This week, our Parshat HaShevua is being sponsored by Dr. Ari and Rivka Stern of Ramat Beit Shemesh in honor of the Bar Mitzvah of their son Chaim Tzvi. To the Stern family, many thanks for your sponsorship and continued kindnesses.
You can celebrate a Simcha — a birth, a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, a Chassuna or other Simcha event in your life, or commemorate a Yahrtzeit of a loved one, or for whatever other reason by sponsoring (or as the case may be, co-sponsoring) a Parshat HaShevua. Please be in contact with me with any questions, or for further details.
Parshat Shoftim 5773: Justice in Judgement and Paradigm Criteria for Kingship Over Am Yisrael
Our parsha opens with the Torah requirement of appointment of judges, and officers of the court to enforce judicial decisions. The third posuk of our Parsha reads;
“Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof…” Righteousness, righteousness (also rendered Justice, Justice) you shall pursue that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord, your G’d gives you.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 16, posuk 20)
This posuk follows immediately after the opening of our Parsha in which Moshe Rabbeinu urges the B’nai Yisrael;
“Judges and officers shall you appoint in all of your cities — which Hashem …gives you — for your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgement. You shall not pervert judgement, you shall not respect persons, neither take a bribe, for a bribe binds the eyes of the wise, and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 16, p’sukim 18-19)
The Stone Chumash (Parsha Shoftim, page 1024) cites a Rashi which indicates that the posukim emphasize that judges must be appointed who are qualified and righteous “so that they will judge honestly and correctly.” Take notice of the loshen, of the language of the phrase, “you shall not respect persons” — letting a person’s status, financial position, position of influence in the community or dress and appearance affect judgement. This author might possibly add personal prejudice to the aforementioned list of “factors of respect or disrespect” affecting judgement.
Kind, sorta sounds like Sgt. Friday (Jack Webb) of TV series “Dragnet” fame who, when investigating, would utter the line: “The Facts…, just the Facts”
And perhaps the abovementioned citing in the Stone Chumash on the posuk “Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof…” relates to more than litigants, and to one-to-one relationships within the context of the whole of Klal Yisrael.
A jaw-dropping commentary citing Sifrei 144 and Sanhedrin 32b on the 3rd posuk of our parsha notes on: “Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof…”:
“Shall you pursue” rather than “shall you judge” indicates that the verse is addressed to litigants, rather than the judges. Although they [litigants] may take their case to any competent court, they should make an effort to take it to a court which has the most learned and righteous judges. (Sefer Zikaron, Mesiach Ilmim, Gur Aryeh)
Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, in his Sefer “Torah Gems” notes:
“Justice alone is not enough, because there are many types of justice, just as there are many kinds of truth. Every regime has it’s own justice. The Torah therefore stresses ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue…’, namely the justice of justice, where both the means and the end are just.” (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Volume 3, Parsha Shoftim page 257)
The pursuit of justice opening our parsha leads into Torah’s enunciations in numerous other areas; i.e. prohibitions against blemished offerings, robbery and extortion, as well as avodah zora. Torah also relates that any Kohen (expressed as “Levite”) could come and minister together with the Kohanim of a particular watch and share in the division of that watch’s prescribed communal offerings.
Our parsha also enunciates laws concerning criteria for when, and qualifications for kingship, a head of state for Am Yisrael — the paradigm for justice, loyalty to Hashem and Torah, as well as for national unity.
Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch z”l, in the new Hirsch Chumash (English translation by Daniel Haberman) renders our parsha regarding Malchei Yisrael (kingship):
“When you come to the land that Hashem… is giving you, and you have taken possession of it and will dwell in it, you will say: I will set a king over me, like all the nations… you will then set a king over yourself whom Hashem… will chose. From the midst of your brethren shall you set a king over yourself; you cannot set over yourself a foreigner who is not your brother.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 16, posukim 14-15)
R’ Hirsch comments on — “When you come to the land that Hashem… is giving you, and you have taken possession of it and will dwell in it”:
…These words… state unequivocably at the very outset that it is not the role of Melech Yisrael to conquer the land and secure Israel’s possession of it; it is not his role to build up power to be used externally. For it is Hashem Who gives the Land to Israel, and with Hashem’s help Israel will conquer the land and dwell safely under His protection…. For these purposes Israel does not need a king: all Israel needs to do — so that Hashem’s promises may be fulfilled — is to be “Israel”; to prove that it is indeed the people loyal to Hashem’s Torah: to win a moral victory over itself from within so as to be sure of victory also against all enemies from without.
…This need [kingship] can arise for only one reason: … to assure the sole factor on which Hashem’s protection and blessing depend; … the nation be “Israel”, the people loyal to Hashem’s Torah.
You, too, [Israel] will feel the need for national unity in order to obtain the greatest good for yourself… for this purpose, you, too, will seek to establish national unity by means of subordination to one head of state. But… your head of state will… stand out… first among all Jews loyal to Torah… (R’ Hirsch commentary in the new Hirsch Chumash on Sefer Devarim, Perek 16, posukim 14-15. pages 394-401)
R’ Hirsch seems to have outlined the paradigm L’Chatchila (the way things oughta be) of the nation acting as “‘Israel’, the people loyal to Hashem’s Torah”, and not a divisive nation, divided and conquered by equivocating, vacillating anti-Torah politicians who lack, or have lost a handle on the spiritual ability to truly know why they are here and why a modern-day Israel exists.
Further, the second part of Perek 16, posuk 15 delivers an important message to be heeded in today’s Israel:
“You cannot set over yourself a foreigner who is not your brother.”
Of course, the B’nai Yisrael cannot set over itself any type of foreigner. But, by extension, any foreigner, any non-Jew ought not, cannot wield governing power, be it executive or legislative, in a true Jewish sovereignty. For WE ARE a Jewish sovereignty, a Jewish nation. Torah tells that those foreigners willing to live in israel — under a Jewish sovereignty are welcome provided they live by and obey the rules of a Jewish sovereignty. But they ought not, cannot have legislative governmental power over Am Yisrael.
May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them at leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized gunpoint, that our dear brethren Jonathan Pollard and Sholom Rubashkin, as well as the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!
Good Shabbos, Chodesh Tov!
Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.