Overview of the Weekly
To be read on the Shabbat of 2 Elul 5762 (Aug.10)
Torah: Deut. 16:18-21:9
51:12-52:12 (4th of the Seven Haftorahs of Consolation)
Chapter One, (Chapter Six outside of Israel)
Stats:Shoftim contains 14 positive mitzvot and
27 prohibitive mitzvot. Among the Weekly Readings,
Shoftim ranks 36 out of 54 in number of verses, 28 in
number of words, and 31 in number of letters;
it is written on 191.6 lines in a Torah parchment scroll, 27
in overall length.
Shoftim opens with the command to appoint judges and officers to uphold
justice. The Jews are warned not to make idolatrous trees, pillars,
or offer blemished animals, and are told the penalties of idolatry.
The Jews are commanded to set up a Supreme Court and a monarch. The
Levites are not to have territorial shares of the Land, but they receive
portions of the Jews' sacrifices, meat, produce, and shearings. Laws
regarding prophets, both false and true, are given. Also relayed are
rules of cities of refuge, havens for the escaped unintentional murderer.
An intentional murderer, however, receives the death penalty. Additional
laws discussed are the prohibition against moving boundaries to steal
land, or to testify falsely, who is not drafted to the army, who may
or may not be taken captive, and a warning not to cut down fruit trees
when waging siege on a city. Shoftim concludes with laws concerning
a corpse of an unknown murdered individual found in the field: The elders
of the closest city must decapitate a female calf over running water
to atone for innocent blood shed in their midst.
THE CHASSIDIC REBBES (V:48-62/Shoftim)
"You shall appoint judges... in all your gates." (16:18)
In the homiletic explanation of this passage, "your gates"
refers to our sensory orifices (our eyes, ears, nose and mouth) which
are the gates between the person and all that surrounds him.
You should "appoint judges" on "all your gates,"
that all one's senses should be led by the "judges" of his soul,
the intellect of the G-dly soul with which he learns Torah. The Torah
should control the functioning of one's sensory powers.
" Neither shall you set up for yourself any pillar (matzeiva),
which the L-rd your G-d hates." (16:22)
The word "matzeiva" comes from the Hebrew root meaning constant,
steady and permanent.
Do not look at this world as an end unto itself, the Torah counsels.
Regard it merely as a passageway to be navigated and a preparation for
the World to Come.
"According to two witnesses...shall a case be established."
The word which the Torah uses here for "case" is "davar," which alludes
to the "dibbur" (speech) of prayer. The "two witnesses" likewise stand
for our love and awe of the Alm-ghty. The Torah teaches that our prayers
must be uttered with this love and awe in order for them to be worthy
and contain substance.
FROM THE MASTERS OF KABBALAH (O:48-62/Shoftim)
permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the
Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated
by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco,
on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of
Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was
on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker,
hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only
to his Torah commentary.
"When you approach a city to fight against it, and you call out
to it 'peace'." [20:10]
Perhaps this paragraph alludes to something that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai
said in Zohar volume 2 page 62 that G-d sends man an additional
soul to guide him on the right path and to save him from committing sins
against Him. We may perceive G-d as addressing this additional soul telling
it: "when you approach a city," i.e. the body of the human being
whom you will inhabit which is known as ir [city]. We know from
Zohar Chadash Ruth page 97 on the verse in Kohelet 9:14 "there
is a small city with few inhabitants," that the city Solomon speaks
of is the human body. This additional soul may be the "miracle"
needed to protect the Jewish soldier at the time he goes into battle as
it helps stop him from committing sins which could result in this violent
death in war.
The Torah was careful to write 'aleyha' [against it, but lit.
her] which here needs to be translated as "on her account."
The idea is that this soul is intended to save the body from the evil
urge; it is in line with the verse in Kohelet 9:14 which continues "against
which [the small city] a great king comes and lays siege to it. An insignificant
looking wise man saves that small city form the onslaught of the great
king using his wisdom" [compare Nedarim 32].
"..and you call out to her 'peace.'" The meaning is
that you do not immediately wade into the den of iniquity [your evil urge]
and try to conquer it in one single frontal assault; rather you first
suggest that it also give heaven its due, as a result of which it will
experience great benefits. As a result the evil urge will allow that man
has a duty also vis-a-vis heaven. After all, secular activities such as
eating and drinking in this life also enable man to perform his spiritual
tasks better. As a result of this accommodation with the evil urge one
assures oneself of not losing one's hereafter altogether.
"It will be if they an answer of peace, etc.,
and they shall
serve you." [20:11]
The word vayehi - 'it will be if' as usual, refers to something
joyful; here too, if you approach to the evil urge is in the manner we
have just described so that you have opened the door a crack to spiritually
positive values, G-d in His turn will open this door wide, i.e. the 248
bones and 365 sinews which man's body is constructed of and they will
all become subservient to the soul [instead of to the evil urge]. The
body will then perform both the positive commandments and refrain from
violating the negative commandments.
"..and they shall serve you," i.e. like a slave who
is afraid of his master and will neither deviate to the left not to the
essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter