Weekly Reading Insights: Shoftim 5766

Overview of the Weekly Reading: Shoftim

To be read on 2 Elul 5766 (August 26)

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

Pirkei Avot: Chapter 1 in Israel (Chapter 6 outside of Israel)

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


From the holy Zohar, teachings of Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai (Z:4866/Shoftim)

What causes the collapse of this wicked one [the Evil Inclination]? It is achieved through "Adam", whose numerical value is 45, which is the same numerical value as the name of G-d when spelled out yud-vav-dalet, hei-alef, vav-alef-vav, hei-alef.

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:4866/Shoftim)

The reason why malchut of Abba emanates three radiances and malchut of Imma only two is because [the latter] does not possess a third place where its radiance could collide and produce a third radiance. .

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

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From Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz (S:4866/Shoftim)

When we love G-d, there will be peace between G-d and us, and war among our (His) enemies. This is why the Torah orders us not to fear our enemies.

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


"Whole-hearted you shall be with your G-d" Deut. 18:13

One has to make sure that one's soul is sincere and whole and not "lacking a limb". Just as there are 613 part of the body (248 limbs and 365 sinews), so does the soul have 613 "parts". The perfection of these limbs depends on the keeping of the 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

(Likutei Torah) translated from Sichat HaShavuah 142


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

www.ascentofsafed.com and www.kabbalaonline.org


"You must set a king over yourselves."

The Torah emphasizes the importance of appointing a king. Various commentators explain why. Among them, Maimonides says that: "The king's heart is the heart of the entire Jewish people." Since the main function of a king is to lead, the analogy should have been to the brain. But there are two types of rulers of the Jewish people: a melech and a nasi, a king and a leader. A king may be compared to the heart and the nasi to the brain. In many periods of Jewish history one person was king and another was nasi. But Moses, the first Redeemer, was both king and nasi, combining within himself the qualities of both. Mashiach, the last Redeemer, will also be both king and nasi.

[From the Global Chabad-Lubavitch Resource Center-- www.Shluchim.org.]


An essay from Rabbi Shaul Yosef Leiter, director of Ascent

(for a free weekly email subscription, click here) (W:4866/Shoftim)

Over 3,300 year ago, on the 17th day of Tamuz, 40 days after the giving of the Torah, Moshe came down from Mt. Sinai to find some of the Jewish people worshipping the Golden Calf. After breaking the tablets that contained the Ten Commandments, destroying the idol, and executing the worshippers, Moshe re-ascended Mt. Sinai to ask for Divine forgiveness for the Jewish nation. Another 40 days later, on Rosh Chodesh Elul, Moshe's prayers were accepted. Moshe came down a third time to tell the people the good news, and returned again to Mt. Sinai for a final 40 days of grace and special connection to G-d ending with Moshe's final descent with the second tablets on Yom Kippur.

Each subsequent year, during the 40 days from Rosh Chodesh Elul through Yom Kippur, time and history repeat themselves on a higher spiritual level-the Jewish people again spiritually enter 40 days of divine grace and good will. G-d decreed in His holy Torah that at this highpoint of the year, is also the annual period of divine judgment, when it is decided whether a person will live or die, prosper and succeed or fail and falter. Every Jew is expected to remind him or herself of the positive spiritual environment they are entering and to take advantage of it by examining their every action, stopping the negative and increasing in the positive. If we do so, we can be certain to be written in the book of life for a good and sweet year.

This week's Torah portion, Shoftim is almost always read immediately before the beginning of the month of Elul. The portion opens, "Judges and police should be placed at all of your gates…" is a reference to how a person is expected to behave. "Your gates" can refer to the first roots of a person's behavior ('gate' meaning an entranceway or beginning). "Judges and police" refer to our judging ourselves and policing our actions that they be appropriate. Everything begins with our thoughts and intentions. Rosh Chodesh Elul-this Thursday and Friday-is about putting our brains back in charge of our behavior.

As we stand on the eve of the new month of Elul, inaugurating the thirty day preparation period before the High Holidays, it is important to focus on the whole power of thought, as mentioned above. Chassidim for centuries have been saying, 'Think good [thoughts] and good things will happen'.

There is a very beautiful discourse from the Alter Rebbe that focuses on a specific connected area. "Making an effort to pray in a Chassidic synagogue is very important, even if the minyan is already over, because the actual physical place can make an impact on the soul. Since there is a custom that Chassidim think over mystical concepts before and during their prayers, these thoughts remain in the synagogue, and never dissipate. For a person who is spiritually open, these thoughts can attach themselves to that person who is also praying and learning there with honest devotion.

Sadly the same is true of impure thoughts: they also remain in place, whether in the synagogue, home or workplace. Spiritually sensitive individuals, especially those very serious about serving G-d, are sensitive to these thoughts."

There is a story about one of the great Chassidim of the Chabad community 200 year ago, Rabbi Hillel of Paritch. A student of his built a special guest room for Rabbi Hillel in his home, and made a big effort not to let anyone else into the room. A long time went by and finally Rabbi Hillel came to stay. As he prepared himself to pray the afternoon prayers, he all of a sudden said, "There are unclean thoughts in this room." The home owner was shocked, especially after all of his efforts to keep the room empty. Only afterwards did he remember that a long time before they were unexpectedly forced to take a Russian army officer as a boarder for a short time. The thoughts he had in the room remained and Rabbi Hillel was sensitive to them.

May we all 'think good and it will be good' as we prepare the coming good and sweet New Year!

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

P.S. Please also read my weekly Shabbat Law, below.

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