Shema Yisrael Home

              Fish&Soup.jpg - 12464 Bytes Subscribe

   by Jacob Solomon

This Week's Parsha | Previous issues | Welcome - Please Read!


1. How are the commands of having to 'appoint judges and officers' and 'they shall judge the people with righteous judgment' (16:18) linked, according to the Ohr Hachayim?

2. The Torah states that justice against the convicted idolator is executed at the gate of the city where that pagan worship took place (17:5 and Rashi ad loc). Why does it take place at that specific location, according to the S'forno?

3. The Torah states that a person who 'does not listen to the priest… or the judge… he shall die' (17:12). Who, specifically, is that 'person', following the tradition recorded in the Talmud: Sanhedrin 86b?

4. Which laws on the Torah-ordained king's prerogatives (17:14-20) is King Solomon recorded not to have kept, and with what consequences?

5. How is the commandment of having to be 'wholehearted with… G-d' (18:13) explained by (a) Rashi and (b) the Ohr Hachaim?

6. What is the connection between the section on the false prophet and the one on the cities of refuge, according to the Alshich?

7. What are 'plotting witnesses', according to the text and Rashi's commentary, and how is the guilty party dealt with?

8. Why should a person who has not realized the benefits of his having planted a vineyard, built a house, or betrothed a woman not take part in the war - according to Ibn Ezra?

9. With whom were the Israelites required to make peace before going to war, according to (a) Rashi and (b) the Ramban?

10. In ceremony of the 'axed calf', why are the elders required to declare 'our hands have not shed this blood and our eyes did not see' (21:7) - according to (a) Rashi and (b) the S'forno?


1. The connection between having to 'appoint judges and officers' and 'they shall judge the people with righteous judgment' is to teach by implication that if the community appoints inappropriate judges, all responsible are reckoned by G-d as liable for their perversions of justice.

2. This is to impress the public that the very idol of that very city is incapable of preventing its server from the justice imposed by the Torah.

3. That is understood by the Talmud to refer to the 'rebellious elder' (Sanhedrin 86b). He must be an acknowledged and ordained sage, who is qualified to sit as judge on the Sanhedrin, but defies their ruling, claiming that it is permitted to act contrary to it.

4. Though King Solomon is recorded as being the wisest of people (Kings I 5:10), he was confident that he would be above the pitfalls (listed in 17:16-17,20) that happen to those kings who break some of the guidelines in this Parasha. However, his large stables did bring his people back to Egypt (Kings I 10:22-29), his many wives did affect him (ibid. 11:1-10), and his heavy taxes on the people for his treasury caused deep and bitter resentment amongst his people (ibid. 12:4), causing the Israelite nation to split after his death (12:16-19).

5. Being 'wholehearted with… G-d' according to Rashi, means that one's faith in G-d must be of the degree that one should trust Him in that all He does is for the ultimate best, without needing to know what will happen in the future. The Ohr Hachaim takes this further. The sayings of magicians and false prophets should be meaningless to a person of faith, as He has the power to nullify them.

6. Alschich makes the following connection. As the Torah established that Israel is not subject to various supernatural powers, a murderer may not justify his act by claiming that he was forced to kill by the influence of supernatural spirits.

7. 'Plotting witnesses' are those who testified that a person did a certain act, and then a second pair of witnesses testify that the first pair were 'removed' (19:16, see Rashi ad loc). This means that they could not have seen the act as they were 'with us' in a different place at the time they claimed in their testimony that the act took place. Such false testimony imposes the same penalty on those first witnesses as they conspired to impose (19:19) on the original defendant.

8. According to Ibn Ezra, a person in any of those situations will be too pre-occupied to be of real use to the fighting army.

9. According to Rashi, the Israelites only had to attempt to make peace with nations other than the Seven Canaanite ones, whom they were to utterly destroy (20:17) - understood to mean whether they were to make peace or not. The Ramban understands the Torah's injunction to make peace rather than war to even include the Canaanite nations (with total rather than partial annihilation to follow if they refused), so long as they paid taxes, served the Israelites, and accepted the Seven Noachite Laws.

10. According to both commentaries, there is no question that the elders of the community were directly responsible for the unidentified corpse. However, by the virtue of their office, they have to state that they were not even indirectly liable. According to Rashi, they have to declare that they had no part in letting him go without the hospitality of the town, and according to the S'forno, that they did not let a known murderer roam the land.


'If a matter of judgment is too difficult for you to resolve…You shall approach the Priests, the Levites, and the judge of the time… You shall inquire and they will tell you the words of the judgment…You shall be careful to do according to everything that they will teach you.' (17:8-10)

The above states that the contemporary leading religious authorities are the final arbiters in Halachic disputes. The expression the judge of that time is understood by the Talmud to include judges of lesser caliber than those of previous generations. 'Jephtah in his generation is as Samuel in his generation' (Rosh Hashannah 25b).

Why were those two judges in particular specified as the extremes of superior and inferior arbiters?

My attempts to answer the above may be found on the Shema Yisrael website under Shoftim for 5760

Other Parashiot from previous years may be viewed on the Shema Yisrael web-site:

Written by Jacob Solomon. Tel 02 673 7998. E-mail: for any points you wish to raise and/or to join those that receive this Parasha sheet every week.

Also by Jacob Solomon:
Between the Fish and the Soup

From the Prophets on the Haftara


Shema Yisrael Home

This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Permission is granted to redistribute electronically or on paper,
provided that this notice is included intact.

For information on subscriptions, archives, and
other Shema Yisrael
Classes, send mail to

Jerusalem, Israel