And these are the ordinances which you will place before them.
— Exodus 21.1 (Parashat Mishpatim)
In 1783, the former British colonies on the eastern seaboard of North America were enjoying heady times. They had just defeated the mighty British Empire in their War of Independence; while many former colonists lamented the end of British rule, there was celebration in the streets when General Washington accepted General Cornwallis’ surrender at Yorktown.
But then, I imagine that the new freed colonists awoke the next day and said, “What’s next for us?” They quickly learned that with freedom comes responsibility.
Such is the story of Moses and the newly freed Israelite slaves. When they escaped Egypt, they danced and sang before God; they were exuberant and inspired. But then came the cold (or in their case, rather hot) reality of desert life and the necessity to adopt a code of personal and…
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