Weekly Reading Insights: Shoftim 5764



Overview of the Weekly Reading: Shoftim

To be read on 4 Elul 5764 (Aug. 21)

Torah:Deut. 16:18-21:9
Haftorah: Isaiah 51:12-52:12 (4th of the Seven Haftorahs of Consolation)

Shoftim is the 5th Reading out of 11 in Deuteronomy and 48th overall, and 27th out of 54 in overall length.

Pirkei Avot: Chapter One

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.


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:48-64/Shoftim)

And why are the [merits of the righteous] engraved on the bones more than on the muscles and skin? It is because the bones are white, and the writing in black ink is not recognized other than on a white background.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the holy Ari, Rabbi Yitzchak Luria of Safed (A:48-64/Shoftim)

When the soul ascends it is inspected. If it is worthy, the gates are opened for it and it is permitted to enter. If it is not, it is pushed outside, the gates are closed before it and it is not allowed to enter.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.

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From the Shelah, Shney Luchot HaBrit by Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:48-64/Shoftim)

What all this means in layman's language is that the Sanhedrin is to temper justice with mercy. This is accomplished when the judges try to arrive at some kind of compromise between the litigants.

For the full article, click to the "Weekly Torah" section on our KabbalaOnline site.


"Justice, justice you shall follow." (Deut. 16:20)
Contrary to popular opinion, the end never justifies the means, no matter how noble or virtuous. Even the pursuit of justice must be carried out in a just and honest manner.
(Rebbe Reb Bunim)

"You shall be perfect with the L-rd your G-d." (Deut. 18:13)
Prayer is considered to be an offering before G-d - an offering of the soul. In the days of the Holy Temple, an animal offered for sacrifice had to be perfect and without defect; in the same way, when a Jew prays, he must also be whole of limb and without blemish. As all Jews are metaphorically part of the same body, if a person rejects his fellow Jew for whatever reason, it is his own self that becomes crippled. Therefore, it is customary to make the verbal declaration before praying: "I hereby accept upon myself the positive commandment of 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself."
(Tzemach Tzedek)


from the Chabad Master series, produced by Rabbi Yosef Marcus for

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org

An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:48-64/Shoftim)

In a world of enormous physical and economic opportunity and growth, racing information highways, and unlimited travel possibilities, we have created a society of nuclear families and global villages where people move from city to city and job to job. One negative fallout of the modernization is spiritual and physical isolation. Experts of all kinds, dating services, therapists of every possible sort and 24 hour help lines are all industries that have also grown in the shadow of the last 100 years of development.

One of the themes in the talks and writings of the Lubavitcher Rebbe during the 70's and 80's was that in the coming period of confusion, it would be imperative that everyone have an advisor. Decisions are always difficult and often it is hard for a person in the thick of it to be objective. The commandment "Place upon you a king" appears in this week's Torah portion, for the Jews to crown a king once they entered the Land of Israel (17/15). So also today, the Rebbe requires, that each and every individual have an advisor with whom to take counsel. And what type of person should we choose for this position? The Talmud (Gitten 62) asks who are the kings in our days? The Rabbis! Someone knowledgeable in how to be a Jew. Every Jew must his own Rabbi/advisor.

If having a king is so important, than why during the time of the prophet Shmuel, when the Jewish nation demanded that he give them a king, was Shmuel unhappy? The commentator Kli Yakar compares the verse from the Torah to the verse from the Book of Shmuel. The Torah says, 'place upon you a king'. The verse from the prophet says, 'give us a king'. A king is supposed to be a leader, a ruler, of whom the nation is in awe. 'Give us a king' means the people specifically did not want a ruler, but a figurehead. For an advisor (today's king) to fulfill his mission, he has to be someone who is respected and whose advice you will accept.

The king would read portions of the Torah before the entire nation every 7th year following Sukkot (known as 'Hakhel') The purpose was to inspire the people. So too, each person's Rabbi is required to inspire. The verses to be read by the king include "Shma"-'Hear, Israel, that the Lord our G-d, G-d is one'-that first and foremost we have to recognize that there is a divine imperative. There is truly a G-d and we must serve Him. Then the king reads "V'haya"-that explains the universal message that 'gathering our grains' (our financial success) depends on "if we will listen" to and follow the Torah's teachings. Physical and spiritual are not separate; they are tied together.

More than ever before, now that we are on the eve of the arrival of the Mashiach who will be both Rabbi and King to the world, we must not only prepare ourselves but also hasten his arrival by having our own advisors.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul Leiter

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