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Parshas Shoftim

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Parshas Shoftim
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Eglah Arufa - The Big Commotion

When someone is murdered by an unknown assailant between two cities an entire proceeding takes place. Measurements to find the closest city are done. The Sanhedrin must come down in person to the crime scene. A calf is decapitated. The Netziv says the reason for this extravagant show is that all the people should get together and star asking lots of questions and demanding answers to how a tragedy like this can happen in their midst. Everybody of course has their own opinion. Through this massive lively dialogue Hashem will help guide them to take steps in order to prevent another tragedy in the future.

The Rambam in Moreh Nevuchim says that the reason for the public proceeding is to get the people from the nearby cities to start talking. Since the murderer probably came from one of those cities his identity may be revealed.

Perfect Sync? Sounds Fishy

"Al Pi Shinayim Aydim Oh Shlosha Aydim Yumas HaMais"; "According to the testimony of 2 or 3 witnesses shall the person be killed" Why does the pasuk say "Shnayim Aydim" as opposed to the more common "Shnay Aydim" like the pasuk says further (19:15)? The Netziv answers that there is a difference between the word "Shnayim" and "Shnay". "Shnay" - refers to 2 things that are identical as opposed to "Shnayim" - which refers to 2 things that are a bit different. For example, the pasuk says by the Keruvim - "Shnayim Keruvim" - since one had the face of a girl and one a boy, they were not identical; therefore the pasuk uses the terminology "Shnayim".

By witnesses, the Halacha states, if the witnesses testimonies are too identical, we must be concerned that maybe they are lying, and additional Chakiros (questioning) must be done. That is why the pasuk says, "Al Pi Shinayim Aydim" - because their testimony can't be identical. Since the Din of Chakiras HaAydim (questioning the witnesses) is derived from a case where the death penalty is being administered - "ViDarashta ViChakarta" - Parshas Re'eh - 13:15 - by the Parsha of Ir Hanidachas - the Torah writes "Shnayim" here, where we are dealing with the death penalty also (Avodah Zara), as opposed to the pasuk further (19:15) where the topic is Dinay Mamonis (Monetary Laws) - the Torah writes "Shnay".

What Is In The Sefer Torah Of A King?

"ViKasav Lo Es Mishneh HaTorah HaZos"; The Pasuk tells us that a king must have 2 Sifrei Torah. One he stores away and the other he always keeps with him. Daas Zekainim MiBaalay HaTosfos says, the Sefer Torah which he carried with him only contained the Aseres HaDibros. Since the Aseres HaDibros contain 613 letters, it corresponds to the Taryag Mitzvos.

With this fact, the Meforshim explain the terminology used in this pasuk. The pasuk says - "ViHoysa Imo ViKara Vo Kol Yimay Chayov" - "The Sefer Torah will be with him and he will read it all the days of his life." Why does the pasuk start in a Lashon Nekayva (feminine) - "ViHoysa" - "She will be" and then switch to a Lashon Zachor - "Vo" -"he will read him all the days of his life"? The answer is, the word "ViHoysa" " - "She will be" is referring to the Sefer Torah that only had the Parsha of the Aseres HaDibros. Since Parsha is Lashon Nekayva (feminine) - the pasuk is saying - "She, the parsha of the Aseres HaDibros will be with him". Then the pasuk continues "Vo" -"he will read him all the days of his life" - referring to the Sefer Torah that was complete. "Sefer" is Lashon Zachor - He will read him (the SEFER) all the days of his life.

A Mitzva That Is Better To Pass On

"Soim Tasim Olecha Melech" "You shall appoint a king over you" There is a Mitzvah in the Torah to appoint a king over Klal Yisroel. Why then, many years later, did Shmuel HaNavi admonish Klal Yisroel for asking for a king? Some Meforshim explain, although appointing a king is a Mitzvah, it is one that we would rather not have to be Mikayim. Just like there is a Mitzvah to give one's wife a Get; which only applies if one wants to divorce his wife, and that Mitzvah is one that the Torah would rather you are never Mikayim. So too, Hashem wants Klal Yisroel to be on a madraga not to have to need a king. Shmuel admonished Klal Yisroel for sinking to the level of needing a king.

We Are Still Human

The Torah tells us in this week's sedra, the laws of the Cities of Refuge (Arei Miklat). If a person kills unintentionally he has to go to one ofthe Arei Miklat and he must stay there until the Kohen Gadol will die. We have previously learned [Devorim 4:41] of the establishment of 3 cities of refuge on the eastern side of the Yarden, for the two and a half Shvatim who settled there. The command in this week's parsha [19:1-3] is addressed to the Jews who will be settling in Eretz Yisroel, to the west of the Jordan -- to set up another three Arei Miklat over there.

Next the Torah mentions [19:8-9] "And if Hashem will expand your borders as he promised your will add an additional three cities beyond these three (making a total of nine)". Rashi tells us this refers to the lands of Keini, Kenizi, and Kadmoni (which we are destined to get only in the days of the Moshiach). This is very interesting. The Navi tells us about the days of Moshiach "for the land will be filled with knowledge of Hashem like the Ocean is covered with water" [Isaiah 11:9]. The Rambam tells us [Hilchos Melachim 12:5] that the days of Moshiach will be so spiritual that people won't be interested in their livelihoods and they won't be running after money. The only thing that will matter is trying to gain understanding of Hashem. Is it not strange that in an era when people will only be interested in acquiring better understanding of Hashem, we will need any Arei Miklat for unintentional murderers, let alone an additional three which we never had before?

Note, that the Gemorah points out that the "unintentional murder" which necessitates going to an Arei Miklat is not just "an accident". (Accidents may continued to happen even in times of Moshiach). The Gemorah states that "unintentional murder" happens when people are careless about human life. We see this from the Gemorah's explanation of the fact that two and a half Shevatim "across the Yarden" needed the same number of Arei Miklat as nine and a half tribes "west of the Jordan". The reason the Gemorah gives is that "in Gilaad (east of the Jordan), murder was common". Obviously we see that where murder is common, "unintentional" murder is also common! [Like today, when there are handguns in the house, children play with handguns, and unintentional death is also quite common]. Why then are 3 more Arei Miklat needed in the times of Mashiach -- the time of ultimate spirituality?

The Baalei Mussar answer this question with an analogy from another apparently strange practice: the selection of the laining for mincha on Yom Kippur. One would assume that at Mincha on Yom Kippur, a person would be at his spiritual height of the entire year. He's been through Ma'ariv and Shachris, and Mussaf. He hasn't eaten or drunk anything. He hasn't experienced any physical pleasures of this world the entire day. We take out the Sefer Torah and what do we read to people who are almostl ike Angels? The parsha of Arayis. One shouldn't commit incest, one shouldn't commit adultery etc. This is what the tzibur needs to hear on Yom Kippur at Mincha? The answer is that they wanted to instruct the congregation to realize that even on Yom Kippur at Mincha, one cannot assume he is truly like an Angel. Even then he must recognize his human and weaknesses. Don't think that just because one has attained this level of closeness to Hashem that you are locked into it. It's a constant battle, and it has to go on, and one has to work constantly. If one does not work constantly, one can fall subject to his passions and anything can happen. This is what people must hear on Yom Kippur at Mincha: Your status as an "Angel" can turn around in a day, if you don't watch yourself!

This also, is why we make three additional cities of refuge in the days of Moshiach. Even at a time when our natural aspiration will be to seek out knowledge of Hashem and to do kindness, we must remember we are only humanbeings. We need a painful reminder of this fact. That reminder is the 3 additional Arei Miklat. Even in the best of circumstances, without constant work, one is not far removed from murder or adultery. The gameis never over, even in the days of Moshiach. The cities are to be set aside to symbolically serve as a reminder to always keep ourselves in check so that we may truly experience a worldwhich is "filled with the Knowledge of G-d, like the waters fill the oceans".

Rav Chaim Soloveitchik - A Rotten Tree and A Rotten Dayan

The Pasuk says do not plant an Asheira (a tree that serves as an avodah zara). Reisha Lakish says (Sanhedrin 7) that if someone appoints an unworthy Dayan to Bais Din it is as if he planted an asheira. What is the connection?

It is said in the name of Rav Chaim Soloveitchik that a typical idol is easy to identify. An asheira however is an avodah zara that cannot be identified with visual inspection. It looks like a pretty tree but underneath lurks the great evil of avodah zara. So too with a Dayan that is not worthy. He can sit on the Bais Din with his long white beard and even talk divrei torah with the best of them while on the inside he may rotten to the core. (Iturei Torah)

Haftorah Shoftim: Only Hashem's Bais HaMikdash Will Last Forever

In this week's haftorah ( Yeshaya 51:12-52:13) Hashem tells the Bnei Yisroel that He will console them. The Yalkut Shimoni says that Avraham couldn't console them because he called the Bais HaMikdash "Har" a mountain, neither could Yitzchok because he called it a "Sadeh", and neither could Yaakov who called it a "Bayis", house.

Reb Yehonoson Eibushitz unravels this enigmatic Medrash and says that Bnei Yisroel couldn't be consoled with a promise of the rebuilding of the Bais HaMikdash because they were afraid that eventually their aveiros would cause it to be destroyed just like the previous ones. Avraham's consolation fortelling of the future rebuilding didn't satisfy them. Avraham referred to the Bais HaMikdash as a mountain and the pasuk says in tehilim "Mi Yaaleh BeHar Hashem...Neki Kapayim..." who can go onto the mountain of Hashem only people with innocent hands and hearts etc. In that case they knew the Bais HaMikdash would rise and fall on their purity, not a good thing for them to hear. Yitzhchok called it a Sadeh, a field which is open to all, including the Goyim with whose help it was built allowing them to stake a claim to it as well. It was this influence of theirs that allowed the Bais HaMikdash to ultimately fall into their murderous and destructive hands. Yaakov called it a house. To enter Hashem's house requires the utmost modesty and humbleness, a level that they were afraid they could not maintain.

Only when Hashem said Anochi, Anochi, Hu Minachemchem, Hashem whose building and handiwork survives forever with no preconditions were the Bnei Yisreol finally consoled.

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