by Zvi Akiva Fleisher
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SEDRAH SELECTIONS PARSHAS SHOFTIM 5773 BS"DCh. 16, v. 18: "V'shoftu es ho'om mishpat tzedek" - And they shall judge the nation a fair judgment - Appoint judges who have a positive attitude towards people. (Kedushas Levi)
Ch. 16, v. 18: "Mishpat tzedek" - A fair judgment - A fair judgment means that when we have disputants even the one who loses the case sees the righteousness of the ruling. (Turei Zohov)
Ch. 16, v. 19: "Lo sa'teh mishpot lo sakir ponim v'lo sikach shochad" - Do not bend the law do not show favouritism and do not take a bribe - Verse 18 has commanded us to appoint judges and enforcers. Logically, our verse should follow through with, "Lo ya'the, lo yakir, v'lo yikach," the person you have appointed should not …… Why are these prohibitions expressed in second person?
The Ohr Hachaim Hakodosh answers that if those who appoint judges do not follow the dictates of the Torah as far as whom to appoint the corruption of the judges is counted as the sin of the one who appoints, second person.
Ch. 16, v. 19: "Ki hashochad y'a'veir einei chachomim" - Because the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise - There is a famous question asked on the historical fact that Korach argued with Moshe and according to the gemara Yerushalmi Sanhedrin he denied that Hashem told him any mitzvos. How could this have happened since Hashem told Moshe in parshas Yisro, "V'gam b'cho yaaminu l'olom?" The Holy Satmar Rebbe zt"l offers that since Korach had a bias against Moshe for not giving him a certain position he became blinded to what happened at Har Sinai. If we were to take "bribery will blind the eyes of the wise" literally then we have a situation where Korach was witness to all that happened at the "maamad hanisgov," and then because of his personal bias it was as if a delete button hit his experience. He was then able to refute all that had really happened.
Perhaps we all have a bit of this shortcoming to varying degrees when we want something and facts stand in the way.
Ch. 16, v. 21: "Lo sita l'cho asheiroh kol eitz eitzel mizbach Hashem Elokecho" - Do not plant for your self a deified tree any tree near the altar of Hashem your G-d - Our Rabbis tell us that he who appoints a corrupt judge is considered as if he has planted an "asheiroh." Why is a corrupt judge like a deified tree?
Most objects that are a deity are readily recognized. However, a deified tree looks just like any other healthy robust tree. Its inner identity as a false god is what makes it bad. So too, a
corrupt person appointed as a judge will surely have the external look of a "sheina Yid," but his insides are rotten. (Rabbi Chaim haLevi Brisker) Ch. 17, v. 16: "Lo sosifun loshuv baderech hazeh ode" - You shall no further return in this path ever - The prohibition to live in Egypt is qualified. We find over all the generations that many religious bnei Yisroel lived there. Many explanations are given. The Radva"z response #63 explains that to return means to go there to live with the intention to reside there permanently. Since we all yearn for the day that all the bnei Yisroel will return to Eretz Yisroel residing in Egypt is in a manner of impermanence. It would seem that if someone feels so comfortable that he wants to live out his days in the Diaspora, he is indicting those who live in Egypt generation after generation.
Ch. 18, v. 14: "El m'on'nim v'el kosmim yishmo'u v'atoh lo chein nosan l'cho Hashem Elokecho" - To soothsayers and to diviner will they hearken and not so has Hashem your G-d given you - Idol worshippers have a very vacillating relationship with their gods. If things don't go the way they want, they immediately, "V'hiskatzeif b'malko" (Yeshayohu 8:28). They get angry at their gods, drop them, and look for a new relationship.
Our relationship with Hashem is totally different. When punishment visits us, instead of being disappointed in Hashem we realize that "lo chein nosan l'cho Hashem Elokecho," Hashem has given us the understanding to realize that our behaviour has been one of "lo chein," NOT SO should we have acted. (Agra D'kaloh)
Ch. 19, v. 19: "Vaasisem lo kaasher zomam laasose l'ochiv" - And you should do to him as he diabolically planned to do to his brother - The mishnoh in the first chapter of Makos says that punishment in kind is only administered when the defendant has not been punished by the court. If he was, and only afterwards were the witnesses found to be "zom'mim," the punishment is not administered to them. Numerous explanations are offered by commentators for this seemingly illogical ruling. Taa'mei Haminhogim offers that the false witnesses wanted to put to death an innocent man. To punish them in kind it requires that the defendant remain alive so that we can likewise kill false witnesses who have not killed him. Had the death sentence been carried out, they are murderers and killing them is not punishment in kind. They killed an innocent person and they are being killed for murder. This is not "as they planned." Although we kill murderers in court who have killed innocent people this is not called "punishment in kind" by the Torah.
Ch. 20, v. 19: "Ki mi'menu sochal v'oso lo sachris" - Because from it you will eat and it you shall not cut down - The common behaviour of soldiers who feel that they will likely lose the battle in which they are engaged, to cut down and destroy any good thing in sight so that their enemies, who will likely have control of the area, not benefit. Our verse tells the soldiers to not have this attitude. Even if things look bleak, Hashem can easily turn the tide and have the bnei Yisroel win, so it is foolish to destroy a good fruit producing tree from which you yourself will eat. (Sforno)
Ch. 21, v. 1: "Lo noda mi hikohu" - It was not known who hit him - The sefer Chinuch writes that although the Torah makes no mention of it, it is self-understood that the Kohanim do all sorts of investigation and research to find out who committed the heinous crime of murder. It is only if their exploration yields no results that they proceed with the "egloh arufoh" ritual. This will result in publicizing what happened, as many people will surely assemble for the ritual. The large assemblage might bring about further information that can lead to finding the murderer.
It is most interesting that he says "the Kohanim" will investigate. At first glance one would likely believe that the members of the court would do so. It seems that the judges function only in court proceedings and not as investigators who are similar to today's police.
Ch. 21, v. 8: "Ka'peir l'amcho Yisroel" - Forgive Your nation Yisroel - The onus for the murder was squarely on the city closest to where the victim was found, as evidenced by verses 3,4,6,7. If so, why do the Kohanim ask Hashem for forgiveness for the complete nation Yisroel? True, the responsibility was only on the nearby city, but once the ritual has been done and the local Kohanim state that their hands have not shed this innocent blood (Note that the reading is "dOm noki" not "dAm noki, hence these two words are not to be translated as "blood OF an innocent person.), then the onus immediately spreads to the whole nation. (Malbi"m)
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