תשע”ט פ’ שופטים
Volume 30, Issue 5
INSIGHTS from the SEDRA
Insights from the Sedra is a project of the Scholar’s Kollel of Great Neck. It aims to provide several questions and answers about the Sedra, culled from various commentaries, including the following: Baal Haturim, Darash Moshe, Vedebarta Bam by Rabbi Moshe Bogomilsky, Torah Treasures by Dov Furer, Wellsprings of Torah by Alexander Friedman, and Kol Dodi by Rabbi Dovid Feinstein, Great Torah Lights by Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Goodman, Something To Say by Rabbi Dovid Goldwasser, The Vilna Gaon, Growth Through Torah by Zelig Pliskin and The Call of the Torah.
שפטים ושטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך
“Appoint for yourselves judges and police in all your gates…” (16:18)
Every person has seven “gates”: two ears, two eyes, two nostrils, and a mouth. Through these “gates” we receive all our impressions and attain our awareness of the outside world. Our verse instructs us to “place judges and police at our gates,” to be careful that no shameful and immoral perceptions enter these “gates” of yours. Let not your ears hear evil, your eyes see evil, nor your mouth speak evil. (Shelah HaKodesh)
תתן לך – “You shall appoint for yourself” – this is an appeal to the people who appoint the judges and enforcers not to think that being that they have appointed the enforcers, they are themselves not subject to their authority. The meaning of לך then is equivalent to עליך, “over yourself”.
בכל שעריך – “In all your cities” – the reason the Torah writes כל, “all,” is to tell us that every single city and town in the land of Israel must have its own judiciary. Yalkut Shimoni on our verse states that our verse draws a comparison between the Supreme Court and the regional courts; just as the Supreme Court has the authority to deal with capital offenses and to hand down death sentences, so do the regional courts (if composed of a minimum of 23 judges.) The exegesis appears to be based on the word בכל which includes all the various courts as having the same authority. (Ohr HaChaim)
צדק צדק תרדף
“Justice, justice, you shall pursue…” (16:20)
The Torah relates (Shemot 20:15) that at Har Sinai, “the entire people saw the voices…” What did Hashem intend to accomplish via this miracle? The Chidushei HaRim explains that the mitzvah that instructs us not to steal – “lo (lamed-aleph) tignov” – could be confused for the phrase “lo (lamed-vav) tignov”, which would mean that we should “steal for Him,” i.e. Hashem! In other words, since the phrases sound identical and only vary in the spelling of “lo”, the Jewish people were at risk of being able to convince themselves that it’s acceptable for a person to steal so long as one is doing it “for a good cause.”
The reality is that a human being is always vulnerable to this type of warped logic, because it’s easy for a person to convince himself of things that interest him, and then incline his views accordingly. Therefore, to avoid this problem and to ensure the Jewish people would know with 100% certainty that “stealing for Him” is forbidden, Hashem caused that “the entire people saw the voices” when the Torah was given at Har Sinai. This would guarantee that they would literally see the difference in spelling between the words “lo (lamed-aleph)” and “lo (lamed-vav).” (Short & Sweet)
על פי שנים עדים
“By the testimony of two witnesses… (17:6)
In order to be punished by beis din – rabbinical court, a person must first have been warned that what he is doing is forbidden, and that he will receive punishment for doing it. According to one opinion, an accused person is not put to death unless the same two witnesses who are testifying to his crime were also the ones who warned him not to commit it.
Our verse says that the person is put to death al pi, which literally means “on the mouths of” the witnesses. It must be their mouths that warned him and led to their testimony condemning him. This phrase also teaches us that the judges must hear the testimony coming from the mouths of the witnesses. They may not hear testimony from witnesses through an interpreter. (Teachings of the Talmud – Makkos 6b)
והיה כשבתו על כסא ממלכתו
“And when he sits on his royal throne… (17:18)
Chazal (Yerushalmi, Bikkurim 3:3) state that, on the day of his coronation, a Jewish king has all his past sins forgiven and becomes a tzaddik with a clean and unblemished record. The Torah says about this king: ve’haya, literally “and when” – may he remain throughout his reign, keshivto al kisei mamlachto, “he sits on his royal throne,” – just as he was on the day of his coronation. May he never be affected by the ruthlessness and ambition that come with power. May he remain as clean and pure as he was on the day that he ascended the throne. (Gerrer Rebbe from Iturei Torah)
ואמר אלהם שמע ישראל אתם קרבים היום למלחמה על איביכם אל ירך לבבכם אל תיראו
“And he shall say to them, ‘Hear, O Israel, you are coming near to the battle against your enemies; let your heart not be faint; do not be afraid… (20:3)
Why does the kohen say to Klal Yisrael, “Shema Yisrael?” Perhaps the kohen starts off speaking to Klal Yisrael by encouraging them. He says, “Listen Yisrael” – always remember that you are called “Yisrael.” The Zohar explains that Yaakov Avinu had two names; Yaakov and Yisrael. Yaakov was the name representing the heel, a name used when Klal Yisrael are on a low level. Yisrael is used when Klal Yisrael are the head, on top of the world The kohen reminds Klal Yisrael that they have no reason to fear the enemy because they are Yisrael. (Be’er Moshe]