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Shoftim ~ 5773 ~ 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 – 52: 2 ~ page 835
This is the fourth of the seven haftarahs of consolation. The predominant message of the haftarah is that G-d has a special relationship with the People of Israel—an appropriate reminder for the beginning of Elul—and that we’ve nothing to be afraid of since the end to difficult times is coming. The opening word of the haftarah, “Anochi”, refers to G-d, specifically with the connotation of “Midat Ha-Rachamim,” the Divine Attribute of Mercy. The word is doubled for emphasis, as are several other words in this haftarah. “Lashon Kefula” (redundant wording) teaches us to emphasize the phrase’s message.
Parashat Study Questions
1. Planting an idolatrous tree next to the Altar (v. 16:21) is a sin because it tries to validate another sin by associating it with a mitzvah. Can you give examples of this today? (hint: tattoos)
2. A king must personally write TWO Torahs: one locked in his treasury, the second kept with him at all times (17:18). What is the message told by such actions?
3. Three parts of every animal slaughtered (not sacrificed in the Sanctuary) must be given to the Kohanim: the right foreleg, the cheeks, and the “maw.” First, what’s a maw? Second, why these parts (18:3)?
4. Do you think in our day and age, verses 18:9-11 are still relative?
5. What are the necessary conditions to define “premeditated murder” (v. 19:11)?