Shoftim – A thought for the week by Michael Lewis

In Parashah Shoftim Moses sets out not just what we would face but how we were to behave and to live in a new society. This week we have also seen the exam results for our children and grandchildren. As they move on, they too will be challenged by how to cope with new situations, encounters and challenges.

Shoftim opens with the well-known words

צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף
Justice, justice shall you pursue

The instruction is in the singular, it is for each of us rather than a tribal injunction. True justice balances individual needs with the needs of the community. Procedure, a narrow application of settled written law can result in injustice.

Some laws were restricted. The rebellious son was not put to death, but the existence of the law was used as an educational tool. Some laws were extended.

When you lay siege to a city for a long time, do not destroy its trees by putting an axe to them. Do not cut them down

This became extended into the concept of avoiding needless destruction and understands environmental responsibility. Some laws remain to his day.

By the mouth of two witnesses, or three witnesses,…. he shall not be put to death by the mouth of one witness.

A death sentence was almost unknown, and the principle was used to make death sentences almost impossible to apply.

We are told to destroy many nations,

You shall utterly destroy them the Hittites, and the Amorites, the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, the Hivvites, and the Jebusites, “So that they should not teach you to act according to all their abominations”

It was the adopting of their practices, the “abominations” that was rejected. There is Rabbinic discussion that you may not learn to imitate them, but you may learn in order to make rulings and to understand.

As our children move forward into the wider world, they will come across many different cultures. Learning about them is good but, remembering who we are and understanding the foundations of our Jewish heritage is the bedrock of our lives.

5 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All

Immediately preceding Rosh Hashanah, we will be reading this very short Sedra, Nitzavim. At only 40 verses long it sets out to concentrate our minds. We may think of Rosh Hashanah as the “New Year”, a

How does a leader, in this case Moses, prepare the way for his people to carry on and fulfil their mission? It is very apt this week as we mourn the loss of the Queen and prepare for a new age with al

The multiple commandments we read this week cover family, possessions, responsibility to animals, relations with our neighbours and respect for the dead. According to Maimonides, Ki Tetze contains 72