Parshat Shoftim – August 22, 2020 – 2 Elul 5780

A weekly digest of the Parshat Hashavua – Download a PDF here

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Parshat Shoftim

  • Stone Chumash p. 1025, 97 Psukim
  • Haftorah: Isaiah  “Anochi Anochi” Stone Chumash, p.1199

Important Shabbat Times

  • Candle lighting:  7:26p
  • Last Shma: 9:11a
  • Earliest Mincha: 1:39p
  • Pirkey Avot: Ch. 6 
  • Havdalah: 8:26p
  • Zoom Havdalah: 8:40p

Parshat Shoftim contains 41 Mitzvot. Here are just a few: Moshe informs the people of a new Mitzvah, the mitzvah of appointing honest and reliable judges in order to strengthen the practice of the Torah. The modes of prayer in the Temple and the synagogue should not be borrowed from the idolatrous nations. The protocols defining valid witnesses and their testimony. The decisions of the Sanhedrin or “Supreme Court” will define and resolve any doubts about Jewish Law and practice through majority rule. The mitzvah of appointing a king in Israel from amongst the tribes of Israel (except the tribe of Levi). The laws governing the kings of Israel. The laws defining the obligations of the Cohanim in the Temple. Prohibitions against astrology and necromancy. The rules regarding a prophet of Israel, and how to determine his or her authenticity. The laws regarding the cities of refuge, and people convicted of involuntary manslaughter. Wars of defense of the Land of Israel. The prohibition against wanton destruction of trees, and other valuables. The expiation of an untraceable murder. (Eglah Arufah).

Haftora

In this week’s Haftora, G-d consoles the people of Israel after their long and arduous exile. Isaiah compares the people to a person in a deep slumber. The people have grown so accustomed to life in the exile that they literally must be shook awake to the possibility that the borrowed into the Lecha Dodi. How glorious will be the day when Elijah the prophet announces the arrival of the Messiah! Jerusalem will yet be rebuilt, the Temple restored, and all will return to the days of yore.

Taking it to a deeper level

In today’s Parsha G-d tells His people that He will communicate with them through the agency of prophesy. According to Talmudic tradition, prophecy eventually stopped at the beginning of the Second Temple period, approx. 350 BCE. The Torah in todays Parsha gives us certain rules for testing, whether or not a prophet is authentic, and the Rabbis elaborate upon them.  For example If a man who is generally known to be scrupulous in his observance of Judaism, would announce to us that G-d appeared to him in a dream, and He wants us to do A, B, or C, then we must do as he says, however we are entitled to ask for a sign. 

The sign must be a miraculous prediction or occurrence or event and we must be satisfied that it was no hocus pocus, or magic trick. If we are still not satisfied (Jews are by nature very skeptical), we may ask for up to two other miracles. If we are convinced that the prophet is authentic, we must do as he says – with a few possible exceptions. 

If the prophet tells us that a particular mitzvah is suspended temporarily, (like the story of Elijah on Mt. Carmel, where he performed a sacrifice outside of Jerusalem) then we must obey him. If he would tell us that the suspension is permanent or for a very long time, then we would know that he is a false prophet. This would only apply to the most of the mitzvot of the Torah, however if the prophet tells us to suspend the mitzvah prohibiting idolatry even temporarily, or if he were to tell us that the Torah, or a partial number of mitzvot of the Torah no longer apply, then we would understand that he is a false prophet, and it would be prohibited to listen to him. 

When did prophecy cease to exist? Apparently, we had lost our close connection to G-d, which actually persisted throughout the entire first Temple period. According to the book of Malachi, the final book of the prophets, Malachi himself would be the last prophet with the exclusive exception of Elijah the prophet, who is still alive, and he will come at the end of days to become the harbinger of the Moshiach, bimheira biyameinu Amen!