by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS SHOFTIM 5772 BS"D
Ch. 16, v. 18: "Shoftim v'shotrim" - Judges and officers - This comes on the heels of the mitzvoh of thrice annually having a pilgrimage to Yerusholayim. The message is that one might want to satisfy the communal needs of having a court system by doing nothing locally where he lives. Since everyone goes on a pilgrimage three times a year, and in Yerusholayim, where the court of the greatest scholars is present, the people of each community will present their questions and disagreements to them. Nevertheless, each community is required to set up local courts, "b'chol sh'o'recho." (Ibn Ezra, Chizkuni, Rabbeinu Bachyei, Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh)
Ch. 16, v. 18: "Shoftim v'shotrim ti'tein l'cho" - Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourself - The gemara Yoma 38b says that Hashem saw that there would be a dearth of righteous people. He therefore spread them out and planted them, "v'shoslom," in each generation so that there be no generation that would be lacking a righteous person. This is alluded to in these first four words of our verse, whose first letters spell "SHOSeiL," planted. (Ohr Pnei Moshe of Pshevorsk)
Ch. 16, v. 18: "Shoftim v'shotrim ti'tein l'cho" - Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourself - The Sifri says that the appointment of proper judges is sufficient merit for the bnei Yisroel to live in Eretz Yisroel. This statement deserves clarification. The goal is not the appointing, but rather the implementation of proper rulings. Why does the Sifri stress the appointment?
The Ramban in his commentary on the incident of the destruction of Sdom raises the issue of why by "pilegesh b'Givoh" Hashem didn't likewise intercede and pour wrath upon the people. He gives a lengthy answer, which incorporates the differentiation between the severity of the sins. The Baal Ho'akeidoh finds this difficult as the verses condemn their actions in an equal manner.
He answers that even if the actual behaviour was just as bad, but the difference lies in the basic laws of the land. If the laws that are legislated are proper laws, even if a large amount of people violate the law, we consider this a one time aberration and the community is not dealt with as harshly. This was the case with "pilegesh b'Givoh." However, Sdom instituted laws that were depraved, and in turn when there was a sufficient accumulation of sin, Hashem lashed out most powerfully, raining down utter destruction from the heavens.
We now have an understanding of the great merit of APPOINTING proper judges. They will surely institute proper laws, notwithstanding the possibility that the masses will transgress these laws. An inherent protection against heavenly wrath is in place. (Shov Shmaatsa in his preface)
Ch. 16, v. 20: "Tzedek tzedek tirdofe" - Righteousness righteousness pursue - The Medrash Tanchuma #6 says that we derive from the words "mishpat tzedek" that the judge who rules properly has done two justices. First, he has ruled in favour of the person whose position is the correct one, and with money claims he would receive that which is rightfully coming to him. Second, money that is in the hands of his adversary is taken away, and he does not keep money that is not his. Based on these words "tzedek tzedek tirdofe" means to pursue a double justice, as above. (Baal Avodas Hatzdokoh)
Ch. 16, v. 20: "Tzedek tzedek tirdofe" - Righteousness righteousness pursue - The medrash says that based on these words the Rabbis have instituted that there be court sessions on Mondays and Thursdays. The GR"A explains that the order of the seven "kochvei leches," the planetary movement is given a mnemonic of "Ka*TZ*NaSH CHaLaM" for the beginning of the night and "CHaLaM Ka*TZ*Nash" for the beginning of the day. Based on this cycle the beginning of the night leading into Monday is the mazel of Tzedek, and likewise the beginning of the day of Thursday is again Tzedek. Since our verse refers to pursuing a competent court, there is an allusion to Mondays and Thursdays being days of Tzedek, of having court sessions.
Ch. 16, v. 20: "Tzedek tzedek tirdofe" - Righteousness righteousness pursue - The mishnoh Pei'oh 8:9 derives from these words that one who is collecting charity for himself should do so with integrity. If, for example, he falsely limps so that people should feel that he is handicapped and in turn they would increase their donations, this is not collecting charity with honesty. The mishnoh goes on to say that this person will not leave this world until he actually suffers from the feigned handicap.
Ch. 17, v. 17: "V'lo yarbeh lo noshim v'lo yosur l'vovo" - And he shall not proliferate for himself wives so that his heart should not turn away - The gemara Sanhedrin 21b says that the reasons for mitzvos are not spelled out in the Torah because by two mitzvos the reason is spelled out and the king fell prey to the pitfall the Torah states. One of these is that he not take too many wives, and king Shlomo did and in his older years, "Va'y'hi l'eis ziknas Shlomo noshov hitu es l'vovo." (M'lochim 1:11:4).
Nevertheless, we find great commentators, among them Sefer Hachinuch, who offer reasons for and insights into the performance of mitzvos. When one firmly plants into his heart the commitment to keep the mitzvos exclusive of reasoning, then and only then, is it safe to pursue reasons.
This is the meaning of the words in T'hilim 119:66, "Tuv taam vodaas lamdeini ki v'mitzvosecho he'emonti." King Dovid beseeched Hashem to teach him good reasoning because he had total faith in keeping the mitzvos without understanding reasons for the mitzvos. (Pninei Rabbeinu Yechezkel Abramski)
Ch. 17, v. 17: "V'lo yarbeh lo noshim v'lo yosur l'vovo" - And he shall not proliferate for himself wives so that his heart should not turn away - King Shlomo said, "Ani arbeh v'lo osur," I will take many wives and I will not turn away. No doubt king Shlomo had good intentions in his behaviour. Commentators say that he wanted to extract "holy sparks" from the nations by taking kings' daughters, the representatives of the nations.
In numerous places letters of words are switched to create a new understanding of a verse, such as "lisheiro" is turned into "sh'eir lo." King Shlomo took "lo yarbeh," transposed its letters and came up with "li arbeh," switching the Yud and Alef. To forewarn this, his father, king Dovid said to him, "V'shomarto es mishmeres Hashem …… kakosuv b'Soras Moshe l'maan taskil eis asher taa'seh" (M'lochim 1:2:2). You should safeguard the safeguarding of Hashem …… as is written in Moshe's Torah so that you will be successful in your actions. King Dovid is warning him to do exactly "as is written" and to not transpose letters. (Maris Ho'ayin citing Rabbi Avrohom Galanti)
Ch. 17, v. 18: "V'hoyoh ch'shivto al ki'sei mamlachto" - And it will be when he sits on the throne of his kingship - Rashi (Sifri 17:34) says that in the merit of fulfilling the three unique mitzvos of not taking too many wives, not collecting an exceedingly large amount of money, and not amassing too many horse, the king has the merit to have his kingship last. This is alluded to in the word "ki'sei," whose letters are a mnemonic for "kesef, sus, ishoh." (Kli Yokor)
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