Parshat Mishpatim is of enormous halachic value. It contains a significant percentage of the major halachic sources. In the Mishnah, these laws are included in the order called Nezikin.
Rambam explains that the first part of this order, Masechet Nezikin, was eventually divided into three bavot – “gates” – or tractates, as a clarification point between sub-topics of civil law and fiscal responsibilities. These three tractates are Bava Kama, Bava Metzia, and Bava Basra (see more in Rambam’s introduction to Pirush haMishna).
However, our Sages explain “the entire order of Nezikin is a single tractate. The topics they deal with, indeed, form a single continuum. Therein, says the Rebbe, lies a connection to the concepts of ‘galut’ (exile) and ‘geulah’ – the era of Redemption, when the purpose of Creation will be revealed to all.
From the Rebbe’s explanation:
– In general, the concept of Nezikin, “damages,” refers to the idea of ‘galut’ – exile. In particular, the three tractates mentioned above refer to the three periods of exile endured by the Jews: the Egyptian exile, the exile after the destruction of the First Beis HaMikdash, and the present exile which began after the destruction of the Second Beis HaMikdash.
When comparing these three tractates, a marked difference becomes apparent. Bava Kama and Bava Metzia begin with negative factors, the four sources of damages and a dispute over a lost article. Bava Basra, by contrast, begins with a description of partners who voluntarily desire to minimize the damage which one might cause the other.
More particularly, this tractate opens with the discussion of partners building a wall with large stones which can be interpreted as a reference to the building of the third and eternal Beis HaMikdash in the time of G’eulah. Moreover, shortly thereafter, in one of the first passages of the tractate direct mention is made of the construction of the Beis HaMikdash.
The conclusion of Bava Basra focuses on an increase in wisdom. It alludes to the ultimate increase in wisdom which will accompany the Era of the Redemption. This increase in wisdom will in turn nullify all the undesirable influences in the world. In the same vein, Bava Basra contains several passages that describe the Era of the Redemption and the division of Eretz Yisrael at that time.
… Spreading peace and unity serves as a catalyst for the Redemption. This is also reflected in Parshas Mishpatim, for the purpose of the laws placed in the category of mishpatim is to increase peace.
Sharing with our fellow men and seeking their material welfare reflects how the bonds of unity that we share permeate every dimension of our existence. These efforts should also be accompanied by “spiritual charity,” sharing knowledge. This increase of knowledge will herald the coming of the era when
“One man will no longer teach another,… for they will all know Me.” (Yirmeyahu 31:33.).
In these days, which are moments before the advent of that era, we have the potential to anticipate this new and forthcoming world order, and to currently live our lives in the spirit of the Redemption. We can reflect the interpersonal unity which will characterize that age in our present conduct. And these efforts will hasten the coming of that era, when G‑d’s all-encompassing oneness will permeate the totality of existence.
“There will be neither famine nor war, neither envy nor competition, for good things will flow in abundance…. The occupation of the entire world will be solely to know G‑d. (Rambam, Mishneh Torah, Hilchos Melachim 12:5.)
Based on the Rebbe’s talks on Shabbat Parashat Misphatim (5752).