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YIP Parsha Project Parshat Shoftim

08/27/2014 09:00:16 AM


YIP Parsha Project

Shoftim                                                                          Max Family


Parshat Shoftim begins the requirement to establish just courts, and then tells of the prohibition of planting an Ashera (idolatrous tree) or erecting a Matzevah (pillar).    This placement is used to place a strong contrast, and teach that choosing an “unjust” judge is as bad as idolatry.


King of Israel

The Torah sets the stage for the rule of a king, but places many caveats on the position.  The people of Israel request the rule of a king, however the king must be chosen by Hashem.  Specific warnings are provided for too many horses or too many wives.  He also has a specific requirement to write his own Torah to keep with him and study.  This all emphasizes that the king must still abide by the mitzvot of the Torah.


City of Refuge

The commandment to establish Arei Miklat (Cities of Refuge) occurs earlier in the Torah, but is further explained here.  Cities are established for people guilty of manslaughter to flee and seek refuge.  The land should be divided evenly and the three cities are distributed evenly to be accessible.  The establishment of these cities emphasizes the need to protect the lives even of those guilty of manslaughter.


Demand for Peace

When approaching a city for battle, there is a requirement to allow for a peaceful surrender before placing the city under siege.  In war a distinction is made for the Canaanite nations which are to be utterly destroyed.  While laying siege and engaging in battle there is an admonition not cut fruit trees, because a “man IS a tree of the field”.    This commandment takes into consideration the environment even in war.


Eglah Arufah

Parshat Shoftim concludes with an unusual commandment.  If a murder victim is found in the field (outside the city), the elders of the neighboring cities must go out, and the nearest city must bear responsibility.  They must perform a ritual with a heifer where they declare they were not directly responsible and request atonement.  The ritual atonement does not absolve them from the responsibility from solving the murder and bringing the murderer to justice.

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