Chukim, Mishaptim and Ice Cream


Chukim and mishpatim are two kinds of mitzvot given in the Torah.  A chok (decree) is something that man cannot understand and no reason is provided.  A mishpat (judgement) has a logical reason behind it that man can understand.  Rashi (Vaykira 18:4) gives eating pig and shatnez as examples of chukim and the law against stealing and murdering as examples of mishpatim.

I heard a simple way to describe this to children and tried it with our own.  Here’s how the conversation went:

Abba: When you ask if we could go to the ice cream shop and I say “no”, what do you say?

Kids: We ask “why?”

Abba: When you are fighting with one another and I say “stop”, do you ever ask “why?”

Kids: No.

Abba: Why don’t you ask “why”?

Kids: Because we know that you don’t want us to fight.

Abba: That is the difference between a chok and mishpat.  For mitzvot that we don’t know the reason for, we may ask “why”, like when Abba says “No” to getting ice cream – that’s chok.  For mitzvot that need no explanation because the reason is obvious, like not fighting with your siblings – that’s mishpat.

 Try this explanation with your children and let us know how it goes.



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