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by Zvi Akiva Fleisher

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Ch. 16, v. 18: "Shoftim v'shotrim ti'ten l'cho" - Judges and officers shall you place upon yourself - Rashi on verse 20 writes that in the merit of appointing PROPER judges the nation merits to be sustained in the land, as verse 20 continues, "l'maan tichyeh v'yorashto es ho'oretz." We can infer that when improper judges are installed that we will not be sustained. This explains why in the days of "Shfote hashoftim" (Megilas Rus 1:1), when the judges were being judged for their incompetence and unfair rulings, there was a famine in the land. (The Holy Alshich)

Ch. 16, v. 20: "Tzedek tzedek tirdof" - Righteousness righteousness shall you pursue - A number of interpretations:

1) This refers to the litigants. They should not satisfy themselves with going to an acceptable court. They should even travel a distance to avail themselves of the best judges available. (Rashi) Hence we have the double "tzedek," one referring to the plaintiff, and one to the defendant.

2) This refers to the litigants. Pursue correct judgment and accept it whether you win or lose. (Ibn Ezra)

3) This is a general admonition. Be righteous both in action and in speech. (Rabbeinu Bachyei)

4) This is a general admonition. Do not fall prey to "The end justifies the means." Pursue justice only with justice. (Rebbe Reb Simchoh Bunim of Parshis'cha)

5) This refers to the judge. Do not satisfy yourself with officiating in a court and have litigants come to you. Travel the length and breadth of the land to make yourself available even in small communities, as did the Prophet Shmuel. (Ahavas Tzion)

6) This refers to the judge. Double check to make sure that you have rendered a correct ruling. Otherwise you will lose the assurance that you will remain in the land and be sustained there. (See the Holy Alshich mentioned on 16:18)

7) This refers to the judge. Pursue righteousness from the point of ruling in accordance with the technical laws outlined in the Shulchan Oruch. Also pursue righteousness from the point of ferreting out falsehood in the claims and statements of the litigants, "din m'ru'meh." (Haksav V'hakaboloh)

Ch. 17, v. 3: "Va'yei'lech va'yaavode" - And he went and he served - On the words "Va'yeilchu va'yaasu bnei Yisroel" (Shmos 12:28), where the bnei Yisroel offered the Paschal lamb according to the requirements that Moshe related, Rashi (Mechilta) writes that the bnei Yisroel received a reward for doing, and also received a separate reward even for going to do. We might explain this as being in consonance with the rule that Hashem calculates the intention of doing a mitzvoh just like doing the mitzvoh itself, as stated in the gemara Kidushin 39b. The gemara also says that if one plans to do a sin but is thwarted, Hashem does not calculate this intention as if it were carried out. Tosfos on this gemara says that these two rules only apply to a ben Yisroel, but a non-ben Yisroel who plans to sin is considered as if he had sinned, and if he plans to do a good deed but has not brought it to fruition it is not as if he has done it.

We can thus say that in our verse, which is discussing a person who is serving a false god, even the going, i.e. the intention, is also calculated as if it was done. He therefore receives retribution for both the intention and the act, hence "va'yeilech." This is either because the gemara says that when it comes to idol worship even the intention is punished, as per the verse in Yechezkeil 14:5, "L'maan t'fose es beis Yisroel b'LIBOM," or because when a person is on his way to do the sin of "avodoh zoroh," he is treated like a non-ben Yisroel, who is accountable even for intent to sin. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 17, v. 20: "L'vilti room l'vovo ..l'maan yaarich yomim al mamlachto hu uvonov" - So that he not make his heart conceited .. so that he extend his days in kingship he and his sons - The king should rule with the goal of bringing betterment to the masses, and not so that he lord upon them for the length of his life and then have his children continue in the same manner. "L'maan yaarich" is the "room l'vovo." (Ksav Sofer)

Ch. 18, v. 4: "V'reishis geiz tzoncho ti'ten lo" - And the virgin shearing of your sheep shall you give him - The reason this is given to Kohanim and not L'viim is because L'viim have ample opportunity to acquire woolen clothing. They may take some of the tithes that they receive and sell or barter them for cloth. The items that Kohanim receive are by large items that have sanctity and cannot be sold to a Yisroel. Having only Kohanim as prospective purchasers greatly lowers the amount of money the items fetch. The Kohanim are thus without much opportunity to purchase clothing. The Torah therefore requires that we give the virgin shearing of wool from our sheep to the Kohanim. (Sefer Chasidim #1,061)

Ch. 19, v. 2: "Sholosh orim tavdil loch" - Three cities shall you set aside for yourself - The mishnoh Makos 9b says that the cities of refuge did not function until all six were set aside. The gemara 10a says that Moshe set aside the 3 cities of refuge on the Trans-Jordanian side even though he knew that they would not be immediately functional, as the 3 in Eretz Yisroel were not set aside, because he felt that the opportunity to do a mitzvoh, even if incomplete, should be done with alacrity.

Upon looking into the Rambam hilchos rotzei'ach ushmiras nefesh 8:3 we might note a difference in the requirements to get the six major refuge centers functioning and the other 42 cities, which also served as cities of refuge. The Rambam quotes the above-mentioned gemara, but only says this regarding the 6 cities of refuge. Only a number of halochos later, in 8:9, does he mention that there are also another 42 Levite cities that serve as refuge cities, (as per Bmidbar 35:6). It seems that from this verse we can derive that the 6 cities are primary areas of refuge, being given the appellation "sheish o'rei hamiklot," while the additional 42 are secondary. Likewise, the Sefer Hachinuch mitzvoh #500, the mitzvoh to set aside cities for the Levites, to make them areas of refuge, and to make thoroughfares with ease of travel to these cities, only mentions that none of the six function until all six are prepared, but makes no mention of this regarding the other 42. Possibly they make no mention of this simply because there is no reason to believe that they are any different. However, the gemara only says that all 6 are required, and does not say that all 48 are required. Possibly, the 6 have one ruling independent of the 42, but the 42 do hinge upon the 6. However, it seems that the 42 are independent, and can function without having the 6 functioning. The gemara Makos 12b derives from "v'samti l'cho mokome" (Shmos 21:13) that in the desert the encampment of the Levites served as the refuge area. We thus see that the area occupied by the Levites was a refuge centre even without the 6 special cities. One might argue that the bnei Yisroel would have no refuge at all otherwise, but we have this situation when they entered Eretz Yisroel and no longer had specific tribal encampments and the 6 were not yet functioning. It therefore seems quite acceptable to say that the 42 cities functioned independently of the 6. Although this would be a difference between the 6 and the 42, and the Rambam only lists 2 differences between them in halacha 10, that the 6 offer refuge even if the fleeing murderer entered the boundary of the city unaware that he has entered and that he lives there gratis, paying no rent, and likewise the Sefer Hachinuch also makes no mention of this difference, this is no proof that there is not the difference that is being suggested. It seems that the Rambam in halacha 10 and the Chinuch are only dealing with the differences of functioning cities of refuge, and not what makes them functional in the first place. (Nirreh li)

Ch. 19, v. 14: "Lo sasig g'vul rei'acho" - Do not move a boundary of your neighbour - The Baal Haturim writes that this verse comes on the heels of the previous parsha of dealing with a murderer to teach us that even though the Torah commands to put a murderer to death we have no carte blanche to take his property for ourselves.

The Meshech Chochmoh explains why this ruling is placed specifically by not stealing real estate. There is a Torah ruling that if in one act the murderer killed someone and also caused property damage, for example he shot an arrow at someone and both damaged the person's shirt and killed him, he is only liable for the death penalty and not the financial payment. This is called "kom lei bidraba mi'nei." However, if the heir's of the victim grab possessions of the killer for the value of the damage (not through a court process) they may keep the objects. Early halachic authorities write that this is only true when the heirs grab chattel and not real estate. This is why the Torah places not stealing real estate next to the parsha of the murderer, because chattel can be extracted from the murderer in the above manner, but not real estate.

Ch. 21, v. 3: "V'hoyoh ho'ir hakrovoh" - And it will be the city that is closest - There seems to be an understood word missing from this phrase, which is male. "And IT (male) will be." We cannot say that "v'hoyoh" refers to the city, as "ir" is a female word and the verse should have said, "v'hoySoh." Any help would be appreciated.

Ch. 21, v. 3: "V'hoyoh ho'ir hakrovoh" - And it will be the city that is closest - The Ralba"g says quite a "chidush." Closest does not specifically mean geographically closest. If we measure and find a small city being the closest and a major metropolis a bit further away, we deal with the elders of the large metropolis, as it is more likely that the victim departed from the larger city. "Krovoh," means more likely.

Ch. 21, v. 4: "El nachal eison" - To an uncultivated valley - The term "eison" is used to allude to our Patriarch Avrohom, who is called "Eison hoEzrochi." Avrohom didn't just feed his guests. He also escorted them a distance. This is the theme of the confession of the elders, that they did not send a traveler away without first feeding him and then escorting him. (Nefesh Y'honoson)



See also Oroh V'Simchoh - Meshech Chochmoh on the Weekly Parsha and Chasidic Insights

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