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Parashat Shoftim / פרשת שופטים

Crop of The Morning Judgment by James Joseph Jacques Tissot


Parashat Shoftim is the 48th weekly reading in the annual Torah reading cycle, and the fifth reading of Devarim (“Deuteronomy”). Shoftim (שֹׁפְטִים) means Judges and is the first word of the parashah, in which Mosheh (Moses) begins by instructing us to appoint shoftim and shoterim (officers) in all our towns and to judge the people justly, that we may live and inherit the Land. Mosheh also provides instructions for how to handle local matters that are too difficult for local judges, and what is to be done with the one who refuses to submit to the ruling of the judge.

Mosheh also discusses forbidden forms of worship and what is to be done with those who engage in idolatry in the Promised Land. We are also forbidden from a number of abominable practices that are common among the nations, for which they are losing their land. Instructions are provided regarding the king whom HaShem will set over His people, and Mosheh also gives instructions pertaining to the portion that is due to the Levi’im (Levites) and kohanim (priests) from the Children of Yisrael, and why.

Mosheh promises that HaShem will send us a prophet like him from among us, through whom HaShem will speak, to whom we must be careful to listen, and the serious consequences that will result for those who do not heed the words of the Prophet. Mosheh further instructs us in how to recognize the true prophet of HaShem and the false prophet, and what is to be done to the false prophet, who speaks presumptuously in HaShem’s Name.

Parashat Shoftim continues with instructions pertaining to the establishment of cities of refuge, where the one who has accidentally killed his neighbour may flee for protection from Goel HaDam (the Avenger of Blood). The prohibition on moving the ancient landmarks that have been established for inheritances in Yisrael is then briefly discussed. Mosheh continues with instructions pertaining to witnesses for the establishment of any criminal charge, together with the repercussions for bearing false witness.

Mosheh then provides instructions for going to war, including why the people should not fear, and for which reasons the men of war may be exempt from battle, and which trees of a city are not to be destroyed when the city is besieged.

Parashat Shoftim concludes with instructions about making atonement for unsolved murders.

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Torah Portion: Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9

1st Aliyah: Deuteronomy 16:18-17:13 (18 verses)
2nd Aliyah: Deuteronomy 17:14-20 (7 verses)
3rd Aliyah: Deuteronomy 18:1-5 (5 verses)
4th Aliyah: Deuteronomy 18:6-13 (8 verses)
5th Aliyah: Deuteronomy 18:14-19:13 (22 verses)
6th Aliyah: Deuteronomy 19:14-20:9 (17 verses)
7th Aliyah: Deuteronomy 20:10-21:9 (20 verses)
Maftir: Deuteronomy 21:7-9 (3 verses)

Reading from the Nevi’im (Prophets):
Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12

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‘According to all that you asked before HaShem your G-d at Khorev on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not again hear the voice of the Memra of HaShem my G-d, and let me not see the great fire any more, lest I die.”

The man who will not listen to HaShem’s words, which the Prophet will speak in His Name, HaShem’s Memra will take vengeance on him.

Bnei Yisrael should not fear their enemies because HaShem’s Memra is their helper.

Retribution against secret crimes is made by the Memra of HaShem.

Good Deeds in the Parashah

Appoint judges and officers for you in all your gates.

Do not show partiality in judgement.

Pursue righteousness.

Do not plant an asherah for you of any kind of tree beside the altar of HaShem.

Do not erect a pillar.

Do not slaughter an ox and a sheep that has a blemish for HaShem, your G-d.

Stone the idolator found within your gates to death with stones.

The condemned will be put to death on the testimony of no less than two or three witnesses.

One will not be put to death on the testimony of a single witness.

The hand of the witnesses will be the first upon the condemned, to put him to death, and after that the hand of all the people.

The hand of the witnesses will be the first upon the condemned, to put him to death, and after that the hand of all the people.

Bring matters that are too difficult for local judges to judge before the priests and judges at the place HaShem will choose.

Act on the word that they will make known to you and be careful to do according to all that they will direct you.

The man who will not listen to the priest or to the judge will die.

You will set a king over you, whom HaShem will choose.

You may not set a foreigner over you, who is not your brother.

The king will not multiply horses for himself.

The people will not return to Mitzraymah.

The king will not multiply wives for himself.

The king will not turn to his heart.

The king will not multiply excessive silver and gold for himself.

The king will write a copy of the Torah for himself on a scroll when he sits on the throne oh his kingdom.

His Torah scroll will be with him and he will read it all the days of his life.

There will not be a territory and an inheritance for the Levi’im with Yisrael.

They will eat the fire offerings of HaShem, and His inheritance.

Those that slaughter a sacrifice, whether ox or sheep, will give the shoulder, and the jaws, and the stomach to the priest.

Give the priest the first of your grain, of your new wine, and of your fresh oil, and the first shearing of your flock.

The priest of the Levi’im will stand to minister in the name of HaShem, him and his sons, all the days.

The Levi’im ministering in the name of HaShem will eat equals portions, apart from what is sold by the fathers.

Do not learn to do according to the abominations of the nations dispossesed from the Promised Land.

Be complete with HaShem, your G-d.

Listen to the prophet HaShem raises up for your among your brothers.

The prophet who speaks a word what HaShem has not commanded him to speak, and will speak in the name of other gods, will die.

You will not be afraid of the prophet who speaks presumptuously.

Separate three cities for you in the midst of your land, which HaShem, your G-d, is giving you to inherit, for every manslayer to flee there.

Add three more cities if HaShem enlarges your territory.

Do not shed innocent blood in the midst of your land.

The elders the city will send for, take, and give the murderer into the hand of the avenger of blood, and he will die.

Your eye will not pity the murderer.

Do not move back your neighbour’s border, which those who came before you have set in your inheritance.

One witness will not stand against a man for any sin that he sins.

On the mouth of two witnesses, or on the mouth of three witnesses, will a matter be established.

The harm a false witness intended for his brother will be done to him.

Do not be afraid when you go out to battle against your enemies.

The priest will approach and speak to the people as you get close to the battle.

The man who has built a new house and has not dedicated it should not go to war.

The man who has planted a vineyard and has not begun to use its fruit should not go to war.

The man who has betrothed a wife and has not taken her should not go to war.

The man sho is afraid and weak of heart should not go to war.

When you approach a city to fight against it, you will call to it for peace.

If the city agrees, all the people of the city will become forced labourers for you, and will serve you.

Plunder all the spoil for yourself.

Of the cities of the nations of Kena’an, however, do not let anything breathing live.

Do not destroy and cut down trees you may eat from when laying siege to a city.

You may destroy and cut down trees for siegeworks that you cannot eat from.

The elders from the city nearest a corpse will remove the innocent blood from the midst of Yisrael by obeying the instructions for when a man is found dead and it is unknown who killed him.

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