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

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Vol. 13   No. 45

This issue is sponsored
l'iluy Nishmas
Betzalel ben Yitzchak Ya'akov
whose Yohrzeit is
2nd Ellul (5747)

Parshas Shoftim

All About Judges
(Adapted mainly from the P'ninei Torah)

Why does 'Judges' follow 'Yom-Tov'

The reason that the Parshah of judges follows that of Yom-Tov, says Rabeinu Bachye, is based on the Mitzvah obligating every Jew to go three times a year to Yerushalayim. Once there, he had access to the Kohanim and Levi'im, all of whom were basically Talmidei-Chachamim, Talmidei-Chachamim who were able to answer all their Halachic queries (the Sanhedrin ha'Gadol also sat there in the Lishkas ha'Gazis, and it is not clear why the author fails to mention it). And the juxtaposition now comes to teach us that this thrice-annual access to Talmidei-Chachamim is insufficient, and that there remains a Mitzvah to appoint a Beis-Din (a small Sanhedrin), as well as law-enforcers, in each and every town and city (see also 'The More Judges ').


Never Mind What the Goyim Say

"Judges and policemen you shall appoint for yourselves" (16:18).

"For yourselves", says the Tanchuma, 'and not for the Goyim'.

It is in order to instill Jewish values in K'lal Yisrael that the judges are appointed, not to find favour in the eyes of the nations (R. Kamelhar).

And, one may add, all Jewish leaders would do well to take their cue from them.


First Put Your Own House in Order

" ... for yourselves" (Ibid.).

First, says R. Simchah Bunem from P'shischa, one must put one's own house in order, before starting with others. Otherwise, it is a case of 'the pot calling the kettle black', as the old saying goes.


The More Judges ...

" ... in all your gates, and they shall judge the people in all your gates (in every town) " (16:18).

Yes, says R. Shlomoh Kluger, if one see to it to appoint judges in each and every town, then they will indeed be able to judge deliberately and patiently, as the Din requires them to, and they will have no problem with judging the people righteously. But if does not, then the workload becomes too heavy, as the number of litigants increases by the day, and in the end, the Dayanim are compelled to issue their rulings in a hurry.


Getting Clever

" ... and do not take a bribe ('Shochad')" (16:19).

The acronym for 'Shochad , says the Gemara in K'subos (105) is 'she'hu chad, which means that he becomes one with the person who bribed him.

What does a judge do when, after receiving a bribe, they show him the Shulchan Aruch, which issues in the exact opposite ruling to the one that he hoped to find?

No problem at all. He twists and turns the Halachah until he proves that the Shulchan Aruch means the exact the opposite of what it actually says.

Because 'she'hu chad' can also mean that he becomes sharp-witted (P'ninei Torah).


All Alone


'She'hu chad' can also mean that he is alone.

A judge who judges truthfully, says the Gemara in K'subos, is considered as if he is a partner with G-d in the creation of the world.

The moment he takes bribes however, he loses that privilege and ends up by being on his own.


The Means and the End

"You shall pursue righteousness righteously" (16:20).

This is how R. Bunim from P'shischa translates "Tzedek tzedek tirdof".

There are many who postulate that the end justifies the means, and that one is permitted to use dishonest means to arrive at the truth.

The fact that the Torah permits deviating from the truth for the sake of Shalom proves that it does not rule out this theory completely. By and large however, it is not accepted, as this Pasuk indicates, and certainly not in the courtroom, where Shalom can only be attained through Emes.


Shlomoh's Throne & Justice

"Pursue righteousness, so that you will live and inherit the land that Hashem ... is giving to you" (1:18).

This Pasuk highlights the importance of justice. A major function of a Jewish king is justice, as we find many times in T'nach. See what the following Medrash (with reference to the six La'avin listed in the opening Pesukim here) has to say about that ...

Six steps led up to Sh'lomoh ha'Melech's throne, in front of which stood an announcer.

As the king ascended ...

... the first step, the announcer would announce "Do not pervert justice!"

... the second step, he would call out "Do not favour one of the litigants!"

... the third step ... "Do not accept bribes!"

... the fourth step ... "Do not plant any idol-groves". ... the fifth step ... "Do not erect a Matzeivah" (an altar made of one stone)!

... the sixth step "Do not sacrifice to Hashem your G-d an ox or a lamb that is blemished".

* * *

Parshah Pearls
(Adapted from the P'ninei Torah)

Set in One's Ways

"And do not set up a Matzeivah" (15:22).

This Pasuk, taken out of context, may also be interpreted to mean that one should not be too set in one's ways, says the Dineve Rebbe. There are people whose every principle becomes an obsession, from which they refuse to budge one iota. A major principle taught by Chazal is that 'One cannot learn from principles', since every principle has its exceptions. What the Torah is therefore hinting here is that a person must be flexible when the need arises, to know when to abide by a principle and when to bypass it.


Interestingly, R. Bunim from P'shischa learns virtually the same principle from the Pasuk later "And as for you, not thus did G-d give you" (18:14). He interprets the word "thus" (Chein) to mean a fixed principle, and therefore explains the Pasuk to mean that a person's Avodah should not be rigid, but should change and fluctuate (not diminish chas ve'shalom) according to the circumstances and according to the environment.


Pride Equals Idolatry

"Not to raise his heart above that of his brother, and not to turn away from the Mitzvah (i.e. the Torah) right or (and) left" (17:20).

Chazal have said that vanity is akin to idolatry. It is also well-known, says the Chasam Sofer, that the Midah of humility is often referred to as 'Mah' (like when Moshe said to the people "ve'nachnu mah ... " [and what are we - himself and Aharon] that you complain to us)?

And what's more, he adds, Chazal equate the word "Tzav" with idolatry.

Bearing all these points in mind, says the Chasam Sofer, what the Pasuk now means is that if the king (or anybody else for that matter) removes from (the word) "Mitzvah" the 'Mem' (from the right) and the 'Hey' (from the left), he is left with the word 'Tzav'. In other words, if one removes humility, one is left with Avodah-Zarah, which is equivalent to vanity.


Wealth and Wisdom


The Olelos Efrayim explains the Pasuk with reference to Chazal, who say in Bava Basra (25b) that someone who wants wisdom should turn towards the south when he Davens (which is equivalent to the right [looking at it from the perspective of the Shechinah, which is in the west]), whereas if he wants wealth, he should turn towards the north (i.e. the left).

What the Pasuk is therefore saying is, that, extending the principle beyond Tefilah, when somebody performs a Mitzvah, he should do so, not in order to attain wisdom or wealth, but le'Shem Shamayim.


To Be Tomim ... With Hashem.

"You shall be Tomim with Hashem your G-d" (18:13).

They asked R. Naftali Ropshitzer, who was famous for his righteousness and greatness in Torah, but also for his smartness and astute sayings, why the Torah only commands us to be Tamim, but not to be smart?

He answered that in order to be Tamim one needs to be smart. In other words, being smart is a prerequisite to being Tamim, in which case it is self-understood that once the Torah commands the latter, one has to learn the former first.

The word "Tamim" defies direct translation. It is a combination of righteous, wholeheartedly and devoid of personal motivation.


The Kotzker Rebbi also said that the Torah confines this Mitzvah to our relationship with G-d, implying that this is not necessarily the case with one's fellow Jew, and certainly not with gentiles. Why not?

Because David ha'Melech already taught us in Tehilim (18:27), that if a person behaves towards you in a crooked manner, then that is the way you should deal with him. Indeed, that is precisely what Ya'akov did with Lavan.

Yes indeed, when you deal straight with a crooked adversary, he will run circles round you!


Yet others interpret "Tamim" as not serving Hashem half-heartedly, saying one thing with one's mouth but thinking another in his heart, just as Rashi explains the Pasuk in the Sh'ma "be'Chol Levovcho".


Metaphorically Speaking

"A single witness may not arise against a man for any sin committed on purpose or by mistake" (19:15). Chazal extrapolate from these words that he may not arise "for any sin committed on purpose or by mistake", but that he may arise to obligate him to swear (in matters concerning money).

The Medrash says that the letters 'Ayin' and 'Daled' (of "Sh'ma Yisrael" and "Hashem Echad", which appear large in the Seifer Torah, and which spell 'Eid'[witness]) only testify on the merits of Yisrael, but not on their sins, with the sole exception that is, of the sin of 'Shevu'as Sheker' (making a false oath - the most sever of all regular La'avin). When questioned on this Medrash P'li'ah, the Sadigura Rebbe explained that it is actually hinted in the above Pasuk (and Chazal), which taken out of context, can be translated as ... 'the testimony of Echad (with reference to the 'Daled' which concludes the word 'Eid' to which we referred) cannot arise against a man for any sin committed on purpose or by mistake, with the sole exception of the sin of Shevu'as Sheker'.


Why Did the Rambam Change the Order?

"Who is the man who built a new house and did not consecrate it? ... Who is the man who planted a vineyard and did not redeem it? ... Who is the man who betrothed a woman and did not marry her? ... Let him go and return to his house ... " (20:5-7).

The Rambam in Hilchos Dei'os (5:11), teaches that it is the way of people to first find a trade or profession and then to purchase a house, before finally getting married and settling down.

But surely, all the commentaries ask, this clashes with the Torah, which, as we just saw, inverts the order, giving precedence to building a house (the Pasuk does not mention purchasing) over planting a vineyard (which is an example of a profession)?

Of the various answers given by the commentaries, says the Ma'ayanah shel Torah, the finest is undoubtedly that of the Chasam Sofer, who points out that even though the Torah refers to planting a vineyard, it is speaking about the redemption of its fruit, which takes place in the fourth year after planting. Consequently, the Pasuk may well first mention the house, but that is only with regard to the consecration, which for some reason precedes the redemption of the fruits of the vineyard (though it is not clear why). With regard to the building however, the planting of the vineyard (which took place four years earlier) came first.

* * *

(Adapted from the Seifer ha'Chinuch)

Please bear in mind that the rulings in this article reflect the opinion of the Seifer ha'Chinuch and are not necessarily Halachah.

Mitzvah 441:
To Redeem Kodshim that have Become Blemished (cont.)

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... Should the animal die before it has been redeemed, then it must be buried, like unblemished Kodshim that die, which must be buried because nobody is permitted to benefit from them. And this in turn, is due to the fact that one cannot redeem Kodshim once they have died, because the Torah requires them to be 'stood and assessed', before being redeemed, as the author explained in Parshas Bechukosai (Mitzvah 353) ... In the event that the blemished animal gives birth to an unblemished baby before it has been redeemed, it must be sacrificed on the Mizbei'ach. But if it only became pregnant then, and gave birth after the redemption, the baby is forbidden and cannot be redeemed. What does one therefore do? Shortly before redeeming the mother, one declares the same Kedushah that the mother has, on the baby. The baby cannot be sacrificed on account of the mother's Kedushah, because it is a Kedushah that is flawed due to the blemish, but it can then be sacrificed on account of its own Kedushah ... Once Pesulei ha'Mukdashin have been redeemed, they may be Shechted in the butcher's market-place, sold there, and weighed there using regular weights, like regular Chulin animals. The two exceptions to this ruling are B'chor and Ma'aser, which may neither be Shechted nor sold in the market-place. The reason for this distinction is that when regular Kodshim are sold, the proceeds revert to Hekdesh, since one purchases with the money, animals for Hekdesh, in which case one sells them in the normal way, so as to obtain the best price for Hekdesh; whereas a blemished B'chor and Ma'aser, which may be eaten by the owner, may not be Shechted in the regular market ... The author has already discussed the blemishes which invalidate a Kodshim animal, in Parshas Emor (Mitzvah 275) ... together with the remaining Dinim, which are discussed in Maseches Bechoros, Temurah, some places in Chulin, in Erchin and in Me'ilah.

This Mitzvah applies to both men and women during the time of the Beis-Hamikdash. Nowadays however, just as one cannot declare an animal Hekdesh, so too, can one not redeem P'sulei ha'Mukdashin, as the author wrote in Bechukosai (Mitzvah 353). Even though he wrote there that if someone does declare something Hekdesh nowadays, his Hekdesh is effective, and he needs to do something about it, that does not refer to the Din of redemption, which is certainly not applicable today under any circumstances, as he explained there in connection with the Dinim of Erchin.


Mitzvah 492:
Not to Plant Trees in the Beis-Hamikdash

It is forbidden to plant trees in the Beis-Hamikdash or beside the Mizbei'ach, as the Torah writes in Shoftim (16:21) "Do not plant for yourself an idolatrous tree, any tree, beside the Mizbei'ach of Hashem ... ".

The reason for this Mitzvah, writes the Rambam, is because the idolaters used to plant beautiful trees in their houses of worship. And it is in order to distance us from copying them in any way when worshipping Hashem in His chosen House, that the Torah forbids planting trees there. And the author concurs with this reason.

Some of the Dinim of the Mitzvah ... The prohibition, Chazal explain, is not confined to the location directly next to the Mizbei'ach; it extends to anywhere in the Azarah, all of which falls under the heading of 'beside the Mizbei'ach' ... Nor does it make a difference whether one plants a fruit-tree or a non fruit-bearing tree. All trees are included in the prohibition, and are subject to Malkos ... Furthermore, Chazal included in the prohibition erecting any wooden building, such as a sun-porch, in the Beis-Hamikdash, in the way that people do in their own courtyards (though this is only Rabbinically prohibited). Despite the fact that this falls under building rather than planting, the Rabbis forbade it, due to the Pasuk "kol eitz" (any wood), which hints at anything made of wood. Indeed, all the covers and the porches that protruded from the walls of the Beis-Hamikdash were made of stone ... and the remaining details, are all discussed in Maseches Tamid (and in Yoreh Dei'ah Si'man 145).

This Mitzvah applies to both men and women. Even today, anyone who plants a tree in the area of the Azarah is subject to Malkos.

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