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Shoftim Summaries

Shoftim 5778-2018

“Identifying the True Prophet”

Can true prophets be identified? If so, how? Are there prophets in our midst today?

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Shoftim 5777-2017

“Judaism and the Principle of the Sanctity of Human Life”

The principle of the sanctity of life, a foremost principle in Judaism, is highlighted on multiple occasions in parashat Shoftim.

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Shoftim 5776-2016

“The Dangers of Pridefulness”

The rabbis learn the danger of pridefulness for all, from the verse in parashat Shoftim warning the Jewish king not to be prideful.

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Shoftim 5775-2015

“Idolatrous Trees and Unqualified Judges”

The Torah forbids planting a forbidden tree or erecting a forbidden pillar near a house of worship. The sages of the Talmud suggest that one who appoints an unqualified judge is tantamount to one who plants an idolatrous tree.

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Shoftim 5774-2014

“Justice–the Source of Security of the Land of Israel”

The fact that the Torah links the proper practice of justice by the Jewish people to the security of the land of Israel is of extreme importance, especially in light of the perils faced by the State of Israel today.

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Shoftim 5773-2013

“Egypt: Off Limits to Jews”

The Torah prohibition against residing in Egypt is more than a concern with the immorality of the ancient Egyptian culture. It is intended to serve as a warning to all Jews against residing in any locale where immoral living prevails.

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Shoftim 5772-2012

“The Haughty Heart”

Despite his unchallenged right to honor, the Israelite king is instructed by the Torah to never be haughty. The rabbis and commentators have much to say about hubris and self-aggrandizement regarding the common person as well.

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Shoftim 5771-2011

“Jewish Justice & Jewish Leadership”

So much emphasis has been placed on fighting for social justice that articles regularly appear appealing to Jewish leadership to tone down the emphasis on “Tikkun Olam,” a phrase that comes from the Aleinu prayer and calls on Jews to “repair the world under the reign of the Al-mighty.”

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Shoftim 5770-2010


Enmity is regarded by Judaism as so corrosive that even hating one’s friend in one’s heart is explicitly prohibited by the Torah. The Talmudic interpretation of a verse in parashat Shoftim offers a surprising definition of “enemy.”

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Shoftim 5769-2009

“The Torah Declares War on Bribery”

Although much of western society considers bribery in judgment to be a perversion of justice, this has not always been the case. The intention of providing equal justice to all citizens is a rather recent development. In the Torah, bribery has always been looked upon as the height of venality.

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Shoftim 5768-2008

“Waste Not–Want Not”

A single isolated law prohibiting chopping down trees in times of war has evolved into a fundamental body of vital precepts, which prohibit the wanton waste and the callous destruction of property and nature.

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Shoftim 5767-2007

“The King of Israel: The Privileged and Obligated Monarch”

In parashat Shoftim, we read about the appointment of a king for the people in the land of Israel. Is this appointment optional or required? What rules “govern” the king? What kind of government does Judaism advocate–a theocracy, a monarchy or a democracy?

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Shoftim 5766-2006

“The Great Real Estate Swindle-Its Implications”

A seemingly innocuous rule of not moving a neighbor’s boundary has remarkable implications concerning the Jewish concepts of the integrity of property (both physical and intellectual), unfair competition, improper business practices, and the encouragement of virtually unbridled intellectual competition.

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Shoftim 5765-2005

“The Extent of Rabbinic Authority”

In this week’s parasha, we are introduced to the Torah law that affirms rabbinic authority. In the traditional observant Jewish community today, the nature and extent of rabbinic authority is a matter of dispute. This dispute regarding Daat Torah (whether advice given by great Torah scholars must be followed by Jews committed to Torah observance) very much revolves around the meanings and interpretations of the verses cited in parashat Shoftim.

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Shoftim 5764-2004

“Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue”

The Torah’s ideas of a judicial system and the pursuit of justice have revolutionized jurisprudence throughout the world.

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Shoftim 5763-2003

“Astrology, Witchcraft and Spiritualism in Judaism”

In parashat Shoftim, the Torah tells us that when the Jewish people enter the land of Israel they must not follow the abominable practices of the nations that reside there. It is strictly prohibited to cause a son or a daughter to pass through fire, to practice divination or astrology, or to visit one who reads omens. Patronizing a sorcerer, an animal charmer, inquiring of the Ov or Yidoni, or consulting the dead is forbidden. The Jews are supposed to be wholehearted with G-d and not support the magic or spirituality of the ancients. The questions remains, is there any efficacy to witchcraft or to the magic of the ancients?

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Shoftim 5762-2002

“The Torah – The First Environmentalist Treatise”

The Torah’s commandment in Genesis to Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, “to work the land and to protect it,” was humanity’s first call for conservation and protecting the environment. This revolutionary message that the Torah introduced 3,300 years ago is as fresh, as vibrant and as green as if it were given today. Many additional revolutionary environmental laws may be found in parashat Shoftim.

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Shoftim 5761-2001

“Security for Citizens and Caring for Guests”

In parashat Shoftim, we encounter the ritual of eglah arufah, the ceremony of the heifer that is put to death. We learn from the ritual of eglah arufah, in which both city officials and hosts, in general, have a responsibility of escorting visitors and making certain that they can travel safely from one city to another. Those who fail to provide security, are held morally responsible. It applies for those who welcome visitors into their homes today as well.

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Shoftim 5760-2000

“War, the Jewish Community and Jewish Family Life”

The Torah looks upon the duty of a husband to bring happiness to marriage, not only for individual happiness, but also for the national well-being, as a sacred duty. For that reason, for an entire year after marrying, the husband is freed from all public services and duties, even service in the army. The exemption will hopefully result in the laying of a strong foundation for family life, as well as a fundamental means of strengthening the community.

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