October 16, 2019 ~ Sh Hol Hamoed SUKKOT. M: BAYAT.

Shabbat Shofetim - שבת שפטים

Maqam AJAM

Our Gates

תתן לך בכל שעריך - To ensure that all interpersonal affairs be conducted fairly, the entire nation is commanded to set up law enforcement systems "in all of your gates" (Deuteronomy 16:18). The word "your" (תתן לך בכל שעריך), written in singular, implies that the Torah is also speaking to the individual; making sure that each individual maintains clean homes within their gates. Regarding corruption practices (such as obstructionism, favoritism, or bribery), they are so toxic to this "cleanliness" that they "blind the eyes of the wise, upset the plea of the just," and as per the DSS Temple Scroll (found on this verse), "bring great guilt" (ועושה אשמה גדולה) and "contaminate the house with sin" (ומטמא הבית בעוון החטאה). In contrast, pursuing justice (צדק צדק תרדף); free of corruption, has the ability to cleanse our gates; enabling a higher quality of life (למען תחיה) and success in all endeavors (וירשת את הארץ). Beth Torah Bulletin, August 26, 2017.

Trees

כי האדם עץ השדה - In times of war, in addition to the inevitable loss of human life, unnecessary collateral damage is caused to the environment as well. In the case of an army besieging a city, the Torah prohibits the wasteful practice of cutting down surrounding fruit trees in order to deprive the enemies of food supplies. Deuteronomy 20:19 offers the ambiguous reason “because man is a tree.” These words remind us of the important role that nature plays in our lives. Humans must never get so carried away in their pursuits that they end up destroying the actual world that they live in. The Maimonides (1135-1204), in a prohibition termed “Bal TashHeet“ (בל תשחית), takes this further by teaching that not only is it prohibited to destroy fruit trees, but also extends the prohibition to wasting anything useful, such as utensils, clothing, buildings, water, or food. This teaching reminds us to always value what we have and never to waste things unnecessarily. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 18, 2018.

Responsibility

ידינו לא שפכה את הדם הזה - In the rare scenario where a corpse is found outside a city, the city's elders declare "our hands did not shed this blood and our eyes did not see" (Deuteronomy 21:7). For the word "shed," traditionally pronounced "shafekhu" (as per Minhat Shai), the Masoretic Text spells it שפכה (singular form) rather than שפכו (plural form). It must be noted that both the Samaritan Pentateuch and the Dead Sea Scrolls (4QDeut) spell it שפכו (plural form). Many commentators, not dismissing this as a typo, comment on the alternate spelling. One explanation of using the word שפכה in singular form is because each elder, as individuals, upon making the public declaration, feel responsibility for the crime on a personal level and do not pass the burden onto the collective "community." The lesson here is that each individual should feel personally responsible for their surroundings and should not blame others when things do not go right. Tiqqun Highlights, Beth Torah Bulletin, September 7, 2019.


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