Shoftim

“Parsha and Purpose” – Shoftim 5780

“Parsha and Purpose” – Shoftim 5780
Rabbi Kenneth Brander’s weekly insights into the parsha 

“Leadership and the Law: Building a Just and Moral Society”

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“Leadership and the Law: Building a Just and Moral Society”

We are living in the midst of a pandemic in which our leaders have the awesome responsibility for so much of our communities’ health and wellbeing.

In some countries, notably Israel and the United States, citizens are challenging those leaders – on the streets and in the courts.

Specifically in these times of crisis, the relationship between leaders,the courts and citizens is an important aspect of a healthy and robust society.

While I believe that leaders deserve respect, it is in this week’s parsha that a Biblical constant is framed

שופטים ושוטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך

You shall appoint shoftim – judges – and “shotrim” in all of your communities

What are “shotrim”? In spoken Hebrew, they are police officers. And the most famous of Torah commentators, Rashi, also understands it that way.

In a modern context, it would speak to the fact that it is the responsibility of the judiciary (shoftim) to ensure the rule of law even on shotrim, law enforcement. Furthermore, it is the responsibility of law enforcement to help implement the laws. We see the vast majority of law enforcement doing so do even when it puts them in harm’s way. Yet the juxtaposition of Shoftim v’Shotrim obligates us to ensure that structures are in place that allow us to call out law enforcement that does not follow its own code of conduct. It is a sacred responsibility to maintain checks and balances between the Shoftim, judges, and Shotrim, law enforcement.

Yet many commentators and Midrashim translate “shotrim” not as police officers but rather as “leaders”. According to this interpretation, the verse reads: You shall appoint judges and leaders in all of your communities.

The Torah’s juxtaposition of  “judges” with “leaders” wishes to accentuate that it is in the best interest of any society even with the most regal of leaders to have checks and balances. That was the role of the Biblical prophet with the leader of the Sanhedrin and the King. 

Government requires structures that allow for a balance of power, if we are to  build a just and moral society.

In such a society, citizens have the right – and I believe even the responsibility – to respect their leaders, but, when necessary, to question them. The judiciary and government leaders are שלוחי דרחמנא – emissaries of God to help shape a more perfect society.   

The judiciary serves as a check on the power of leadership, ensuring that it remains responsive and accountable .

It is telling that the continuation of our verse continues with the words,

אשר ה’ א-להיך נותן לך

“…that Hashem your God is giving you.” 

Through these words, the Torah reminds us that as God gives us the Land, it is in the context of building a society in which no single branch of government holds all of the power. 

We have been given the responsibility of creating a just society. I applaud the work of hard working selfless civil servants. Without them we would destroy each other.  

But let us never forget that only by creating a civil society – embracing the concept of justice and compassion, Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof – we will truly be deserving of inheriting the land that God has given us.

Shabbat Shalom.

Shoftim – Crony Capitalism and How to Be a King in Israel

Rav Avishai Milner

Parshat Shoftim- Crony Capitalism and How to Be a King in Israel  Rabbi Avishai Milner is the Rosh Yeshiva of Neveh Shmuel Yeshiva High School, named in memory of Samuel Pinchas Ehrman  The King of Israel – mission impossible? Well, nearly impossible… One of the main motifs of the Book of Deuteronomy is how the …

Read moreShoftim – Crony Capitalism and How to Be a King in Israel

“Shabbat Shalom” – Shoftim 5780

This week’s “Shabbat Shalom” is dedicated in celebration of Leia Elison’s 3th Birthday— 2 Elul by her loving grandparents Ian and Bernice Charif of Sydney, Australia Shabbat Shalom: Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel – “The Levitic kohanim, the entire tribe of Levi, shall have no portion or inheritance with Israel; the Lord’s …

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“Shabbat Shalom” – Parshat Shoftim 5779

Shabbat Shalom: Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) By Rabbi Shlomo Riskin    Efrat, Israel –  “You shall appoint judges… will not pervert justice…. Justice, justice shall you pursue… You shall not plant for yourselves an Asheira near the altar of the Lord your God.” (Deuteronomy 16:18–21) The juxtaposition of these verses – the demand for honorable and righteous …

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“Parsha to the Point” – Shoftim 5778

Parshat Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) Rabbi David Stav Parshat Shoftim delves into the need to establish a judicial system in every town and village, for every tribe. The Torah adamantly requires us to maintain an incorruptible judicial system, forbids taking bribes, and so on. Our sages emphasize the severity of taking bribes, and describe how judges kept …

Read more“Parsha to the Point” – Shoftim 5778

“Shabbat Shalom” – Shoftim 5778

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

Parshat Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9) Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Efrat, Israel –  “Judges and Executors of Justice shall you establish for yourselves in all of your gates…. Justice, justice shall you pursue in order that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord your God is giving to you.” (Deuteronomy 16:18–20) In this opening passage …

Read more“Shabbat Shalom” – Shoftim 5778

“Shabbat Shalom” – Shoftim 5777

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

Parshat Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) Rabbi Shlomo Riskin Dedicated in loving memory of Wendy Hartz by her husband, Michael Hartz, and family on the occasion of her second yahrzeit Efrat, Israel — “When a matter shall arise for you too wondrous for judgment, whether it be capital, civil, or ritual, you shall go up to the …

Read more“Shabbat Shalom” – Shoftim 5777

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