Torah Weekly

For the week ending 26 August 2006 / 2 Elul 5766

Parshat Shoftim

by Rabbi Yaakov Asher Sinclair -
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Moshe tells Bnei Yisrael to appoint judges and officers in their cities. A bribe of even an insignificant sum is forbidden. Trees are not to be planted near Hashem's altar, as was the way of idolaters. Blemishes in animals designated for offerings and other points of disqualification are listed. The Great Sanhedrin is to make binding decisions on new situations according to Torah criteria to prevent the fragmentation of the Torah. A very learned scholar who refuses to accept the Halachic decisions of the Sanhedrin incurs the death penalty. A Jewish king may only have possessions and symbols of power commensurate with the honor of his office, but not for self-aggrandizement. He is to write for himself two sifrei Torah, one to be kept with him wherever he goes, so that he doesn't become haughty. Neither the kohanim nor the levi'im are to inherit land in the Land of Israel, rather they are to be supported by the community by a system of tithes. All divination is prohibited. Hashem promises the Jewish People that He will send them prophets to guide them, and Moshe explains how a genuine prophet may be distinguished from a false one. Cities of refuge are to be provided an accidental killer to escape the blood-avenger from the deceased's family. However, someone who kills with malice is to be handed over to the blood-avenger. Moshe cautions Bnei Yisrael not to move boundary markers to increase their property. Two witnesses who conspire to "frame" a third party are to be punished with the very same punishment that they conspired to bring upon the innocent party. A kohen is to be anointed specifically for when Israel goes to war, to instill trust in Hashem. Among those disqualified from going to war is anyone who has built a new house but not lived in it yet, or anyone who is fearful or fainthearted. An enemy must be given the chance to make peace, but if they refuse, all the males are to be killed. Fruit trees are to be preserved and not cut down during the siege. If a corpse is found between cities, the elders of the nearest city must take a heifer, slaughter it, and wash their hands over it, saying that they are not guilty of the death.


The Days Of Our Lives

“And it (the Torah) shall be with him (the king), and he shall read from it all the days of his life…” (17:19)

A recent newspaper article described how a man, who had been in a coma for some 20 years, awoke one day and started speaking normally. Apparently, he had been able to hear and understand everything that had been taking place around him. To the eyes of the world, and principally his doctors, he was as though dead to the world. So much so, that several times they stood at the foot of his bed discussing the possibility of turning off his life-support machines.

Can you imagine what it must be like to lie in a bed and hear such a conversation? Can you imagine what it must have felt like to want to scream, “I’m alive! I’m alive! Don’t turn me off!” and yet not a sound emerges from your throat, nothing moves, not a finger, not a muscle?

“And it (the Torah) shall be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life…”

The Torah is a feminine noun. Thus, in the first part of this sentence, the phrase, “it shall be with him”, referring to the Torah, is feminine. However, the “it” at the end of the sentence is masculine. What is the Torah hinting to us through this anomaly?

The luchot, the two tablets of stone on which G-d inscribed the Torah, were square in shape. If you go into almost any synagogue in the world, however, you will notice that the typical representation of the luchot suspended above the Holy Ark has rounded tops. From where does this shape derive?

The classic diagrammatic depiction of the human heart is an inverted triangle with two rounded tops. When G-d gave the Jewish People the Torah on Mount Sinai, It was not given just as the World’s Instruction Book; its words were to be engraved indelibly on the hearts of the Jewish People forever.

The Torah’s place of residence in this world is the Jewish heart.

“And it (the Torah) shall be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life…”

You can read the second half of this sentence like this: “…and he shall read in him(self) all the days of his life.”

The Torah is the voice of life inside every Jew.

Many are the challenges that face us in the world today; many are the lures – success, money, marrying whom we want; doing what we want when we want. It’s all too easy to just turn off our Jewish life-support systems and join the rest of the crowd.

However, there will always be a little voice inside us shouting inside us “I’m alive! I’m alive! Don’t turn me off!”

  • Source: Thanks to Rabbi Aryeh Burnham

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