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Shoftim in a Nutshell

Shoftim in a Nutshell

Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9

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Moses 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 Moses, 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.

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Discussion (8)
August 24, 2014
How wise.
Even though the laws of Talmud were written a long time ago, how wise they were.

I have read some Talmud on how you should tread your neighbor, and respect him.
Helen Dudden
Saltford
August 19, 2014
These summaries are great! Thank you so much for posting them!
Anonymous
August 10, 2013
Terms of peace
I selected the link for terms of peace and there is a discussion on time. Can anyone give me the link to the discussion "terms of peace" before attacking a city?
Larry B
San Jose, calif.
August 25, 2012
justice most gracious duke
the term justice can mean fairness or equality and yet, we live in a world of unfairness and inequality. therefore, we must tread carefully and realize there's no absolute justice except hashem, but that we as his first creation-must strive to find the justice while understanding our own human frailty and limited capacity to be just. we are people, striving to do just, in an unjust world. amen.
Anonymous
seattle, wa
January 15, 2012
2 people to bring justice?
How did we (American Justice System) go from 2 people must see the murder of a person before a person can be found guilty? Now people can be put to death with no witness at all? And why do we have 12 people of our peers which also not true (the peers part) when G-d said 2 make the decision and then the person is killed with rock.?
How do we explain this change of 12 people making the decision and not having 2 true witnesses to murder?

Sincerely,
Jordan Weiss
Bluefield, WV 24701
September 4, 2011
Shoftim and American Jurisprudence
To all those who may not know, "Justice,justice shall you pursue" has been acknowledged to be the basis of "due process: in American Jurisprudence and the 14th Ammendment to the US Constitution. Not only must the court render a Just determination, it must do so in a just manner.
Richard
Spring Valley, N. Y.
chabadofrockland.org
September 4, 2011
Execution of offenders !
ArtScroll Chumash The Stone Edition Shoftim Chapter 17 verse 7, 'The hand of the witness shall be upon him first to put him to death, and the hand of the entire people afterward, and you shall destroy the evil from your midst.' Comment attributed to Rambam; 'It is proper that the witnesses take the initiative in carrying out the court's verdict because they were the ones who saw the sin being committed, whereas everyone else knows about it only secondhand. In Judaism there is no professional 'executioner' to shield society from unpleasantness'
Not really a practical procedure for carrying out an execution! So what does this verse teach us? Is it that, we are all share the culpability, or better, share the responsibility for judgments taken, on our behalf, in our name, by the duly appointed officials?
Richard Lennard
Glasgow, Scotland
September 2, 2011
Justice ?
What is Justice? Any action taken must be just to both the perpertrator and victim alike. If not justice to both then it is not justice. How to define and decide what is justice and not only expedient, in any situation is almost impossible
Richard Lennard
glasgow, Scotland
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