith with her, and he therefore does not have the right to sell her to anyone else.
If the master designates her as a bride for his son, she must be treated exactly the same as any other girl.
If the master marries another wife, he may not diminish this one’s allowance, clothing or rights.
If none of the above three are done to the girl, then she shall be released without liability or payment.
If one person strikes another and the victim dies, the murderer must be put to death. If he did not plan to kill his victim, but HaShem caused it to happen, then I will provide a place where the killer can find refuge.
If a person plots against his neighbor to kill him intentionally, then you must even take him from My altar to put him to death.
Injuring a Parent
Whoever intentionally injures his father or mother shall be put to death.
If one person kidnaps and sells another, and the victim is seen in his hand, then the kidnapper shall be put to death.
Cursing a Parent
Whoever curses his father or mother shall be put to death.
This is the law when two men fight, and one hits the other with a stone or with his fist. If the victim does not die, but becomes bedridden, and then gets up and can walk under his own power, the one who struck him shall be acquitted. Still, he must pay for the victim’s loss of work, and must provide for his complete cure.
Killing of Slaves
If a man strikes his male or female slave with a rod, and the slave dies under his hand, the death must be avenged. However, if the slave survives for a day or two, then, since he is his master’s property, his death shall not be avenged.
This is the law when two men fight and accidentally harm a pregnant woman, causing her to miscarry. If there is no fatal injury to the woman, then the guilty party must pay a monetary penalty. The woman’s husband must sue for it, and the amount is then determined by the courts. However, if there is a fatal injury to the woman, then he must pay full compensation for her life. Full compensation must be paid for the loss of an eye, a tooth, a hand or a foot. Full compensation must also be paid for a burn, a wound, or a bruise.
Injury to Slaves
If a person strikes his male or female slave in the eye and blinds it, he shall set the slave free in compensation for his eye. Similarly, if he knocks out the tooth of his male or female slave, he must set the slave free in compensation for his tooth.
The Killer Ox
If an ox gores a man or woman, and the victim dies, the ox must be stoned to death, and its flesh may not be eaten. The owner of the ox, however, shall not be punished. But if the ox was in the habit of goring on previous occasions, and the owner was warned but did not take precautions, then, if it kills a man or woman, the ox must be stoned, and its owner shall also deserve to die. Nevertheless, an atonement fine must be imposed on him, and he must pay whatever is imposed on him as a redemption for his life. This law also applies if the ox gores a minor boy or a minor girl. If the ox gores a male or female slave, its owner must give thirty silver shekels to the slave’s master, and the bull must be stoned.
A Hole in the Ground
This is the law if a person digs a hole in the ground, or uncovers a hole, and does not cover it over. If an ox or donkey falls into it, the one responsible for the hole must make restitution, restoring the full value of the animal to its owner. The dead animal remains the property of its owner.
Damage by Goring
If one person’s ox injures the ox of another person, and it dies, they shall sell the live ox and divide the money received for it. They shall also divide the dead animal. However, if the ox was known to be in the habit of goring on previous occasions, and its owner did not take precautions, then he must pay the full value of the dead ox. The dead animal remains the property of its owner.
Penalties for Stealing
If a person steals an ox or sheep and then slaughters or sells it, he must repay five oxen for each ox, and four sheep for each sheep.
If a burglar is caught in the act of breaking in, and is struck and killed, it is not considered an act of murder. However, if he robs in broad daylight, then it is an act of murder to kill him. A thief must make full restitution. If he does not have the means, he must be sold as a slave to make restitution for his theft. If the stolen article is found in his possession, and it is a living ox, donkey or sheep, he must make double restitution.
Damage by Grazing
If a person grazes a field or a vineyard, and lets his livestock loose so that it grazes in another person’s field, he must make restitution with the best of his field and the best of his vineyard.
Damage by Fire
If fire gets out of control and spreads through weeds, and then consumes bound or standing grain or a field, the one who started the fire must make restitution.
The Unpaid Custodian
If one person gives another money or articles to watch, and they are stolen from the house of the person keeping them, then if the thief is found, the thief must make the usual double restitution. If the thief is not found, the owner of the house shall be brought to the courts, where he must swear that he did not lay a hand on his neighbor’s property. In every case of dishonesty, whether it involves an ox, a donkey, a sheep, a garment, or anything else that was allegedly lost, and witnesses testify that it was seen, both parties’ claims must be brought to the courts. The person whom the courts declare guilty must then make double restitution to the other.
The Paid Custodian
If one person gives another a donkey, an ox, a sheep, or any other animal to watch, and it dies, is maimed, or is carried off in a raid, without eye witnesses, then the case between the two must be decided on the basis of an oath to HaShem. If the person keeping the animal did not make use of the other’s property, the owner must accept it, and the person keeping the animal need not pay. However, if it was stolen from the keeper, then he must make restitution to the animal’s owner. If the animal was killed by a wild beast and the keeper can provide evidence, he need not make
restitution for the attacked animal.
The Borrowed Article
If a person borrows something from another, and it becomes broken or dies, and the owner is not involved with the borrower, then the borrower must make full restitution. However, if the owner was involved with him, then the borrower need not make restitution. If the article was hired, the loss is covered by the
If a man seduces a woman who is not betrothed, he must pay a dowry and must marry her. If her father refuses to allow him to marry her, then he must pay the father the usual dowry money for women.
Do not allow a sorceress to live.
Idolatry and Oppression
Whoever sacrifices to any deity other than HaShem alone must be condemned to death. Do not hurt the feelings of a foreigner or
oppress him, for you were foreigners in Egypt. Do not mistreat a widow or an orphan. If you mistreat them, and they cry out to Me, I will hear their cry. I will then display My anger and kill you by the sword, so that your wives will be widows, and your
When you lend money to My people, to the poor man among you, do not press him for repayment. Also do not take interest from him.
If you take your neighbor’s garment as security for a loan, you must return it to him before sunset. This alone is his covering, the garment for his skin. With what shall he sleep? Therefore, if he cries out to Me, I will listen, for I am compassionate.
Do not curse the judges. Do not curse a leader of your people. Do not delay your offerings of newly ripened produce and your agricultural offerings. Give me the first-born of your sons. You must also do likewise with your ox and sheep. It must remain with its mother for seven days, but on the eighth day, you must give it to Me. Be holy people to Me. Do not eat flesh torn off in the field by a predator. Cast it to the dogs.
Do not accept a false report. Do not join forces with a wicked person to be a corrupt witness. Do not follow the majority to do evil. Do not speak up in a trial to pervert justice. A case must be decided on the basis of the majority. Do not favor even the poorest man in his lawsuit.
If you come across your enemy’s ox or donkey going astray, bring it back to him.
The Fallen Animal
If you see the donkey of someone you hate lying under its load, you might want to refrain from helping him, but instead you must make every effort to help him unload it.
Justice and Festivals
Do not pervert justice for your degraded countryman in his lawsuit.
Keep away from anything false. Do not kill a person who has not been proven guilty or one who has been acquitted. Ultimately I will not let a guilty person escape punishment. Do not accept bribery. Bribery blinds the clear-sighted and twists the words of the just.
Do not oppress a foreigner. You know how it feels to be a foreigner, for you were foreigners in Egypt.
You may plant your land for six years and gather its crops. But during the seventh year, you must leave it alone and withdraw from it. The needy among you will then be able to eat from your fields just as you do, and whatever is left over can be eaten by wild animals. This also applies to your vineyard and your olive grove.
You may do whatever you must during the six week days, but you must stop on Saturday. Your donkey and ox must then be able to rest, and your maid’s son and the foreigner must be able to relax. Be very careful to keep everything I have said to you.
Do not pronounce the name of another deity. You must not let it be heard through your mouth. Offer a sacrifice to Me three times each year.
Keep the Festival of Matzahs. Eat matzahs for seven days, as I commanded you, during the prescribed time in the month of standing grain, since this is when you left Egypt.
Do not appear before Me empty-handed. Also keep the Reaping Festival, through the first fruits of your produce that you planted in the field. There is also the Harvest Festival right after the end of the year, when you gather your produce from the field. Three times each year, every male among you must appear before HaShem, Master of the Universe. Do not sacrifice the blood of My Passover
offering in the presence of leavened bread. Do not allow the fat of My offering to remain overnight until morning. Bring your first fruits to the Temple of HaShem.
Do not cook meat in milk, even that of its mother.
Promises and Instructions
I will send an angel before you to safeguard you on the way, and bring you to the place that I have prepared. Be careful in his presence and heed his voice. Do not rebel against him, since My name is with him. He will not pardon your disobedience. But if you obey him and do all that I say, then I will hate your enemies and attack your foes. My angel will go before you and bring you among the Amorites, Hittites, Perizzites, Canaanites, Hivites and Yebusites, and I will then annihilate them.
Do not bow down to their gods and do not serve them. Do not follow the ways of these nations. You must tear down their idols and break their sacred pillars. You will then serve HaShem, and He will
bless your bread and your water. I will banish sickness from among you.
In your land, no woman will suffer miscarriage or remain childless. I will make you live out full lives. I will cause the people who are in your path to be terrified of Me, and I will throw all the people
among whom you are coming into a panic. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and flee from you. I will send deadly wasps ahead of you, and they will drive out the Hivites, Canaanites and Hittites before you. I will not drive them out in a single year, however, lest the land become depopulated, and the wild animals become too many for you to contend with. I will drive the inhabitants out little by little, giving you a chance to increase and fully occupy the land.
I will set your borders from the Red Sea to the Philistine Sea, from the desert to the river. I will give the land’s inhabitants into your hand, and you will drive them before you. Do not make a treaty with these nations or with their gods. Do not allow them to reside in your land, since they may then make you sin to Me. You may even end up worshipping their gods, and it will be a fatal trap to you.
Sealing the Covenant
HaShem said to Moses, “Go up to HaShem along with Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel. All of you must bow down at a distance. Only Moses shall then approach HaShem. The others may not come close, and the people may not go up with
Moses came and told the people all of HaShem’s words and all the laws. The people all responded with a single voice, “We will keep every word that HaShem has spoken.”
Moses wrote down all of HaShem’s words. He got up early in the morning, and built an altar at the foot of the mountain, along with twelve pillars for the twelve tribes of Israel. He sent the consecrated young men among the Israelites, and they offered oxen as burnt offerings and peace offerings to HaShem. Moses took half the blood of these offerings, and put it into large bowls. The other half he sprinkled on the altar.
He took the book of the covenant and read it aloud to the people. They replied, “We will do and obey all that HaShem has declared.” Moses then took the rest of the blood and sprinkled it on the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant that HaShem is making with you regarding all these words.”
Moses then went up, along with Aaron, Nadav and Avihu, and seventy of Israel’s elders. They saw a vision of the HaShem of Israel, and under His feet was something like a sapphire brick,
like the essence of a clear blue sky.
HaShem did not unleash His power against the leaders of the Israelites. They had a vision of the Divine, and they ate and drank.
HaShem said to Moses, “Come up to Me, to the mountain, and remain there. I will give you the stone tablets, the Torah and the commandment that I have written for the people’s instruction.”
Moses and his aid Joshua set out. Moses went up on HaShem’s Mountain. He said to the elders, “Wait for us here until we return to you. Aaron and Chur will remain with you. Whoever has a problem can go to them.”
As soon as Moses reached the mountain top, the cloud covered the mountain. HaShem’s glory rested on Mount Sinai, and it was
covered by the cloud for six days. On the seventh day, He called to Moses from the midst of the cloud. To the Israelites, the appearance of HaShem’s glory on the mountain top was like a devouring flame. Moses went into the cloud, and climbed to the
mountain top. Moses was to remain on the mountain for forty days and forty nights.
The Next Parsha : Terumah Exodus 25:1 – 27:19
The Next Haftara: I Kings 5.26-6.13