by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS SHOFTIM 5767 BS"D
Ch. 17, v. 4: "V'hugad l'cho v'shomato v'dorashto" - And it will be told to you and you will hear and you shall investigate - The word "v'shomato" seems to be superfluous, as one must hear the testimony to be able to judge. Perhaps "v'shomato" means "and it will seem plausible to you," (Commentators explain "Shma Yisroel" similarly - "Know and understand"). It is only when the testimony seems plausible that you are required to further investigate. If you feel that the testimony is falsified, even with no hard proof, you may throw the case out, as this is a "din m'ru'meh." (Nirreh li)
Ch. 17, v. 4: "V'dorashto heiteiv" - And you shall investigate very well - "Heiteiv" has the same numerical value as Hashem's Holy Name, 26. It is as if our verse is telling the judge that when he investigates the matter he should "request of Hashem" to give him the wisdom to rule properly. The judge must be keenly aware of Hashem's presence in the court. (Rabbeinu Bachyei)
Ch. 17, v. 10: "V'shomarto laasose k'chol asher yorucho" - And you shall safeguard to do according to all that they guide you - The gemara Brochos 4b says that he who transgresses the words of the sages is deserving of death. This obviously requires an explanation, as even transgressing the Torah seldom carries the death penalty. Rabbi Yonoson Eibeshitz offers an insight. Every country has laws, and there are varying offences, which carry varying punishments, dependent upon their severity, and other factors, such as being more prevalent and requiring greater deterrents, etc. A judicial procedure is required before carrying out any punishment.
Let us now shift our focus to the king in his palace. He no doubt has security guards posted in strategic locations. It is obvious that there are armed guards who protect the king's quarters. If one were to attempt to rush into the king uninvited, the guard would stop him. If he was strong-headed and just pushed on, the guard would apply physical force to stop him, and even if he killed the intruder, the guard would go scot-free. This is because guarding the king is of utmost importance. Similarly, there are sins of varying degrees, and correspondingly, varying retributions. Our sages are the guards who institute Rabbinical laws to safeguard Hashem's Torah. Those who disregard the guards can even be killed for their insolence.
Ch. 17, v. 15: "Som tosim o'lecho melech" - Surely place a king upon you - The gemara Brochos 58 says that when one sees a king he should recite the blessing "Boruch shecholak mikvodo li'rei'ov." Why is the word "shecholak" chosen over "shenosan"? This is because our parsha of appointing a king and all the mitzvos attached to a king are expressed in 138 words. Numerically this is Ches-Lamed-Kuf. (Sifsei Kohein)
Ch. 17, v. 19: "Kol y'mei cha'yov" - All the days of his life - Sifri says that "y'mei ch'yov" refers to the days. "Kol" adds on the nights. This seems to run parallel to Ben Zoma's interpretation of "L'maan tizkor es yom tzeis'cho mei'eretz Mitzrayim kole y'mei cha'yecho" (Dvorim 16:3). We might take the liberty of saying that the Chachomim who disagree with ben Zoma on that verse would have their same position here, "L'hovi li'mose haMoshiach." The king must read from the Torah all the days of his life to bring the days of Moshiach. The king is an ancestor of the King Moshiach. The worthier he is, the worthier his descendants will likely be. It is his responsibility to continually read from the Torah and carefully follow its dictates so that he transmits these values to future kings, who as leaders of the generations will elevate the spiritual level of the nation. In turn this will hasten and bring about the coming of Moshiach bb"a.
Ch. 17, v. 20: "L'maan yaarich yomim" - So that he will live a long life - Why is a special effort put in to assure that the king live long? This is to counter-balance his propensity to die young, based on the maxim, "Horabonus m'ka'veres es baa'lehoh." This also explains the custom of calling out "Y'chi ha'melech" when he is installed. (Chizkuni)
Ch. 18, v. 3: "V'nosan laKohein hazro'a v'halchoyayim v'ha'keivoh" - And he shall give to the Kohein the arm, the cheeks and the stomach - When the Malbim spoke at his Rabbinical installation ceremony as Rabbi of Bucharest, he said that there was no longer a Beis Hamikdosh standing, nor verifiable Kohanim. The Rabbis are in the place of Kohanim. He therefore requested that these three items be given to him. The arm, that the people commit themselves to wear tefillin, the cheeks, that they not shave their faces with a razor, and the stomach, that they only consume kosher food.
Ch. 19, v. 18: "Eid sheker ho'eid" - A false witness is the witness - The gemara Makos 2a explains that "eidim zom'mim,"false witnesses whom the Torah says receive retribution is kind, are only those who are contradicted by a pair of witnesses who don't dispute the information offered by the first pair, but rather, totally negate their honesty, by saying, "You were not there to see the event." The Rabam hilchos eidus 18:3 writes that the Torah's relying on the second pair over the first is a "g'zeiras haKosuv," a Torah ruling which we do not fathom. This is in keeping with the opinion of Abayei that "eid zomeim chidush hu."
In spite of this ruling, commentators do offer insights. The Ra"n in his "droshos" explains that it is logical to believe the second pair over the first. This is because if the second pair was lying, meaning that they themselves were not witness to the first pair being somewhere else at the time stated by the first pair in their testimony that they saw the event take place, they are running an inordinate risk. Lying means they did not see the first pair somewhere else. If this is so, they can easily be contradicted by the first pair, which truly was there, as there might have been others there as well who saw them. The first pair, if false, does not run such a risk. They would pick a time and place that they securely feel they were not spotted by others at a distance from their claimed location that the event took place.
Ch. 20, v. 8: "Mi ho'ish ha'yo'rei v'rach ha'leivov" - And whoever is the person who is fearful or faint of heart - Rabbi Yosi haGlili explains that this means a person who fears because he has sinned and is lacking merit to survive battle. The following story is to the best of my knowledge not recorded anywhere and has been told to me by the nephew of the person who was present when it took place. He was the host for the Holy Admor of Satmar Rabbi Yoel Teitelbaum ztvkllh"h shortly after the Admor suffered a stroke. The Admor stayed in his home for close to a year, being shielded from the masses, allowing him to regain his strength. The Admor was over 70 years old when this took place. The "six day war" broke out when the Rebbe was his guest. The Rebbe said many prayers for a positive outcome of the war. He also stopped eating. When it was already the third day of his fasting and the host was at his wit's end, as he feared for the Rebbe's health, and at the same time was not in a comfortable position to press the Rebbe to eat, he advised the Holy Admor of Bluzhov of the situation and the Rebbe immediately came to the Satmar Rebbe with a cake in hand. He insisted that the Rebbe eat. The Satmar Rebbe responded that he could not eat, as his fasting was in the merit of the Jewish soldiers at war.
"'M'meiloh,'" the Yidden who are 'shomrei Torah umitzvos' have many merits, but the irreligious soldiers are in grave danger at war and are lacking merits. It is for them that I fast."
Two points to take from this story:
1) The best soldiers are those who keep the mitzvos, as is the Torah's guideline for conscription.
2) The murmuring or even condemnation by those who complained that the Satmar Rebbe was anti-Israel and had a hatred for the irreligious Jew, is unfounded. How many so-called pro-Israeli's fasted for three days after suffering from a stroke beyond the age of 70 years out of concern for the irreligious army? v'dai b'kach
Ch. 21, v. 3: "V'hoyoh ho'ir hakrovoh el hecholol v'lokchu ziknei ho'ir ha'hee eglas bokor" - And it will be that the city that is closest to the corpse and the elders of the city shall bring a calf - Since the corpse is closest to their city they must bring an atonement, as they bear some responsibility. This is akin to the gemara Makos 11a, which relates that Eliyohu stopped communicating with Rabbi Yehoshua ben Levi when a murdered person was found in his vicinity. (Tzror Hamor)
Ch. 21, v. 5: "V'nigshu haKohanim bnei Levi ki vom bochar Hashem Elokecho l'shorso ulvo'reich b'sheim Hashem v'al pi'hem yi'h'yeh kol riv v'chol noga" - And the Kohanim the children of Levi should come close because Hashem your G-d has chosen them to serve Him and to bless in Hashem's Name and through their mouth shall be every disagreement and every skin blemish - Why does the verse go to such length to tell us the services of the Kohanim? The GR"A says that the ritual of "egloh arufoh" is the fifth and final service that requires specifically Kohanim. The Torah therefore lists them all. "L'shorso" is the Beis Hamikdosh service, "ulvo'reich b'sheim Hashem" is the priestly blessings, "v'al pi'hem yi'h'yeh" is the "egloh arufoh" ritual (see Rashi who says that the Kohanim say "Ka'peir l'amcho Yisroel), "kol riv" is the "sotoh" ritual, which settles the discord in the household, "v'chol noga" is the viewing of a suspected "nega."
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