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Home » Shoftim

Shoftim: Food for Thought for your Dinner Table

Submitted by on August 31, 2008 – 4:06 amNo Comment | 1,192 views

Sunday: Local Judges

“Judges and guards you shall set for yourself at all your gates.” Judges were placed at the gates of every Jewish community both inside Israel and outside. Why were the Jews from abroad not brought to Israel for trial? Why were courts established outside of Israel?

A judge must understand not only the law, but also the particular idiosyncrasies of the defendants before him. It is nearly impossible for a Jew from the holy land to understand the challenges faced by Jews in the Diaspora just as it is difficult for a Diaspora judge to understand the nature of the Jew in the holy land. To conduct a fair trial it is essential that the judge be familiar with the locale and culture of those he judges, thus local courts were established in the Diaspora. Likutei Sichos

Monday: Leaders Who Follow

“Appoint you shall appoint over yourself a king.” Yet when Jews asked the prophet Shmuel to appoint a king Shmuel was disappointed saying that they should have been happy with Divine sovereignty rather than demand a human sovereign.

One can understand the distinction between what the Jews asked of Shmuel and what was commanded in this verse by paying closer attention to the verse itself. G-d instructed us to appoint a king over ourselves, whereas the Jews asked that a king be given to them. They did not want a monarch who would rule over them, but a leader whom they might control. A leader who must look to his followers for direction is not a true leader. This is what upset the prophet. Kli Yakar

Tuesday: Humble Representatives

The Levite did not receive a portion of land to cultivate instead he was supported financially by his brethren. This was because “G-d chose him from among his brethren to serve Him.” The question is why should G-d’s servant be deprived of an independent livelihood?

Being chosen to represent his brethren can lead the Levite to Hubris. This is especially true when the Levite leads by conviction rather than by consensus (see Monday’s entry). His dependence on his brethren for his livelihood ensures the Levite’s humility. Only a humble servant can truly serve. Only a humble representative can truly represent. This fits with the Jewish notion of leadership. Jewish leaders are not masters of the people, but their servants. Ksav Sofer

Wednesday: The Fool who Transcends Reason

“Be wholesome with G-d your Lord.” What is the wholesomeness that G-d asks of us here?

Embedded in the human psyche is the desire to follow reason, yet our bond with G-d transcends reason. Jewish law stipulates that a woman can only be divorced if she understands the notion of separation. A mentally retarded woman who does not understand the concept of divorce cannot be legally divorced. G-d seems to have divorced us when He destroyed our temple and cast our people into exile yet we cling to Him and continue to give Him our loyalty. This loyalty makes little sense after so much suffering, yet our bond transcends reason. We act senselessly in this regard, like a retarded woman who is divorced and keeps returning to her Ex Husband. Such a woman cannot be legally divorced and neither can we. Sefas Emes

Thursday: Messianic Promises

“If G-d your Lord expands your borders as He has promised to your ancestors…” G-d promised Avraham that his children would inherit the lands of ten nations. G-d then apportioned one of those lands, Edom, to Esav and two of those lands, Amon and Moav, to Lot. Though Esav and Lot were part of Avraham’s family our sages assured us that G-d intended for these lands to ultimately revert back to the Jewish people, Avraham’s true heirs. This will occur in the Messianic age, which is the expansion under discussion in the above quoted verse.

Once we have established that this expansion refers to Messianic times we can look to the verse to discover what we might do to hasten its arrival. The verse tells us that the expansion will occur, “When we observe and fulfill G-d’s commandment… to love G-d your Lord and to walk in His ways.” The verse indicates that Moshiach will come when we learn to serve G-d not only out of fear, but also out of love, in other words when we develop a loving relationship with G-d. Orach Chayim

Friday: A Show of Force

Before going to war the leaders would address the troops and announce that those troops, who had wed wives, but had yet to live with them, or planted vineyards, but yet to reap its fruit or built houses, but yet to live in them should return home. This is an astounding declaration at a time of war. Why did the leaders thin their ranks just before they went to war?

Many explanations were offered in answer of this question and here is one based on psychology. When the troops saw that their leaders were so confident in victory that they were willing to thin their ranks the troops would also take heart and trust implicitly that G-d to enable them to triumph. Abarbanel

Shabbat: Man is like a Tree

What similarities exist between a man and the tree? The tree has a phenomenal feature in that it grows high up off the ground, but remains forever connected to its source, the earth. Humans and animals roam the earth and are not demonstrably connected with their source. Fish, it is true, remain connected to their source, the sea, but trees remain connected even as they remove themselves from the ground by growing high, while fish must remain in the sea in order to remain connected. Of all vegetation, this connection is most evident in the tree for the tree survives the seasons and remains rooted to its source, while other forms of vegetation are harvested and removed from the ground.

The message herein is that man too is capable of remaining connected to G-d, our source of life, even as we roam about at will. Our connection might not be as obvious or as demonstrative as that of the tree, but with this comparison the Torah enables us to make our connection more visible. Likutei Sichos

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