Among the laws discussed in Mishpatim is the mandate not to oppress a widow or an orphan (22:21). The Torah continues that if a person oppresses them, G-d’s wrath will be kindled, G-d will kill the culprit, and the culprit’s family will then be widows and orphans (22:2–3). Why would the family be punished for just one person’s actions?
Rabbi Yochanan Zweig suggests that someone’s insensitivity to a widow or orphan is an indication that a person’s family dynamics have suffered a downward spiral and that the family is therefore partially responsible for the breakdown of the support network. Failing to understand the valuable role each person plays in a family may lead that person to be insensitive to someone who has lost a family member. Expressing how important our loved ones are to us helps them build proper self-esteem and shows them how essential they are not only to their family but to their community and to the Jewish people.