Shoftim | ?????? | “Judges ” –Most High is called the Lord our Righteousness (YHVH Tzidkenu), the Righteous G-d (Elohim Tzadik), and Righteous Judge (Shofat Tzadik)
– All the laws of the Torah whose “ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths are peace;The fruit of righteousness ( Tzedakah ) will be Peace
– Messiah; In Essence he is the Voice of Most High; Listen and Obey to Him
Shofetim or Shofti — Hebrew for “judges,” the first word in the Parashah is the forty eighth weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading and the fifth in the Book of Deuteronomy. These studies provides a constitution — a basic societal structure – for the Israelite. And sets out rules for Judges, kings, Levites, prophets, cities of refuge, witnesses, war, and unsolved murder victims.
You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which HaShem your G-d gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgement. -Deuteronomy 16:18
Shoftim. Judges. Mishpat-tzedek. Righteous Judgment:
HaShem is the Righteous Judge. Beloved, G-d ordained that men would be judges. But righteous judgement requires adhering to a standard that is not man-made.
Ra’aya Meheimna (the Faithful Shepherd)”Judges and officers shall you make you in all your gates, which Hashem your Elohim, gives you, throughout your tribes” (Devarim 16:18). In this precept, He commanded regarding judges and officers. Moreover, “but (Heb. ki, Caf Yud) Elohim is the Judge” – Tehilim 75:8
Zohar writings: Furthermore, there are two witnesses regarding the person: a seeing eye and a hearing ear. The court counts and judges his iniquities. Furthermore, even the sun and moon testify about the person, as we explained: “Blow a Shofar at the new moon, at the full moon (lit. ‘on the covering’) on our feast day” (Tehilim 81:4). What is the meaning of “covering”? That is the day when the moon, WHICH IS MALCHUT, is covered. Why is it covered? That is because when Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year) arrives, Samael will approach to demand punishment against her children, MEANING YISRAEL, WHO ARE THE CHILDREN OF MALCHUT, before the Holy One, blessed be He. And He will tell him to bring forth the witnesses, so he will bring with him the sun. As he is about to bring the moon, she is covered. At which place is she covered? HE RESPONDS: She goes up to that place regarding which it is said: ‘Do not investigate into what is hidden from you’, in order to reconcile the Holy One, blessed be He, with her children.
That is what the scripture says, “Blow a Shofar at the new moon, at the covering on our feast day” (Ibid.), meaning the area to which the Shechinah ascended. Regarding this, it is said, ‘Do not investigate into what is hidden from you’. The iniquities that are in concealment need to be judged there between himself and his Creator. About the iniquities he committed in public, it is written: “He that covers up his sins shall not prosper” (Mishlei 28:13). The Shechinah from the side of Keter is the hidden world and the sages of the Mishnah have explained that a person needs to connect HIS INIQUITIES to that place, WHICH IS KETER. At that time, a period of Mercy arrives and Judgement passes away. Therefore, he recommends to connect ONE’S INIQUITIES TO KETER, to free him from the testimony OF MALCHUT. However, the wicked is not acquitted.
A Prophet – Signs and Wonders:
And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Stephen, one of the seven chosen one to serve the Jerusalem congregation.
Then the high priest said, ‘Are these things so?’ And he [Stephen] said, ‘…This is that Moses who said to the children of Israel, “HaShem your G-d will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your brethren. Him you shall hear.”‘ -Acts 6:8-7:3;7:37
Stephen was quoting from: HaShem your G-d will raise up for you a Prophet like me from your midst, from your brethren. Him you shall hear, according to all you desired of HaShem your G-d in Horeb in the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear again the voice of HaShem my G-d, nor let me see this great fire anymore, lest I die. And HaShem said to me: ‘What they have spoken is good. I will raise up for them a Prophet like you from among their brethren, and will put My words in His mouth, and He shall speak to them all that I command Him. And it shall be that whoever will not hear My words, which He speaks in My name, I will require it of him. But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.
Beloved, this verses defines ( Deuteronomy 18:15-22 ) is a test of the prophet.
And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word whichHaShem has not spoken?’ – when a prophet speaks in the name of HaShem, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which HaShem has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
Stephen was using this passage as a statement for proving that Yeshua was the “Prophet like Moses” that was promised.
Yeshua was the mouthpiece of the Most High. Deuteronomy 18:15 was used by Peter in Acts 3:22 to make precisely the same point. In fact, early on in Yeshua’s earthly ministry we see that this is precisely the way His talmidim[disciples] always saw Him.
Philip found Natan’el and said to him, “We have found Him of whom Moses in the Torah, and also the prophets, wrote – Yeshua of Natzeret, the son of Yosef.” -John 1:45
To be a prophet, means that someone speaks G-d’s words: Messiah is the ultimate Prophet. Here is what Yeshua said of Himself,
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. -John 14:10
For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words? -John 5:46-47
Yeshua is the Prophet like Moses. His words and His life were absolutely consistent with the words spoken though Moses.
If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods’ – which you have not known – ‘and let us serve them,’ you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for HaShem your G-d is testing you to know whether you love HaShem your G-d with all your heart and with all your soul. You shall walk after HaShem your G-d and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him. But that prophet or that dreamer of dreams shall be put to death, because he has spoken in order to turn you away from HaShem your G-d, who brought you out of the land of Egypt and redeemed you from the house of bondage, to entice you from the way in which HaShem your G-d commanded you to walk. So you shall put away the evil from your midst. –Deuteronomy 13: 1-5
Let’s take Stephen through this test first. This was supposed to be the job of those shoftim [judges] on that fateful day in Acts. Was Stephen a prophet – could he be trusted?
“And Stephen, full of faith and power, did great wonders and signs among the people.” -Acts 6:8
“If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder…” -Deuteronomy 13:1
“This man does not cease to speak blasphemous words against this holy place and the Torah; for we have heard him say that this Yeshua of Natzeret will destroy this place and change the customs which Moses delivered to us.” -Acts 6:13-14
‘Let us go after other gods’ -which you have not known – ‘and let us serve them,’…You shall walk after HaShem your G-d and fear Him, and keep His commandments and obey His voice; you shall serve Him and hold fast to Him.
-Deuteronomy 13:2- 4
Accusations against Stephen: “They also set up false witnesses who said…” -Acts 6:13
Here is the Closing remarks: You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears! You always resist the Holy Spirit; as your fathers did, so do you. Which of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who foretold the coming of the Just One, of whom you now have become the betrayers and murderers, who have received the Torah by the direction of angels and have not kept it.” When they heard these things they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed at him with their teeth. -Acts 7:51-54
Yeshua is the Prophet and he is the Messiah- In Essence he is the Voice of HaShem. Listen to Him.
Do not think that I came to destroy the Torah or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the Torah till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. -Matthew 5:17-18
Those who do wickedly against the covenant he shall corrupt with flattery; but the people who know their G-d shall be strong, and carry out great exploits.
Repent – The condition for experiencing the final redemption and the global kingdom of Heaven on earth was national repentance.
Prophecies are usually conditional to Israel’s behavior. From the book of New Testament point of view, their redeemer had come, but now it depended on them to repent and accept it or to experience judgement. Rabbi Yohanan taught: “Great is repentance, for it brings about redemption, as it is said (Is 59:20): For a redeemer will come to Tzion, and unto those in Yaqov that repent from transgression. i.e. Why will a redeemer come to Tzion? Because of those who repent from transgression” (Yoma 86b). The Tanna Eliezer said, “If Israel repent, they will be redeemed, if not, they won’t be redeemed… the Holy One will set upon them a king whose decrees shall be as cruel as Haman’s, whereby Israel shall engage in repentance” (Sanhedrin 97b). Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi pointed out a contradiction, for it is written [concerning the coming of Messiah]: “In its time” but it’s also written “I will hasten it” (Is 60:22). The meaning is that if they [the generation] are worthy, I will hasten it, and if not [they will have to wait for him to come] at its due time (Sanhedrin 98a). So, what is repentance? Tshuvah means turning both to God and from sin. It doesn’t matter how many atonement come to cover us, there’s no forgiveness if we don’t do penitence (Lam 5:21). There’s also a mystical meaning, for the sin has caused God’s Name to be divided in this lower world; the last Hei ? in God’s name is attached to the earth and the concept of “Kingdom” (the sefirah of Malkhut). Tshuvah ????? represents ‘Returning the Hei’ (Tashuv-hei ???? ?) to God’s name, and therefore causing the awareness of God’s complete name, so it is written (Zech 14:9), On that day HaShem – the four letters Name – will be one and his name will be one; all will be connected, allowing the perfect flow of Divine energy into our reality, and therefore, causing us to experience the kingdom of Heaven (cf. Zohar III:122b).
Parshat Shoftim (which indeed means “Judges”), establishes the key features of the ancient Jewish judicial system, and begins with a general call for the appointment of judges and police in all the settlements of the land that the Children of Israel are soon to enter. Then, in the very next verse, the Torah turns to speak directly to the potential judge – first with some general instructions to judge fairly, impartially – and then with this specific warning:
You shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the wise, and corrupt the words of the righteous. -Deuteronomy 16:18
The defect of bribery and bias is not one of those mysterious commandments whose reason the Torah did not reveal. The reason for this defect is explicit in the Torah: “For bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and corrupts the words of the righteous.” And in the Talmud (Ketubot 105) it says: “What is the reason for the prohibition of bribery? When a judge receives a bribe from someone, his mind becomes close to him, because he becomes like a part of him, and a person never sees his own self as guilty. It is called bribery(shochad – ????) because he becomes one (shehu chad – ???? ??) with the briber.” Which is to say, the defect of bribery is founded on a psychological force embedded in the soul of a human being.
For the Alter then quotes several midrashim which link Isaac’s blindness to his willingness to be lured by his son Esau’s food offerings, to favour him even though he was wicked.
Example: “Those who justify the wicked because of a bribe, and take away the righteousness of the righteous” (Isaiah 5:23) – This is Isaac, whose eyes dimmed because he justified the wicked. (Yalkut Shimoni, Toldot 113)
The King, the Priest, and the Prophet
“Appoint judges [shoftim] and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge [shafat] the people fairly [righteous judgment].” -Deuteronomy 16:18
The prophet Isaiah declared, “But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by His justice [mishpat], and the holy G-d will show Himself holy by his righteousness[tzedakah].” -Isaiah 5:16
“When the righteous [tzadikim] thrive, the people rejoice; when the wicked rule, the people groan.” -Proverbs 29:2
As the Torah insists, “Justice, justice shall you pursue. Peace (shalom) : The fruit of righteousness [tzedakah] will be peace; the effect of righteousness [tzedakah] will be quietness and confidence forever.” -Isaiah 32:17
This important section, describing the procedure of appeals and outlining the court’s pivotal part in interpretation of the Torah, is followed by the only reference in the Pentateuch to the appointment of a monarch as the people’s leader: “When you enter the land that God your Lord gives to you and you inherit it and dwell in it, and you shall say ‘We want to place a king upon us, like all of the nations that are around us.’ Then you shall surely appoint a king over yourselves, the person that G-d will choose.” -Devarim 17:14-20.
Some of the king’s responsibilities and powers are spelled out, and he is enjoined to compose a special copy of the Torah to remain with him always, ‘in order that he may read it all the days of his life, and learn to fear G-d his Lord, in order to observe and to fulfil all of the words of this Torah and these rules.
The commandment for the king to write a copy of the Torah demonstrates the work of Messiah. He Himself is the Word made flesh. He is the copy of the Torah in human form. Furthermore, He writes a copy of the Torah as He writes the Torah upon our hearts. The Torah of King Messiah is written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone, but on tablets of human hearts
You make it clear that you are a letter from the Messiah placed in our care, written not with ink but by the Spirit of the living G-d, not on stone tablets but on human hearts. –II Corinthians 3:3
“You shall place Judges and law enforcers at all of your gates that Havayah, your God gives you to your tribes and they shall judge the people with a just judgment.” , we find the verse, “Justice, you shall pursue justice, in order that you live and inherit the land that Havayah, your God gives to you.” Both of these verses allude to the inherent connection between God’s gift of the land and the necessity of enforcing righteous justice. Rectifying the method of government and the court system is one of the most vital public commandments, and this is also explicit in the verse, “Appoint, you shall appoint upon you a king whom Havayah, your God has chosen for you, from amongst your brethren you shall appoint a king upon you; you will not be able to appoint upon you a foreigner who is not of your brethren.” So, first we have judges and then we have a king and later we also find that God will also appoint a prophet, who is also “of your brethren.” we see that all the official functionaries in the kindgom are described: priests, levites and judges, a prophet, a police force and a king. – six functions
The first three, the priest, the levite and the judge, are one unit who represent the sefirot of loving-kindness, might and beauty, respectively. The last four, the prophet, the police officer, the witnesses and finally, the king, represent the sefirot of eternity, acknowledgement, foundation and kingdom, respectively.
Subsequently, the Torah describes the unique status and special duties associated with the Levites and the Cohanim,who together constitute the priesthood. On the one hand, they are excluded from possessing tribal territory. On the other hand, the Cohanim are to enjoy a portion of all slaughtered animals as well as a share of the produce and the sheerings of the sheep. “For God your Lord has chosen him from among all of your tribes to stand and serve in God’s name forever” -Devarim 18:1-5.
The people of Israel are to follow the guidance of the ‘Navi’ or Prophet, who will communicate G-d’s will to them, after the manner of Moshe himself.
The false prophet, however, who speaks words that were not received from G-d, or who speaks in the name of idolatry, is to be put to death.
However, the prophecy option contains a threat: “But the prophet, that shall speak a word presumptuously in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.” (Deut. 18:20).
The prophet Jeremiah is forced to contend with just such a prophet.
Jeremiah prophesizes that the Children of Israel will follow Jeconiah, king of Judah, into exile from the Land of Israel to Babylon. Israel must accept Babylon’s rule because this is God’s will, argues Jeremiah. In order to physically illustrate his prophecy, he places on his neck a wooden bar that represents the Babylonian yoke that will be placed on Israel’s neck.
In the Book of Jeremiah, a prophet named Hananiah, son of Azzur, rises up to challenge Jeremiah’s prophecy by prophesizing the precise opposite: “Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, saying: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon. Within two full years will I bring back into this place all the vessels of the Lord’s house, that Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon took away from this place, and carried them to Babylon” -(Jeremiah 28:2-3)
Jeremiah cautiously expresses serious reservations regarding Hananiah’s optimistic prophecy. Prophets of doom, declares Jeremiah, are always true prophets; if their prophecies are not fulfilled, that is a sign that God has forgiven the nation and altered his severe decree. However, he says, “The prophet that prophesieth of peace, when the word of the prophet shall come to pass, then shall the prophet be known, that the Lord hath truly sent him” (Jeremiah 28:9)
In response to this cautious challenge from Jeremiah, Hananiah performs a dramatic symbolic act: “Then Hananiah the prophet took the bar from off the prophet Jeremiah’s neck, and broke it. And Hananiah spoke in the presence of all the people, saying: ‘Thus saith the Lord: Even so will I break the yoke of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon from off the neck of all the nations within two full years.’ And the prophet Jeremiah went his way” (Jeremiah 28:10-11)
Now Jeremiah expresses strong opposition to Hananiah’s words: “Then said the prophet Jeremiah unto Hananiah the prophet: ‘Hear now, Hananiah; the Lord hath not sent thee; but thou makest this people to trust in a lie.’ Therefore thus saith the Lord: Behold, I will send thee away from off the face of the earth; this year thou shalt die, because thou hast spoken perversion against the Lord” (Jeremiah 28:15-16)
Jeremiah’s prophecy regarding Hananiah is fulfilled: “So Hananiah the prophet died the same year in the seventh month” (Jeremiah 28:17)
This is the false prophet’s fate, as written : The Talmud provides examples of each of these two categories of false prophets. Although one would have expected Hananiah, son of Azzur, to be included under the first category, the Talmud surprisingly places him under the second. This subtle shift in the meaning of the confrontation between Jeremiah and Hananiah opens the door to a far-reaching interpretation of that confrontation: “Hananiah, son of Azzur, is an example of ‘those who prophesy what was not said to them.’ Jeremiah stands in the upper marketplace, declaring, ‘Thus saith the Lord of hosts: behold, I will break the bow of Elam, the chief of their might’ (Jer. 49:35). Using a fortiori (kal vachomer) reasoning, Hananiah concludes that, if God will destroy the bow (or might) of Elam , which only came to Babylon’s assistance, then a fortiori, God will also destroy the might of the demons themselves [the Babylonians]. Hananiah goes to the lower marketplace and proclaims, ‘Thus speaketh the Lord of hosts … saying: I have broken the yoke of the king of Babylon’” (Babylonian Talmud, Tractate Sanhedrin, p. 89a).
According to the above talmudic passage, Hananiah’s prophecy was not false; it simply was not his. Thus, he is presented there not as Jeremiah’s rival or even as a plagiarist, but rather as a commentator on Jeremiah’s words. It could even be argued that Hananiah’s mistake was that he drew the wrong conclusion from Jeremiah’s prophecy.
This is Rabbi Pappah’s approach, as can be seen in the question he poses to his teacher, Abbayei: “Rabbi Pappah said to Abbayei: ‘But that prophecy [Hananiah’s prophecy] was also not conveyed to his colleague [Jeremiah]!’” According to a literal reading of the text in the Book of Jeremiah, Hananiah’s prophecy is not conveyed to Jeremiah and the former simply draws the wrong conclusion from the latter’s prophecy. Thus, Hananiah belongs to the category of individuals “who prophesy what they never heard” ( i.e, the first category of false prophet).
Abayei answered Rabbi Pappah, “Since Hananiah uses a fortiori reasoning, one can say that the prophecy was transmitted only to Jeremiah and that Hananiah thus belongs to the category of ‘those who prophesy what was not said to them’ [i.e, the second category of false prophet].”
Woe, when men speak well of you, for their fathers did the same thing to the false prophets. -Luke 6:26
When they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew, whose name was Bar-Yeshua, -Acts 13:6
..And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many. – Matthew 24 :11
Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. -Revelation 19:12-21
The figure of “Armilus” as the personification of evil in the end of days is associated with the one who gathers the armies against Israel.
And I saw three unclean spirits like frogs coming out of the mouth of the dragon, out of the mouth of the beast, and out of the mouth of the false prophet.
For they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the earth and of the whole world, to gather them to the battle of that great day of G-d Almighty. – Revelation 16: 13- 14
T’fillat R. Shim’on ben Yohai, BhM 4:124-126 – And Armilus will hear that a king arose for Israel, and he will gather the armies of the nations of the world, and they will come to King Messiah and to Israel. And the Holy One, blessed is He, will fight for Israel, and will say to the Messiah: “Sit at my right hand.” And the Messiah will say to Israel: “Gather together and stand and see the salvation of the Lord.” And instantly, the Holy One, blessed be He, will go forth and fight against them.
The idea of the “mouth” of the dragon, beast and false prophet, has to do with Malkut, the Sefirah associated with the kingdom and the mouth (i.e., “Malkut Pei” – “Kingdom of the Mouth”).
The demons (i.e., “frogs”) that come forth from “the mouth,” by their nature “reside” partly in the spiritual world and also partly in the physical world. Thus they are able to make direct impact upon the “kings of the earth.”
False prophets prophesy about “wine and beer” (Micah 2:11), they fill the people with false hopes, they speak visions from their own minds (Jeremiah 23:16), they commit adultery and live a lie, they strengthen the hands of evildoers, and their message does not turn the people from their wickedness (Jeremiah 23:14).
The true prophet, the one called and sent by G-d is filled with divine power, with justice and might to speak by the Spirit of the LORD and declare to people their transgression and rebuke them for their sins (Micah 3:8).
UNIVERSAL TORAH: SHOFTIM -By Rabbi Avraham Greenbaum
The annual cycle of Torah readings is so arranged that parshas SHOFTIM, “Judges”, is always read on the first Shabbos of the month of Elul, season of compassion and repentance, when all hearts yearn to come back to the Source. The opening words of the parshah — “Appoint judges and police for yourselves in all your gates” — contain a personal message for all of us. The key step in coming back to G-d is when we “appoint judges and police” for OURSELVES — in the gates of our own minds and souls. We must examine our traits, activities and behavior and consider carefully whether they accord with G-d’s Torah and how they could be improved. Then we must find ways to “police” ourselves so as to enforce our good resolutions and carry them out, taking the next steps forward to greater holiness in all the different areas of our lives.
Together with its personal spiritual advice for each one of us, parshas SHOFTIM contains the blueprint for a Torah state in Israel ordered under its judges, its supreme court, its king, priests and prophets. Parshas SHOFTIM is at the center of the “trilogy” of parshiyos in which Moses sets forth the intricate details of the mitzvos making up the “Mishneh Torah”, his repetition of Torah law prior to his departure from the world. Following the opening parshiyos of Deuteronomy, which brought us the basics of faith, love and fear of G-d, last week’s parshah, RE-EH, set forth the blueprint for a blessed country cleansed of idolatry, where people’s minds are constantly focussed on the service of G-d in the Temple. The blueprint in RE-EH is for a nation cultivating the land, giving tithes to the priests and Levites, caring for widows, orphans and proselytes, giving loans and charity to those in need… The annual cycle revolves around the three pilgrim festivals when everyone comes up to Jerusalem to “appear before G-d”, experiencing the awe of the Temple, partaking of sacrifices and the second tithe in holiness and purity, and learning to revere G-d.
Next week’s parshah, KI TETZE, the third in this “trilogy”, focuses more upon the commandments that relate to the particulars of our daily lives in the world — family, property, how we build our houses (with a parapet), our clothes (tzitzis), personal morality, who we admit into our communities and many others. Thereafter, parshas KI TAVO will complete the “repetition of the law”, concluding with the blessings and curses over which Moses struck the Covenant with the Children of Israel in the Plains of Moab prior to their entry into the Land.
Our present parshah of SHOFTIM, which is at the very center of this “trilogy” of parshahs containing Moses’ “repetition of the law”, sets forth the necessary order of leadership and government through which the Torah nation can thrive in the Land of Israel. The parshah gives us the commandments relating to those who are the key to living successfully in the Holy Land: the judges and police, the Supreme Court (Sanhedrin), the king, the priests and the true prophets. It is these leaders and officers who are to lead and guide the nation in following the path of the Torah. SHOFTIM also sets forth the laws of murder and manslaughter, whose purpose is to ensure personal security within the country, and the laws of warfare, whose purpose is to bring security from external enemies.
JUDGES AND POLICE
“Justice! You must pursue Justice — in order that you may live and inherit the Land.” (Deut. 16:20). According to the Midrash, “This teaches that the appointment of judges is to give life to Israel and to let them dwell on their land and not to cause them to fall by the sword” (Sifri Shoftim 144). A Torah judiciary with police to enforce Torah law is the very key to life and security in the land.
According to the blueprint, the true judges of Israel are not to be an aloof elite with responsibility to no-one. The legal system is not to be a tangled jungle rife with corruption and special protection for the rich and powerful.
The entire judicial system of the Torah nation is predicated upon universal study and knowledge of the Torah, making regular working citizens capable of serving as members of a Beis Din — a “house of law” (“court”) of three judges (for non-capital) or twenty-three (for capital) cases. A true Torah Israel is one so blessed that those earning their living through the labor of their hands are able to complete their work in less time, so as to be able to study the Torah assiduously as well, as in the case of many of the outstanding sages of the Talmud. According to the blueprint, the minimum town of one hundred and twenty male residents must contain a Beis Din of 23 together with an additional three rows of twenty-three students listening to and learning from their elders (Sanhedrin 17b). In this way, justice is at hand and quickly available every day, without the aggrieved parties having to submit themselves to a protracted, expensive, grueling struggle with slick lawyers and a heaving, endlessly complex legal system.
“If there are police, there are judges; if there are no police, there are no judges” (Sifri). If there are no police to enforce the law, the judges may judge all they like, but to no effect. In addition to study, the effective rule of Torah law is also predicated upon police who are subject to the authority of the Torah judges. Some may smile at the above suggestion that the first resort for justice should be the local Beis Din of Torah scholars, wondering how many of today’s yeshivah alumni would be capable of acting as judges, let alone having police under them. It should be remembered that one of the reasons why the study of Talmudic law often appears detached from life in the rough and tumble of the actual world is because during most of the past two thousand years, rabbinical courts everywhere have been stripped of all meaningful sanctions with which to impose and enforce Torah law. The result is that the Torah has authority only over those who give it authority in their lives. Indeed, contemporary “political correctness” is appalled at the idea of rabbis “interfering” in areas that are considered in the realm of personal conscience, such as whether a person worships before a statue or image or violates the Shabbat, or what he or she does with another consenting adult. Yet under Torah law all of these may involve capital punishment, as we find in the case of idolatry in our parshah (Deut. 17:5). Many other sins that the wider society does not consider “criminal” can render a person liable to 39 lashes, such as wearing a forbidden mixture of wool and linen or eating meat cooked with milk.
The wider society obviously has some way to go in order to accept the law of the Torah. Those who yearn for the rule of Torah law and the blessing that it will bring can learn from our present parshah of SHOFTIM that constant study of study of the law is the foundation of the entire system.
While every layman is expected to be versed in the law, the commandment to “pursue Justice! Justice!” is interpreted to mean you should go to a “beautiful” Beis Din and seek out the best judges: the true sages and guardians of the Torah.
Our parshah instructs us that “when a matter of law is to wondrous for you. you shall rise up and go up to the place which HaShem your G-d will choose.” (Deut. 17:8). If the local scholars and maveens do not know the correct answer, we are instructed to search out the wisest and most profoundly learned. It is evident from our parshah that the spiritual source of the wisdom of the Torah lies on Mount Moriah, “the Mountain of Teaching” — the Temple Mount. In Temple times, there was a hierarchy of three courts that were in constant session on the Temple Mount: one at the very entrance and one inside, while the Supreme Court, the Sanhedrin, sat immediately adjacent to the inner Temple courtyard (Azara), in the Lishkas HaGozis, (“Hewn Chamber”).
The teachings of the sages of the Sanhedrin in Temple times constitute the oral Torah tradition handed down from teacher to student going back to Moses and Joshua. This is incorporated in the Mishneh and Talmud, which are the core of the study of Torah law today. Obedience to the oral law as handed down by the true sages is itself one of the commandments of the Torah in our parshah: “According to the Torah that they will teach you and the law that they will tell you shall you do: you shall not depart from the word that they tell you right or left.” (Deut. 17:11). Even an outstanding sage who deviates from the majority opinion of the sages of the Sanhedrin is liable to the death penalty as a “rebellious elder” (ibid. v. 12-13). It is noteworthy that the punishment of the rebellious elder is one of those cases (like that of false witnesses) that is to be loudly publicized among the people. Here is another respect in which the blueprint for a Torah state differs widely from the present-day reality, in which media controlled by narrow interests can put anyone they like on public “trial”, while the quest for true justice is like trying to grasp a phantom. In the Torah state, it is from the Temple that the announcement goes forth about who is truly evil, “and all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act in insolent defiance any more” (ibid. v. 13).
For some people the very word king is associated with images of contemporary “royalty” that render it somewhat misleading as a translation of the Hebrew word MELECH. The Hebrew word refers to the ruler who has power over a sovereign political entity. Our parshah teaches that such a ruler is part of the Torah blueprint for the successful state (Deut. 17:14-20). Yet the Torah conception of the MELECH could not be further away from the kinds of rulers who have power in states throughout the world today including those who still bear royal titles.
As exemplified by David Melech Yisrael, the Torah MELECH is first and foremost a saintly student and lover of the Torah. While every Israelite is commanded to write his own Torah scroll, the king is commanded to copy another scroll from the authoritative Temple text and to take it everywhere he goes. He is to read from it constantly — this is what gives him his life and power (see Likutey Moharan I:56). King David testified that he would nightly rise before midnight in order to meditate on the Torah (Psalms 119:148). Yet he did not flinch from getting involved in the rough and tumble of the actual world. “My hands are filthy from from blood and aborted tissue in order to purify a woman to permit her to her husband” (Berochos 4a).
The Talmud instructs us even to go to see the kings of the nations — in order to understand the difference between them and the true kings of Israel (Berachot 9b). Surviving non-Israelite monarchies have, with the complicity of the media, fostered a fairy-tale image of royalty whose vanity and emptiness have become starkly visible through an endless succession of scandals. The present heir to the throne of Britain has publicly declared that if he becomes king, he will abandon the historic title of Defender of THE Faith, and instead declare himself Defender of Faith – as if it does not matter what you believe, so long as you believe in something.
This is the precise opposite of MELECH YISRAEL, who is the uncompromising Defender and Champion of the Torah of Truth. The true kings of Israel today are the humble sages and Tzaddikim who live modestly, without Mercedes, mansions and villas, artwork, jewelry and the other trappings of “royalty”. Their wealth is the true, enduring wealth of their Torah wisdom and holiness, and the merits they have accumulated through their strenuous efforts and exertion on behalf of the community.
In the Torah state, the king himself must subject himself to the authority of the Sanhedrin and the prophets. While the king has responsibility for the internal and external security of the state, he must submit weighty matters of state, such as whether to go to war, to the sources of holy spirit: the priests and the prophets. Thus parshas SHOFTIM presents commandments relating to the status and privileges of the priests in the Torah state, and to the qualifications of the prophet and how true prophecy is to be distinguished from false prophesy and divination.
The greatest scourge of contemporary society has become the cheapness of human blood, which is being shed daily without scruples in the rampant criminality and terror that have spread all over the world. The abhorrence of the Torah for bloodshed appears in many places and is prominent in our parshah, which contains the laws of murder and manslaughter and the cities of refuge for unintentional killers. We have already encountered some of these laws in precious parshiyos (MISHPATIM, Exodus ch. 21, MAS’EI, Numbers ch. 35, etc.)
Some are under the impression that the Torah requirements for valid testimony to convict a killer are so demanding that in practice it would be impossible to bring criminals to justice. For example, in a Beis Din, the witnesses must be Torah-observant, and their testimony must withstand rigorous investigation, while circumstantial evidence is inadmissible. It is true that the Torah requirements for valid testimony are very stringent, yet Torah law also provides the MELECH with sanctions with which to make sure that Torah leniency does not lead to social chaos. Thus the lawful MELECH of the Torah state can impose prison sentences and even capital punishment where necessary even in cases where a Beis Din could not impose such sentences.
The laws of warfare contained in parshas SHOFTIM show that from the Torah standpoint, the critical factor in the wars we face are not our numbers, arms and equipment as against those of our enemies. The critical factor is our faith in HaShem and the courage with which we are ready and willing to fight for our convictions. The “pep talk” to the troops is given by the priest. His opening words are: “SHEMA YISRAEL” (Deut. 20:3) — alluding to the words with which we declare our faith twice daily.
The Torah commands us not to loose our sensitivities even in time of war. Even when fighting our enemies, we are not allowed to wantonly destroy property. It is in the context of the laws of warfare that the Torah gives us the law of “BAL TASHCHIS” (“Do not wantonly destroy.” Deut. 20:20). If this law applies to our enemies’ property even in time of war, how much more it applies to our own property and to public property in time of peace. We are to value that which has value, and not to needlessly waste and destroy. This applies to the natural wealth and resources of the earth, which are being mindlessly exploited and destroyed for the sake of immediate gain without a thought for the long-term.
The closing mitzvah of parshas SHOFTIM is that of the heiffer whose neck is broken in a ceremony that comes to atone for an unsolved homicide – a case in which a body is found in the open but the killer is unknown. It is noteworthy that the judges of the town nearest to where the body is found require atonement. It is their responsibility to see that their town is properly organized to take care of visitors and the needy, so that no-one is forced to take to the roads in search of hospitality, thereby exposing himself to the attendant dangers from roaming killers.
“Atone for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, Hashem, and do not put innocent blood among Your people Israel, and let the blood be atoned for them” (Deut. 21:8).
Shabbat Shalom!!! Chodesh Tov Umevorach!!!
– Rabbi Avraham Yehoshua Greenbaum
Haftarat Shoftim – ‘Judges’ (Isaiah 51:12-52:12)
Our haftarah of consolation is similar to last week portion: To those returning to the Land of Promise He says,
I, even I, am He who comforts you. who are you that you should be afraid of a man who will die, and of the son of a man who will be made like grass? And you forget the HaShem your Maker, Who stretched out the heavens and laid the foundations of the earth; you have feared continually every day because of the fury of the oppressor, when he has prepared to destroy. And where is the fury of the oppressor? -Isaiah 51:12-13
But I am the HaShem your G-d Who divided the sea whose waves roared. HaShem of Hosts is His Name. And I have put My words in your mouth; I have covered you with the shadow of My hand, that I may plant the heavens, lay the foundations of the earth, and say to Zion, ‘You are My people.’” -Isaiah 51:15
Therefore please hear this, you afflicted, and drunk but not with wine. Thus says your L-rd, HaShem and your G-d, Who pleads the cause of His people: “See, I have taken out of your hand the cup of trembling, the dregs of the cup of My fury; you shall no longer drink it. But I will put it into the hand of those who afflict you, who have said to you, ‘Lie down, that we may walk over you.’ And you have laid your body like the ground, and as the street, for those who walk over.” -Isaiah 51:21-23
Awake, awake! Put on your strength, O Zion; put on your beautiful garments, O Jerusalem, the holy city! For the uncircumcised and the unclean shall no longer come to you. Shake yourself from the dust, arise; sit down, O Jerusalem! Loose yourself from the bonds of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion!
For thus says HaShem G-d: “My people went down at first into Egypt to dwell there; then the Assyrian oppressed them without cause. Now therefore, what have I here,” says HaShem, “That My people are taken away for nothing? Those who rule over them make them wail,” says HaShem, “And My Name is blasphemed continually every day. Therefore My people shall know My Name; therefore they shall know in that day that I am He Who speaks: “Behold, it is I.’&##8221; -Isaiah 52:1-2; 4-6
How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him who brings good news, who proclaims peace, who brings glad tidings of good things, who proclaims salvation, who says to Zion, “Your G-d reigns!” -Isaiah 52:7
The “good news” message is this: Proclaim salvation to Zion! Proclaim “Your G-d Reigns.”
Messiah came and taught the message: “Repent, the Kingdom of HaShem is here!”
Your watchmen shall lift up their voices, with their voices they shall sing together; for they shall see eye to eye when HaShem brings back Zion. Break forth into joy, sing together, you waste places of Jerusalem! For HaShem has comforted His people, He has redeemed Jerusalem. HaShem has made bare His holy arm in the eyes of all the nations; and all the ends of the earth shall see the salvation of our G-d. -Isaiah 52:8-10
Depart! Depart! Go out from there, touch no unclean thing; go out from the midst of her, be clean, you who bear the vessels of HaShem. For you shall not go out with haste, nor go by flight; for HaShem will go before you, and the G-d of Israel will be your rear guard. -Isaiah 52:11-12
Blessed art Thou, HaShem, Who brings forth the Manifestation of Salvation. ( Baruch Atah HaShem, matzmiach keren Yeshuah )
We will see that the children of Israel return to Most High and Torah of Mashiach, And will hug in the Holy Land, and by obeying and listening the “VOICE of Most Ancient Holy One of Israel”, will bring offerings in a righteous way on the holy mountain and also bring the Ark of the covenant with pure heart in the right place ( i.e In Har HaBayit, on the foundation Stone) .
We will Welcome the son of David on Mount Zion, Jerusalem.
[ Ha Khadosh Baruch Hu – Baruch HaBa B’Shem Adonai ] – Gaddi, President, BeitYaaqov International.
Gaddi – President
A Servant of Most Ancient Holy one of Israel and Disciple of Yeshua HaMashiach