Immediately following Matan Torah, Moshe Rebeinu teaches the Mishpatim, the social ordinances which comprise the bedrock of Jewish society. Why is it appropriate to introduce Talmud study to newcomers to Judaism especially in Parshas Mishpatim? Rabbi Avraham Edelstein writes, “It is specifically the areas of civil law which are among the most frequently studied areas of Talmudic law because they lend themselves to human logic. In fact, the value of applying our logic to these areas is quite astonishing.
Rav Moshe Mordechai Epstein of Slobodka (later of Hebron) put it this way: If one is expert in the practical knowledge of a halachah, but is unaware of its logical basis, he cannot say that he lacks part of it, but that he lacks it completely because the essence is in the sevara.”
Rabbi Noson Weisz provides further insight, “It is through this area of Mishpatim that [God] shares His judgments, values and opinions with us. He explains His views on marriage, filial obligations and the correct way to interact with society in great detail. Through these Torah laws that govern the everyday situations of life He instills in us His sense of right and wrong. This need to internalize God’s value systems… has had a determinative influence on the way we study Torah and the subject matters within Torah whose teaching we emphasize…
“A sense of values cannot be imparted through commandments and rituals or prayers [alone]. It can only be internalized through discussion and the sharing of opinions. Accordingly, this is exactly how we go about learning Torah – we discuss God’s sense of right and wrong intensively so that we can learn to follow it faithfully. Only by studying the Talmud have we Jews managed to remain God’s [people] through all the vicissitudes of our history. Every heated discussion of a Talmudic topic results in the internalization of God’s worldview about some aspect of human life.”
There are three featured NLE Thinking Gemara shiurim addressing mitzvot in Parshas Mishpatim that are successful in introducing newcomers to Talmud study. Each shiur poses a series of contemporary cases and dilemmas addressed by a guided presentation of the sugiya by Gemaras, Rishonim and Achronim using English-Hebrew (menukad) sources.
1) Adam Mu’ad Le’olam – Accountability for Accidental Damage
The $6,000 Diamond Washed Down a 48-Story Drain!
Bava Kama 27b
2) Sho’el Shelo Mida’as – Borrowing Without Asking
Taking Your Friend’s Jaguar XJ for a Spin: Is this “Just Borrowing” or is it Stealing?
Bava Basra 87b
3) Arba’ah Shomrim Hen – Four Types of Guardians
“Can You Please Watch My Trek Lush 29 SL Mountain Bike for a Minute?”
Bava Metzia 93a