Weekly Parsha Summary

Moshe  instructs the people of Israel to appoint judges and law enforcement officers in every city. “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” he commands them, and you must administer it without corruption or favoritism. Crimes must be meticulously investigated and evidence thoroughly examined—a minimum of two credible witnesses is required for conviction and punishment.

In every generation, says Moshe, there will be those entrusted with the task of interpreting and applying the laws of the Torah. “According to the law that they will teach you, and the judgment they will instruct you, you shall do; you shall not turn away from the thing that they say to you, to the right nor to the left.”

Shoftim also includes the prohibitions against idolatry and sorcery; laws governing the appointment and behavior of a king; and guidelines for the creation of “cities of refuge” for the inadvertent murderer. Also set forth are many of the rules of war: the exemption from battle for one who has just built a home, planted a vineyard, married, or is “afraid and soft-hearted”; the requirement to offer terms of peace before attacking a city; and the prohibition against wanton destruction of something of value, exemplified by the law that forbids to cut down a fruit tree when laying siege (in this context the Torah makes the famous statement, “For man is a tree of the field”).

The Parshah concludes with the law of the eglah arufah—the special procedure to be followed when a person is killed by an unknown murderer and his body is found in a field—which underscores the responsibility of the community and its leaders not only for what they do, but also for what they might have prevented from being done.

Rabbi's Shabbos Message

“And it will be as when he [a Jewish king] sits on his throne of royalty…” (Devarim 17:18)
Rav Mordechai Pragamantzky of Telz notes the importance of the wording of this pasuk. The Torah states, “as when he sits on his throne of royalty”, not just “when he sits”. This is to teach us that even if a king has been ruling for many decades, he should view himself as if he just became king (sitting on the throne represents acquiring it).
When a person acquires a position of leadership, at first his energy and devotion is strong, but then it slowly begins to wane. The pasuk is showing us the importance of keeping the momentum going.
This is even more true in regards to marriage and family life. When a husband or wife walks in the door after a long day of work, it’s important to view him or herself as royalty; as somebody who leads. A king never walks in and sits on his throne in a haggard manner. Before he walks in, he composes himself and acts with as much confidence as he can muster. So, too should a man or woman before walking into their homes. Their spouses and children look to them for strength and leadership, and as a parent, they have an obligation to act as one.
I wish you all a great Shabbos!

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