Thoughts on the Weekly Parshah by HaRav Eliezer Chrysler
Formerly Rav of Mercaz Ahavat Torah, Johannesburg

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Vol. 9   No. 44

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Parshas Shoftim

The Appointment of Judges
(Part I)

(Based on the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

It is a Mitzvah to appoint judges and policemen, writes the Seifer ha'Chinuch, whose job it is to enforce the practice of Torah and Mitzvos, even by force, where necessary.

They must issue commands that encourage the people to do what is right, as well as measures to prevent them from doing what is wrong. In this way Torah and Mitzvos become common practice, and are no longer in the hands of the individual and his beliefs.

Above all, the judges must be a shining example of what they preach.


The Mitzvah requires a Beis-din of twenty-three Dayanim in each and every town, known as a Sanhedrin Ketanah, and a Beis-din of seventy. This latter Beis-din, known as the Sanhedrin ha'Gadol, was presided over by the Rosh ha'Yeshivah (otherwise known as the Nasi). Each of these Batei-din convened daily in the location that was specially designated for their use (the Sanhedrin ha'Gedol actually sat in the Lishkas ha'Gazis, a room inside the Ezras Nashim).

Chazal instituted that a town that was too small for a Sanhedrin Ketanah (i.e. one that had less than a hundred and twenty residents), should appoint a Beis-din of three. This latter Beis-din would judge the relatively easy matters, leaving the more complicated issues to be judged by a senior Beis-din.

In addition, each tribe had to appoint a Beis-din of twenty-three Dayanim to judge that particular tribe.


The senior Dayan of the seventy members of the Sanhedrin ha'Gadol, who sat just on the right of the Nasi, was known as the Av Beis-Din. The other members sat in front of them in order of seniority, or, in the event that they were otherwise equal, in order of age. They actually sat in a circular formation, so that all the Dayanim could see each other.

Besides the Beis-din ha'Gadol, two other Batei-din of twenty-three sat, one at the entrance of the Azarah and the other, at the entrance of the Har ha'Bayis. Each of these had its own Av Beis-din.


Only Dayanim who were wise and understanding (Chachamim and Nevonim), and who, in addition, possessed some worldly knowledge in areas such as medicine, mathematics, the fixing of the seasons, the Mazalos, astrology and the ways of wizardry and black-magic were chosen to sit in the Sanhedrin. All this was necessary so that they would be able to judge the people in all these matters, should this be necessary.

Based on the Torah's comparison of all judges to Moshe Rabeinu (Bamidbar 11:18), only Kohanim, Levi'im and Yisra'elim who were Meyuchasim (of good stock whose daughters were fit to marry Kohanim) were eligible to sit on any of the above Sanhedrin. And only someone with Semichah could be chosen. Moshe conferred Semichah (with his hands [a practice that was not continued after Moshe's death]) upon Yehoshua, as well as upon the seventy elders (at the time of Eldad and Meidad). And they in turn, conferred Semichah upon others, who conferred Semichah upon others, and so on.

Before issuing a Semichah, they would thoroughly examine the candidate, who had to be conversant in Torah-law, have a clear, concise mind, and in addition, love the truth and loathe all forms of injustice.


Once all this was established, three Chachamim, at least one of whom had to himself have received Semichah, would declare the candidate a Samuch. From then on, the title 'Rebbi' would be added to his name, and he had the authority to issue rulings in all matters, even as regards 'K'nosos' (the issuing of fines).

A Chacham who was very old, a Saris (who could not have children), was blind (even in one eye) or who had no children, were all disqualified from sitting on the Sanhedrin.


One could only receive Semichah in Eretz Yisrael, though someone who did, was eligible to act as a Dayan even in Chutz la'Aretz. The Beis-din however (even one that was Samuch), could only sentence someone to death as long as the Beis-Hamikdash stood and the Sanhedrin ha'Gadol sat in Yerushalayim. (cont.)


Parshah Pearls

The Thirty Qualifications of a King

"You shall surely place over you (Som tosim olecho) a king" ... from the midst of your brothers (mi'kerev achecho) you shall appoint a king" (17:15).

The numerical value of "Som tosim olecho" is equivalent to that of 'sheloshim ma'alos' (thirty qualifications), like the Mishnah in Pirkei Avos (6:6), which teaches us that Malchus is acquired with thirty qualifications (Ba'al ha'Turim).


Malchus from Yehudah

"That his heart does not become haughty over his brethren" (17:20).

The Pasuk begins with a 'Lamed' ("levilti") and ends with a 'Lamed' ("be'kerev Yisrael" [the tallest letter, and the middle letter of 'melech']), a hint that Malchus will emerge from Yehudah, whose numerical value is thirty, too. In addition, sovereignty is acquired with thirty qualifications (as we just learned), and David reigned when he was thirty years old. That is why he composed a song that begins with a 'Lamed' - "Lamenatze'ach le'eved Hashem, le'David" (Ba'al ha'Turim). Added to all this, the Ba'al ha'Turim already pointed out (in Pasuk 15) that the numerical value of "mi'kerev achecho" is equivalent to 'mi'shevet Yehudah' (from the tribe of Yehudah).


The Long Reign and the Short One

"In order that he shall live a long time on his throne".

The king who was anointed at the age of thirty (David - as we just saw) will live long, but not Shaul. And it is therefore apt for the Parshah of the Kohanim to follow this one, and that of the Ov and the Yid'oni (two forms of wizardry) immediately after that of the Kohanim because it hints broadly at the two reasons that Shaul lost the throne; 1. because he killed all the inhabitants of Nov, the city of Kohanim, and 2. because he consulted the Ba'alas Ov (the witch of Ein Dor).


The Levi'im, G-d's Inheritance

"The Kohanim, the Levi'im (ha'Levi'im) ... shall not have a portion or an inheritance with Yisrael ... G-d is their inheritance ... " (18:1/2).

The numerical value of "ha'Levi'im" is ninety-one, equivalent to the two names of G-d 'Adnus' plus 'Havayah' (which is also the numerical value of 'ho'Elokim'). And this, explains the Ba'al ha'Turim, will explain the sequence of the Pesukim.


The Reward of Guarding

"Cheilek ke'cheilek yocheilun" (They shall all eat equally [see Rashi]).

The word "ke'cheilek" occurs one other time in T'nach, in Shmuel 1 (30/24), "ke'cheilek ha'yored ba'milchamah u'ke'cheilek ha'yoshev al ha'keilim, which teaches us that those who guarded the vessels shared in the booty together with the soldiers who plundered it.

Here too, even Kohanim with impediments, who were disqualified from actually performing the Avodah, nevertheless received a portion in the Korbanos equal to those who served - because they too, guarded the holy vessels.


A Prophet Like Moshe

"I will appoint a prophet for them (Navi okim lohem)... like you" (18:18).

The numerical value of Navi okim lohem, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is equivalent to that of 'zehu Yirmiyahu', who Chazal explain, rebuked Yisrael just like Moshe.

And in Pasuk 15, he already pointed out that the numerical value of ''Novi okim lohem komoni (G-d will set up a prophet for you like me)" is 120, the equivalent of 'Onov' (a humble man).


To Withdraw from a Case

"And the litigants (ho'anoshim asher lohem ho'riv) shall stand before G-d" (19:17).

The word "ho'riv" appears in one other place (Mishlei 17:14) - "before the quarrel becomes known, withdraw" ('ve'Lifnei Hisgala ho'riv, netosh').

This conforms with Chazal, who have said that as long as a Dayan does not know which way the Din is going, he is permitted to withdraw from the case, but not once he knows who is going to win the case.


No Soldiers Without Limbs

" ... a hand for a hand, a foot for a foot ... when you go out to war (19:21, 20/1).

The juxtaposition of these two Pesukim, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, hints at the Halachah that a person with a missing limb may not be conscripted.


Taking Advantage

" .. and you shall build a siege around the town against which you are waging war, until you capture it ... When a corpse is found on the ground (bo'adomoh)" (20:20 - 21:1).

The reason that the Torah juxtaposes the Parshah of Eglah Arufah to that of war, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, is because it is in time of war that one tends to find corpses.

At the beginning of Ki Seitzei however, he explains that it is in time of war that the murderer takes advantage of the situation. It is then that he will perpetrate his crime, in the hope that the murdered man will be assumed to be a war victim, leaving the possibility that his crime will go undetected.


The murdered man, say Chazal, must be revealed. If he is buried in the ground, say, then the Din of Eglah Arufah does not apply.

And this is hinted, points out the Ba'al ha'Turim, in the word "bo'adomoh" (in the ground), whose numerical value is equivalent to that of 'be'goluy' (revealed).


The Five Neshamos

"Our hands did not spill (lo shofchu) this blood" (21:7).

Although the word "shofchu"is read with a 'Vav', it is written with a 'Hey', as if to say that they (the elders of Beis-Din) did not touch him with the five fingers of their hands. In addition, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, the Neshamah (of the man that was killed) has five names (Nefesh, Ru'ach, Neshamah, Chayah and Yechidah).

And it is for the same reason that David issued Yo'av with five curses for killing Avner. He cursed him that among his descendants, would be a Zav, a Metzora, a lame man, someone killed by the sword and someone who suffered from lack of food. Fascinatingly, all five curses boomeranged on to David himself - but that's another story.


One Jew is Responsible for the Other

"Atone for Your people ... " (21"8).

It is only one man who sinned! So why should Yisrael require atonement?

An additional source, says the Ba'al ha'Turim, for the principle 'Kol Yisrael areivim zeh lo'zeh' ('All Yisrael are responsible for one another').



(translated from the Seifer of ha'Rav Kalman Kahana)

Hilchos Kil'ayim

The Distance Required between Vines and Seeds
(Chap. 18 - cont)

5. If one's five vines constitute a vineyard, one is obligated to leave a distance of four Amos even from the empty corner (as if a sixth tree would have been there). This is because in reality, a vineyard ought to comprise two rows of three trees each; only one missing tree does not detract from the shape of a vineyard, and we see it as if it was there.

And the same will apply to a large vineyard comprising seven vines, two rows of three, plus one vine in line with the two middle trees of the two rows. There too, we consider the two outer spaces as if there was a vine growing in each one.


6. Even if one of the trees belongs to Reuven, and the other four, to Shimon, the five trees have the Din of a vineyard as regards Kil'ayim, provided they are growing in the prescribed shape.


7. As long as the vines comprise a vineyard, one may not plant seeds within four Amos of any part of it, neither from the rows, nor from the ends of the rows nor even the from spaces between the vines. Neither may one plant seeds in the middle of the vineyard, even between one row and the next, even if there is a space of more than four Amos between them.


8. We have already learned that if five vines are planted in one row, they are considered five individual trees. Yet if they are draped over a high wall (which the Chachamim refer to as 'an Aris') they adopt the Din of a vineyard, at least in part. Here too, one may only plant seeds at a distance of four Amos from the wall. However, they retain the Din of individual vines inasmuch as only a distance of six Tefachim is required between the seeds and the vines themselves. And one may plant right up to the wall on the other side, since the wall is considered a partition.

If canes protrude from the wall, over which parts of the vines are draped, it is as if the vines were draped over the wall, and a distance of four Amos is required from that point to the nearest seeds.


9. If even a solitary vine is draped over a wall, a beam, a netting of lattice-work or a tree, one is forbidden to plant seeds in the space beneath the vine (which Chazal refer to as 'Apifroyos'). If one did, what subsequently grows is forbidden. The remainder of the wall, the beam, the netting or the tree (over which the vine is draped but not directly underneath it [which Chazal refer to as 'Mosar Apifroyos']) is forbidden too, but only Lechatchilah. Bedi'eved, what subsequently grows is permitted.

The Dinim regarding 'Mosar Apifroyos' are complex, and one needs to consult a Rav for guidance.


10. If, in the case of a large vineyard (which we discussed above in para. 5), if the wall runs the length of three vines or more, and the space between the vines and the wall is less than twelve Amos, it is forbidden to plant in any part of that area (which Chazal refer to as 'Mechol ha'Kerem'). From the point where the wall ends however, a distance of four Amos between the vines and the seeds will suffice.

If the space between the vineyard and the wall is twelve Amos or more, then one only requires a distance of four Amos between the vines and the seeds.

The Dinim of the wall of a Machol are equivalent to the wall that we discussed above in chapter 14, para. 11. A ten Tefachim deep ditch has the same Din as a wall in this regard.


11. One can avoid having to leave the distance specified in para. 1. by building a fence or a wall, or even by putting up a 'Tzuras ha'Pesach' (incorporating two side-posts and a cross-bar) between the two species (see chapter 14, para. 11-14). Even with a Tzuras ha'Pesach however, it is correct to leave a distance of six Tefochim between a vineyard and seeds.


12. If one built a fence between the vineyard and the seeds, but the roots of the vineyard grew underneath into the area of the seeds, then, if the roots are visible, one must either cover them with earth, or leave a distance of six Tefachim between one and the other. If on the other hand, the roots of the seeds grew into the area of the vineyard, one is only permitted to plant there if the roots of the seeds are covered by at least three Tefachim of earth. One may however, plant beside the fence, and does not need to worry that the roots might grow into the vineyard and are not covered by three Tefachim of earth.


13. Even if there is a fence or a Tzuras ha'Pesach, or if one did leave the required distance, this does not permit one to plant seeds underneath the branches of the vines that protrude over the fence ... into the area designated for seeds, irrespective of their height.


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