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This week's 10-Minute Torah (August 14, 2021): "Parashat Shoftim" 5781

Updated: Aug 10, 2021

Parashat Shoftim / פרשת שׁוֹפְטִים

Read on 14 August 2021 / 6 Elul 5781.

Parashat Shoftim is the 48th weekly Torah portion in the annual Jewish cycle of Torah reading.

Parashat Shoftim provides a constitution — a basic societal structure — for the Israelites. The parashah sets out rules for judges, kings, Levites, prophets, cities of refuge, witnesses, war, and unsolved murders.

Triennial Year 2 14 Aug 2021

1: 18:6-8 · 3 p’sukim

2: 18:9-13 · 5 p’sukim

3: 18:14-17 · 4 p’sukim

4: 18:18-22 · 5 p’sukim

5: 19:1-7 · 7 p’sukim

6: 19:8-10 · 3 p’sukim

7: 19:11-13 · 3 p’sukim

maf: 19:11-13 · 3 p’sukim

Here we have the commandment to establish courts. The hierarchy of courts is established with the Sanhedrin being the highest court. It is composed of seventy wise and righteous men, with the High Priest as the 71st member and head of the court. It also establishes officers of the court to get witnesses and enforce and decisions. Furthermore, everyone gets treated equally in the courts, regardless of status in the community. “Righteousness, righteousness, shall you pursue.”

Asherah trees, used for idol worship are not to be tolerated. Also, no individual altars of any kind. Animals used for offerings should be free of blemishes. Forces of nature are not to be worshipped as they do not have any divine powers.

No one is sentenced to death without the consistent testimony of at least two witnesses. They will carry out the sentence. When the great Sanhedrin decides a case, all will agree to carry out the judgement.

When the land is established, Israel is to request a king to govern them. That king will write a Torah for himself to study it constantly and govern by it. The king will be a native Israelite only whom Hashem will choose. The king is not to amass an exorbitant number of horses and harems.

Next are discussed priestly gifts. Kohanim and Levites survive through the offerings of the people. They are to have no inheritance as Torah is their inheritance.

Jews are not to attempt to foretell the future using any wizardry, omens, etc. They are to trust and have faith in Hashem and Torah. Instead, G-d will send prophets when and as needed who will communicate Hashem’s Word and only Hashem’s Word.

The command to set up cities of refuge is repeated. Signs were posted to direct people to those cities. Established boundaries are to be respected and not moved so as to increase one’s property.

A lone witness is not enough to convict. If two witnesses come forth to contradict two earlier witnesses, they are believed and the first set receive the punishment they conspired to have imposed on the defendant. Eye for eye, tooth for tooth is repeated.

Men who go to war should not fear the enemy because Hashem is fighting with and for them. A battle priest will be assigned to inspire the soldiers. The people are encouraged to conquer their fear. Some were excused from battle: one who just consecrated a vineyard or a home or got married. Those faint of heart were also excused lest they inspire others to fear. Before battle, however, Israel was to make overtures to peace. During battle, they are not to destroy any fruit trees.

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