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Parasha No. 48
Shofetim: “Judges”

Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16, 18 - 21, 9


Plan

- 40 Mitzvot
- Discover the meaning of the mitzvot
- Method
- Linguistic meaning
- The traditional sources
- Jewish thought and analysis
- Make connections
- Rashi's method
- Towards the sod
- The two Torah scrolls
- The inalterability of the Torah
- Balance
- Two warnings
- Radicalims
- The haftara
- The relevance of this world
- The level of the sod
- Exercises
- Memorize

Read and listen to the parasha
teanim Ashkenazim (Ort link)

Read and listen to the haftara
teanim Ashkenazim (Ort link)

Hebrew lesson
for beginners

Reading lesson of the parasha
and the prayers, all levels


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The mitzvot

This parasha teaches us 40 mitzvot (491 to 531 out of 613) which the Shla divided into 6 pillars (amudim) which support the world (Torah, avoda, gemilut hassadim, din emet, shalom).

The pillar of the Torah relates to the mitzvot that govern the Levites who study and teach the Torah, and who do not own land but live off donations (terumot).

The pillar of avoda relates to the prohibition against planting trees on the Temple Mount, erecting stone monuments and sacrificing blemished animals.

The pillar of gemilut hassadim represents the benevolence and compassion one must show to the dead and the cities of refuge for those who commit manslaughter.

The pillar of din (justice) relates to the mitzvot that govern the nomination of judges, the bearing of testimony, the powers of the judges, and the nomination of a king who will lead the people in the way of the Torah.

The pillar of emet (truth) relates to sorcerers and false prophets.

The pillar of shalom relates to the mizvot of war, treatment of the inhabitants of Canaan, the participation of the Cohanim, and the injunction not to fear our enemies.


Discover the meaning of the mitzvot in the text

Method

The parasha does not give us just a moral and social code of life. There is much more and those who only limit themselves to moral thought in their interpretation of the Torah are mistaken. Moral thought is important but it is not enough: we must also discover the true meaning of the text by asking and answering questions based on the particular characteristics of the Hebrew text.

Analysis of the linguistic features of the text
We must always search for the special features of the language in the Torah, for it is these that give us the key to understanding its message.

First linguistic feature: the text does not say: "you will judge according to justice" (which would conform to the concept of the Torah as a moral and social code), but says: "justice justice shalt thy follow" (tzedek tzedek tirdof, Devarim 16, 2). This leads us to the question: "why is the word justice repeated?" The answer will enlighten us as to the meaning of the whole parasha.

Second linguistic feature: the structure of the first verse (Devarim 16, 18):
"shoftim veshotrim
judges and officers
titen lekha
shalt thou make thee."
This leads to a comparison of the words titen lekha (towards you) with the word alekha (over you) in the injunction (Devarim 17, 15):
"shum taasim alekha melekh
thou shalt in any wise set king over thee."
Why are these two different expressions used here? In order to answer this, it is necessary to look up the references cited below.


Tradition gives us the key to understanding the Torah
After the formulation of questions, the traditional method of study consists in referring to the sources that deal with these questions (this is why, in addition to studying alone or in a group, it is important to study with someone who knows the tradition).

The Talmud, in reference to the above text, poses many questions (Yevamot 45 and Sanhedrin 20) regarding the prophet Samuel's surprising dismay (I Samuel 8, 6-17) when the people ask him to name a king: "Samuel was dismayed to hear them say: give us a king to judge over us, vayera hadavar be ein Shmuel kasher ameru tena lanu melekh." The prophet, in fact, knew full well that the Torah had commanded that a king should be appointed and that he would rule according to the Torah. This was further emphasized by the fact that it was written that the king should have 2 Torah scrolls, one within his residence and the other to accompany him in combat. Thus the king would have to take the two into account in his governance of the people, which means that the Torah represents the domain both of the inner and outer worlds and the two should not be confused.

Jewish thought is constructed on a wealth of associations and not simply on logic. It is for this reason that the word tzeded is repeated twice, "justice, justice" (Devarim 16, 20). Thus
- on the one hand there is an appearance of similarity,
- and on the other, there is a need to discern and distinguish differences. This is what this parasha teaches us. This is the key and this is what will form the basis of Jewish intelligence - that sharp analytical skill which quickly detects falsehoods and deceptions. We have seen many times how the Torah only reveals itself to those who are willing to strive to understand it.

The teaching of this parasha in the context of the whole Torah
We have seen how previous parashiot revealed to us the meaning of creation (Bereshit), the meaning of history (Shemot), the role of sanctity and holiness within creation, the Temple (Vayikra), the role of the Jewish people within this sanctity, kedusha (Bamidbar) and after a review of all this (Devarim), the Torah now addresses itself to each individual, teaching us how to relate to ourselves and to others (preceding parashiot), and, here, how to think in the right way.

Applications
The parasha teaches us this principle (similarity/difference) on different levels.
On the level of the peshat (literal meaning of the text), and regarding the social organization of the community, the king must not assume the functions of a judge nor attempt to take the place of the Sanhedrin. Each body has its particular function, and the history of the Jews and the destruction of the Temple, has shown that catastrophes take place when these differences and nuances are no longer adhered to. This is the historical basis for the division of powers and for the varying degrees of rights enjoyed by different groups of people. (In contrast, totalitarian ideologies function according to a different principle: universal rights which do away with individual rights and which are defined according to the dominant camp.)

Thus the answer to the prophet Samuel's dismay is: he was surprised that the people did not ask for a king who would rule according to the Torah, but for a king that would rule "over them," as is the case with other nations. The term which indicates this is the use of the word "over" (al) instead of the word "towards" (le). This is why they said "like all the nations," kekhol hagoyim (I Samuel 8, 5). We now understand why Hashem said to the prophet: "they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them," lo otekha maasu ki oti maasu mi melokh alehem (I Samuel 8, 7). This question of obedience to the Torah is still a very real issue in the Israel of today, and it should not be pushed under the carpet under the pretext of focusing on the deficiencies of political parties or the sectarian interests of religious parties.

Making connections
Other commentators of the peshat (first level of comprehension) interpret the repetition in tzedek, tzedek as
- applying justice to oneself as well as to others,
- in speech as in action,
- before the invisible judge as well as the visible one.
These interpretations however still do not answer the problem posed by the text, for it does not say, "judge this and that according to justice" but "justice, justice," where the same word is repeated. Furthermore, we should not need this repetition because all things possess two levels, as is indicated in the first letter of the Torah (beit) and in Psalm 62, 12: "Hashem has spoken once, twice have I heard this." So let us turn to Rashi for help in solving the problem.

Rashi and his method

Rashi possesses the art of directing us quickly to the heart of the matter. He says simply: halokh ahar beit din yafe, "go after a beautiful court of justice." It is clear that we need to defer to someone who knows Rashi's method of interpretation in order to understand these enigmatic words. Rashi here is referring to Sanhedrin 32b.

We have often noted that Rashi's brevity aims to direct us to the sources he is using, so that we will examine them in order to see precisely see what he is reporting, omitting, or modifying and why.

Here, then, Rashi has omitted all interpretations that speak of parallelism and has only retained: ahar beit din yafe, "go after a beautiful court of justice" and here the Talmud adds "after Ribbi Eliezer at Lod, Ribbi Yohanan at Beror Hayil…. the light of the chandeliers at Beror Hayil proclaimed a wedding feast there, a wedding feast there."

From this last expression, which contains a repetition similar to tzedek, tzedek, we understand that it was important not to say a "just" court, but a "beautiful" court. Rashi wants to tell us that, even at the level of the peshat, this expression has hidden meanings. Rashi says clearly: here, the peshat of the parasha is the sod, that which is intimate, secret and closest to the heart. We return to the theme of love which we have seen in the preceding parashiot. I wish to emphasize that his this not my own personal interpretation but that of our Sages who transmitted to us the Torah of Moshe. One could raise the objection: why not say it out straight instead of hiding it? Clearly it is a characteristic of Hashem to hide the treasure of his revelation so that it will not be found by those who will abuse it. The Proverbs tell us this again and again. But to the person who is humble and sincere, entry to the treasure of love and light will not be hidden. Indeed the trail of history is riddled with massacres wrought upon students of Hashem's Torah by those who proclaimed love of God.

Nearing the sod
Rashi, as usual, took us to the door of the treasure, and now we will continue with the Shla.
The Shla's analysis will take us through the level of the drash (reflection) and the remez (symbolism) and we will then attain the level of the sod in the commentary of Ribbi Yaakov Abuhatzera.

After clearly demonstrating the difference between the levels, the Shla demonstrates that the similarity in tzedek, tzedek indicates that we must connect the different levels of existence and take into account the level of the world above in all that relates to terrestrial affairs, but this connection must be a supple one.

Thus the principle of dina de Malkhuta dina (the justice of the king is the right justice, Gittin 10b, Zohar 3, 227a) is often mistakenly invoked to justify obedience to the power in charge, even if it is a foreign one or in opposition to the Torah. In fact this principle is based on a connection between power in this world and power in the world above.

Indeed, the letters of the word dina are the same as those of the word adonut, the Lord, and the judgments of the Sanhedrin were meant to reflect the judgments of the King of Kings.

In a commentary on another parasha, the Shla demonstrates the link between the word dina and the spiritual legacy of the children of Yaakov, represented in the figure of Dinah, Yaakov's daughter. He also demonstrates this connection at the highest level of sefirot.

This one example shows us how the Torah demands that we distinguish different levels and functions and that we understand their inter-relationship. It is through the Sages that we have understood this rule of the parasha.

The Torah teaches us that the universe and everything within it is based on this dual structure which demands great agility. The constant analysis and reflection demanded by the study of the Torah helps us attain this agility. The Talmud is an intellectual form of gymnastics which we need in order to be able to discern and then to make connections. This is a far cry from politics based on interest groups or public opinion polls.

Without the simultaneous respect of these two rules, which are complementary and not contradictory, the world will not survive, but will fall victim to extremist forces which are destructive because they are unilateral.
This is what the Shla wanted to show us at the beginning of his commentary: these are the pillars of the world. Neither the Pirkei Avot (Ethics of the Fathers) nor Mishle (Proverbs) are simple Jewish folk tales; they summarize the principles on which the Jewish world is organized and they show us what is at the heart of things.

A well-known example of the distortion of these principles is that of the judges at the time of the destruction of the Temple, who based themselves on the din, the strict reading of the Torah in this world and did not take into consideration the link with the merciful, rahamim, Torah in the world above. It is said that the Temple was destroyed because of this.
This double principle (difference and connection) also helps us to understand the need for two torot (written and oral), which are, in fact, one Torah in two different forms. The reduction of the written and oral Torahs into "one" new testament which simplifies this complexity was, naturally, an aberration in the eyes of the Sages who understood the Torah, which was the result of ignorance.

The two Torah scrolls
The Shla stresses this duality through the verse which says that the King will have two Torah scrolls, "it" (feminine) will be with him and he will read in it (masculine): vehayeta imo vekara vo. It is this inter-relationship between masculine and feminine which enables the realization of the divine plan and the hoped-for union, of the sefirot of Tiferet (masculine dimensions) and Malkhout (feminine dimensions). This is what David alludes to when he says: "of this (feminine) I am certain," be zot ani voteah (Psalm 27, 3 and Psalm 119, 56). This is what tradition and the Shla teach us. If there is a similarity in my poems and in my style of writing, it is because of the strength of their warmth and gentlenes, divre hakhamim be nahat nishmeim, the words of the Sages, which are sweetness and calm, are heard (Kohelet 9, 17).

Do not amputate the Torah
Those who only see the one-dimensional side of the Torah (injunctions, obligations and judgments) are simply projecting onto it their own one-dimensional perspective, for the Torah has two sides, feminine and masculine, separate and connected. The world cannot flourish if it pursues just the masculine side and only wholesale destruction would ensue. This essential teaching of the Torah is not sufficiently understood.

Balance
We could add that this is taught in Pirkei Avot, The Ethics of the Fathers (5, 20) which is not just a simple book of morality; it rigorously defines the principles of Jewish morality according to the teachings of the Torah. It does not state simply that we must be strong but says this with complementary and opposing images:
--- be strong as the leopard and… light like the eagle, heve az kanamer..vekal kanesher;
--- fleet as the hart and..mighty as the lion, ratz ketzvi vegibor kaari…
These principles of judgment and conduct are so important that Rabbenu Yaakov (1270-1343), known as the Tur, opens his monumental work on the halakha, Arbaa Turim, with this inscription on the first page.

The Torah and Shabbat represent the art of this happy balance between masculine and feminine, between what is similar and what is different. This balance should apply to our smallest thoughts, and to all aspects of social and everyday life.

Two warnings
This teaching of the Torah excludes therefore two religious tendencies:
One) the tendency to view religious practice only as a social code of law, ignoring the inner meanings and the fact that they govern both man's relationship with God and with his fellow men. This is why in Tractate Berakhot 28b, Ribbi Eliezer gives "4" answers and not just one to his students who wish to know how to attain the level of the world above (ve nizke va hen le haye haolam habba) in human relations:
- be attentive to how you treat your friends,
- teach your children to think as they learn,
- place your children on the knees of the Sages,
- be aware, as you pray, of who you are praying to.
Two) the tendency which has split the world into two and purports that Judaism relates only to earthly relationships; and the tendency to devote oneself to study without putting it into practice.

This non-Jewish, simplistic approach can be heard today among those who,
- deny the validity of what is written about the sacredness of the land of Israel, claiming that this is a form of idolatry and makes men forget to carry out the mitzvot that apply to their fellow men;
- claim that only peace and humanism are important since it is written that the Temple will descend from Heaven only when there will be peace between men.

But the Torah warns us against this tendency to separate the spiritual world from the terrestrial world. Those who claim that such separation is written in the Torah are simply applying to it one-dimensional sociological or political forms of analysis which are alien to the Torah.

Indeed, there is no separation in the Torah (tzedek, tzedek) for man's relationship with his fellow men is inextricably linked to his relationship with hessed, God and his Will, either when He created the world, when He made man in his image, or when he sustains man at every moment of his existence in the unending miracle of life. This theme is constantly repeated in the Torah, in the phrase: "thus spoke Hashem, I, no one else but me." Suppressing this transcendent source that is at the heart of Jewish life, is like destroying Judaism itself.

Radicalism
Another example of radical extremism which leads to separation, is the tendency of certain religious leaders to separate politics from religion and to claim that the practices of the people are not "Jewish" because the State of Israel is not explicitly based on halakha. All such attempts have always ended in failure.

This extremist way of thinking appears to be logical and justified only when separated from its context - this is what is called a sophism or specious fallacy.

Thus the Greek sophists proved that it is impossible to move forward for one only ever attains half the journey, which is infinite. This is a claim which does has nothing to do with reality.

The goal of sophistry among intellectuals (and it must be shown for what it is) is destruction of life, absurdity, and ultimately the sadistic destruction of the weak by those who are their intellectual superiors. It is a cruel form of domination which substitutes for the Torah and its all-encompassing teachings, a partial ideology which ignores the complex relationship between hessed-din (benevolence-justice) and rahamim (mercy) in Judaism.

It is the same extremism which wants to eliminate from Judaism all "unconformists," sinners and those who do not know how to pray perfectly. This elitist tendency is inhuman and alien to reality.

The basis of our world
In actual fact, our world is based entirely on twinning (tzedek, tzedek), on going "towards" el, le), on seeking (tirdof, thou shalt follow, Devarim 16, 20), and of quiet closeness and intimacy (devekut, adhesion). Taken as a whole, our world is imperfect, complex and mediocre and, in their wisdom, our Sages established the rule that, even if it is forbidden to pray without cavana (intention), it is better to pray a little with intention rather than to pray a lot without intention. They also ruled that if a person begins to study without disinterested and upright intentions towards God (lo lishma), he will in the end study with respect for God (lishma), and that it is difficult for individuals Jews to keep all the mitzvot but the entire people are beholden to be responsible for each other. And so it is in every family.
(Advanced students can study an in-depth commentary on the issue of lishma-lo lishma in Rav Ovadia Yosef's book Yehave Daat, Volume 3, question 74.)
This true Jewish approach is the rule on which the world is based, which is that of hessed (benevolence) where God treats man like a father or mother treat their child, knowing that knowledge and maturity take time.

It is important to understand these nuances in order to avoid situations where, under the pretext of adhering strictly to the law, one rejects beginners from the path of Torah and one replaces the complex, living Torah by unhealthy dependency on sophist, and extremist masters and by social ideologies that always lead to catastrophe and bloody conflicts.

The haftara
The Torah posed problems: the Talmud continually analyzes them, and in Tractate Sanhedrin it unmasks those who falsify Jewish thought, laws and practices.
We must also turn to the haftara (for this parasha it is Isaiah 51, 12-52, 12) in order to understand the meaning of tzedek tzedek. Here we see how the external, logical and social laws of the Torah are sustained by the emotions and warmth of the inner Torah, and how social codes are part of the divine plan based on love and kindness. This plan is that of Hashem and applies to all Jews: it is not part of a social or political ideology that has been added to Judaism to balance it.

Order Nezikim deals with all these fundamental questions and Ribbi Yehuda always directed his students to these questions (Sanhedrin 106b). This is why I chose Baba Kama (the first tractate in Nezikim) as the basis for learning the Talmud in my book Lev Gompers.

The entire teaching of this parasha and commentary are found in Isaiah 51, 7 whose literal translations is:
1. Listen towards me, you who know justice, shimu elai yodee tzedek
2. people of my Torah in their hearts, am torati ve libam.
Do we not try (thanks to the teachings of the Sages) to listen, do justice, be together, and love God and he loves us?

The level of sod
In order to fully understand the true meaning of parasha Shofetim we must now turn to its inner, secret meaning, the sod.

This is found in Mahsof lavan, the commentary on the Torah by Ribbi Yaakov Abuhatzera, a luminary of Morrocan Jewish scholarship whose work elaborates on every level of meaning.

I shall present here just one small example. The divine presence, the shekhina, is not "all powerful." In this world, it takes the form of a lack which is called dal (meagre) or din kashe (strict justice): This is expressed in the concept tzedek, justice, which has the same gematria as zo hi nekuda (this is the point).

In contrast, when all Israel will study the Torah for love of God (lishma), then a he is added to the word tzedek and it becomes tzedaka, benevolence that is kindness and mercy (hessed and rahamim). This is seen in numerous combinations of letters and numbers in the verses of this parasha.

It should be stressed that the level of the sod is based on the analytical methods of the peshat, for it is in fact part of the peshat.

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Exercises

" Re-read the parasha in this perspective
" Ask yourselves questions on your own tendencies to simplify or take extremist positions, and on your level of suppleness or strictness in your judgments, reactions, etc.
" Check to see if the source of your conduct is in the Torah.
" Try to maintain balance in your discussions and judgments.

Memorize:
--the 6 pillars which support the world:
Torah, avoda, gemilut hassadim, din, emet, shalom.
" the phrase: tzedek, tzedek tirdof, (Devarim 16, 20).

Hebrew lesson for all levels

A common error in pronunciation and understanding of Hebrew.

Even learned students make the mistake of reading the first sentence of the parasha thus (Devarim 16, 18):
shoftim ve shotrim titen-lekha bekhol….
Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all (thy gates)…

The correct pronunciation is as follows and is quite different:
shofetim ve shoterim titen-lekha bekhol….

It is important to read the Torah correctly, since everything in it has meaning, for the Torah is the word of God and must be respected without adding or reducing.

This mistake is made innocently and is simply out of ignorance of some basic rules, which I shall lay out as simply as posssible.

The rule for the meteg
1st rule.
The vowel sheva (two vertical dots) is a silent e when it is under the second letter of a syllable (i.e. under the letter l of the word pal).
But there are two instances when the sheva is pronounced:
- at the beginning of a word (as under the first letter of the word bekhol); so one must say beni, my son and not bni, as is often mistakenly pronounced. One must say bene yisrael and not bnei yisrael.
- in the middle of a word when the syllable can be linked to the beginning of another word. This is the case here in the words: shofetim ve shotrim. Eliminate the particule ve which means "and."

2nd rule
Why is the syllable with the sheva linked to the next word?
Because the syllable that precedes it has a vertical line beneath it (a meteg, or brake) which creates a break. Thus the second syllable which is fe must be pronounced as thought it is at the beginning of a word.

Examples when there is a meteg
1st example: as above, we say shofetim ve shoterim, not shoftim ve shotrim.

2nd example: There are many instances in eshet hayil, the song one sings on returning from synagogue on a Friday night, in honor of the Torah, the shekhina and one's wife:
" mistake: darsha tzemer ; correct pronunciation = daresha tzemer..
" mistake: haita kaoniyot ; correct pronunciation = hayeta kanoniot…
" mistake: zamma sade ; correct pronunciation = zamema sade…
" mistake: hagra ; correct pronunciation = hagera…
" mistake: kapa parsa: correct pronunciation = kapa paresa..
" mistake: marvadim asta: correct pronunciation = marvadim aseta…
" mistake: sadin asta: correct pronunciation = sadin aseta..
" mistake: pia patha: correct pronunciation = pia pateha..

3rd example: in the Saturday morning kiddush:
" mistake: ve shamru: correct pronunciation = ve shameru..
" mistake: ve shamru bene: correct pronunciation = ve shameru vene…

4th example: at the beginning of arvit, there is a meteg under the first syllable of barekhu.
" mistake: barrkhu: correct pronunciation = barekhu…
This is a frequent mistake which is found in nearly all the conjugations of this common word in our prayers.

Readers who are knowledgeable about these things could say: "but there are other factors which you have not mentioned…." I would respond that it is important to teach the Torah correctly.

Try to practice these rules, and if you say they are helpful, I will list other examples such as:
" mistake: toratkha ; correct pronunciation = toratekha…

Angle2


- Psychology and Repentance
   (in french)

Part 15
STUDY HEBREW

Part 16
JERUSALEM

- Jerusalem excavations
- Terror and counseling
- Peace and peoples
- Israel and Iran
- Visual study & song on snow
for, through our union with the song of nature, the plan of Creation will be fulfilled

-
Poem: to be moon

In french

Avec Modia, vivez
vos vacances en Israël,
Texte et photos

- Par Modia, arrivez au Kotel
- La vie du Kotel
- Prières au Kotel
- Fête au Kotel
- La destruction du Temple
- Photos rares et émouvantes des abords du Temple
- Synagogues de Jérusalem
- Maisons de Jérusalem
- Les fleurs de Jérusalem
- Ici, tout sur Jérusalem
- "Le" texte sur Jérusalem
- Voir et visiter Israël
- Voyage dans le Nord d'Israël
- Belle carte d'Israël
- Jérusalem et les nations

- Vacances en Israël sur Modia
- Le Kotel en film direct
- et ici aussi, autre caméra

- Trahison historique:
L'antique synagogue de Jéricho

 

Part 17
ISRAEL AND
THE NATIONS

- Love towards all people
- Light in war
- Before the hanukiah
- Land of Israel
- Jerusalem excavations 2007
  Proof of the lies propagated
  by the media

In french - Hope in Israel



Part 20
PHOTOS
"Encounters with God
in the real"

- You are planning a tour in Israel - Photos
- My photos and judaism
- New year of beauty
- Flowers
-
Gallery photos


Part 21
SONGS

- My english songs



Dedication

Rav Professor
Yehoshua Rahamim Dufour
(Dipur, in hebrew)

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