Parashat Shoftim!

Dear Friends;

I hope that you’ll enjoy the following Parsha summary
followed by a Dvar Torah;

” Parsha in a Nutshell ”

Moshe instructs the people of Israel to appoint judges and
law-enforcement officers in every city.

A minimum of two credible witnesses is required for conviction and punishment.

A Jewish king may only have possessions and symbols of power adequate for the honor ofhis office, but not for self glorification.

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.

The Parsha includes the prohibitions against idolatry and sorcery; guidelines for the creation of “cities of refuge” for the inadvertent murderer. Also set forth are many of the
rules of war: the exemption from battle for one who has just built a home,
planted a vineyard, married, or is “afraid and soft-hearted”; the requirement to
offer terms of peace before attacking a city.

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

” Dvar Torah ”

The main principals for humanity are liberty, equality and justice. Justice is not only
being neutral between right and wrong, but in finding out the right and
upholding it, whenever found against the wrong — Theodore

The foundation of civilization is based on justice! No
civilized society can survive without a judiciary system, and a set of law and
order. And Judaism cannot agree more with this system. This week’s parsha starts
off by telling us to appoint judges and lawmakers for ourselves. It continues by
telling us the famous quote, “tzedek, tzedek, tirdof”….. “Righteousness,
Righteousness, you shall pursue”….. The Chachamim are bothered by the
repetition of word “righteousness”. Why does the Torah need to repeat it twice?
Rabbi Frand explains that “The pursuit OF righteousness must also be pursued
WITH righteousness”. We are not merely being taught to run AFTER justice. We are
told to run AFTER justice WITH justice. The torah continues to explain that in
order to pursue justice, we have to appoint a righteous judges. A judge cannot
take a bribe. A judge cannot take the side of the weak or the powerful, since
the Torah says that a judge cannot show favoritism towards a widow or an orphan,
nor towards wealthy and powerful. Indeed, a judge has to be totally unbiased and
try his best to make a fair judgment.

In a western society’s court of law, where there is a dispute between two parties, the judge has to determine who is right and who is wrong; who has to be  rewarded and who has to be punished. The judge’s main role is to find who is guilty and who is innocent.
The judge has the full authority to make this decision. But in a Jewish court of
law, the judge’s role is different. His role is not to just find the guilty
party and punish him, but rather, his main role is to give people a fair trial.
Indeed the Torah sets down numerous rules and regulations which delimit the
judge’s power to judge, and ensure that when he does judge, he does so with
utmost caution and sensitivity.

We can get a better understanding of the
Judge’s role in a Jewish court of law by looking at the law regarding the
“indefensible criminal.”. This is how it works.

Under Torah law, capital crimes are tried by a tribunal of 23 judges called a “Minor Sanhedrin.” After hearing the testimony of the witnesses, the judges themselves would split into two groups: those inclined to argue for the defense of the accused would serve
as his “defense team” and seek to convince their colleagues of his innocence;
those inclined to convict would make the case for his guilt. Then the judges
would vote. A majority of one was sufficient to set him free, while a majority
of two was necessary to convict.

But what if all twenty-three judges form an initial opinion of guilt? What if the evidence is so compelling and the crime so horrifying that not a single member of the tribunal chooses to argue in the accused’s favor? In such a case, says Torah law, the accused cannot be convicted and must be exonerated by the court.

The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains the
rationale behind this law as follows: No man is so utterly evil that there is
nothing to be said in his defense. There is always some explanation, some
justification, some perspective from which the underlying goodness of his soul
can be glimpsed. This does not mean that he is going to be found innocent, in
the legal sense, by a court of law. But if not a single member of the court
perceives the “innocent side” of the person standing accused before them, this
court then obviously has very little understanding of who he is and what he has
done. Such a court has disqualified itself from passing judgment on

The Lubavitcher Rebbe therefore says that you cannot judge a person
until you see something good in that person! Justice has to be done with
righteousness, and righteousness is achieved when you can see a good in

Yes my friends, judging people is the most difficult task.
That’s why the Torah asks us to appoint professional judges who should make
judgments and not us, since we don’t know all the facts. In the Talmud it says
“Do not judge your fellow until you have reached his place.” What the Talmud is
really saying, I suspect, is, “Don’t judge your fellow, ever,” since “his place”
is a place where you can never truly be. Why do you think that the Torah is so
much against “Lashon Hara”? It’s because when you hear something evil about
someone, you immediately become judgmental. But that’s wrong since you haven’t
heard anything in his defense. You cannot judge a person by just what one guy is
telling you?! Or for example, when a couple are having a fight and one spouse
comes and tells you his side of the story, you immediately take his side without
hearing what the other spouse has to say. This will bring more friction between
the couple, which is wrong.

Remember that we are not here to judge people. That’s the job of the righteous judges. And anyway, the ultimate judgment is done by Hashem himself. Let us do the things that we are suppose to do, which is to be kind to our fellow human beings, and to serve G-d with joy!

Shabbat Shalom & Regards;