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Shoftim ~ 5772 ~ שופטים
Moshe further explains the Jewish concept of justice; judgments should never be swayed or tainted regardless of the ulterior motives or reasons. The specific sins of Idolatry known as Asherah and Baal are stated here. Sacrifices to the sun, moon, or stars are also forbidden. Two witnesses are needed before idolaters can be given the death sentence. If a legal judgment is too difficult, the litigants must bring the case to the Kohens and the Judge who are found in the “Capital” city. Any King of Israel must be native born. A King of Israel is forbidden to amass horses, wealth, or wives. Each Jewish King must commission a Torah.
The Levites cannot inherit or possess land in Israel, therefore, G-d guarantees their sustenance through donations, sacrifices, and gifts of first fruits. The practicing Levites in “G-d’s Chosen City” cannot exclude any fellow Levite from ritual participation regardless of his geographical origin. Child sacrifice is amongst the greatest sins. Jews are forbidden to consult with Astrologers, Palmists or Enchanters of any kind. The Heathens have soothsayers but Israel shall have prophets. The easiest test of a true Prophet is his forecast comes true. Moshe reiterates the command to establish “Three cities of Refuge: for the person who accidentally killed another person.
There is no sanctuary for a premeditated murder. One must be ethical in land dealings. The punishment of a false witness is the same as he would have caused to the innocent. Moshe gives instructions on how to prepare for war, and who is exempt from battle. The Israelites must first offer peace to our enemies. If they do not accept, then battle is permissible. Wanton destruction in the name of war is forbidden. If a person is murdered in the city outskirts, the elders of the nearest city must ritually declare their innocence in the matter.
MAFTIR Deuteronomy 21:7-9 ~ page 835
HAFTARAH Isaiah 51:12 – 5212 ~ page 835 – 839
Parashat Study Questions
1. What is the difference between “Shoftim” and “Shotrim” (v. 16:18)? Are both necessary?
2. How many Torah scrolls must a king possess (17:18)? Where is/are it/they kept and why?
3. According to many modernists, upon the coming of the Messiah, we will not re-institute the animal sacrifices. Is so, what will the Levites and Kohanim eat (v. 18:1-3)?
4. If there were only 2 and a half tribes on the east side of the Jordan, why did they get half of the Refuge Cities (see Rabbi Hertz note on 4:41 (page 763)?
5. Is there a logical progression to the draft exemptions found in v. 20:5-7?