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על פי שנים עדים או שלשה עדים יומת המת

By the testimony or two of three witnesses shall the condemned person be put to death. (17:6)

The word shnayim connotes two. Yet, later in this parsha (19:15), the Torah uses the word shnei (eidim) to specify two witnesses. Why does the text change from one pasuk to the other? Horav David Cohen, Shlita, quotes the Gaon, zl, m’Vilna, who distinguishes between shnayim and shnei (although both words mean “two”). Shnayim refers to two people (or objects) which come together or meld together as one unit, while shnei refers to two individuals, separate and/or disparate, who just happen to be together. In other words, shnayim is a “two” which maintains a stronger sense of unity. With the…

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תמים תהיה עם ד' אלקיך

You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, Your G-d. (18:13)

Temimus, simple faith, is not so simple. It takes a special person, whose faith in Hashem is unequivocal, to achieve temimus. It requires one: to live a life of acquiescence; to ask no questions; to believe that everything is for the good; to maintain wholesome belief in Hashem that everything that occurs in one’s life is Divinely orchestrated. The tamim lives only in the moment. The future is completely in the hands of Hashem. Horav Pinchas Koritzer, zl, teaches that only two mitzvos or observances are to be carried out with Hashem: temimus, wholehearted faith; and tznius, modesty. (Hatznea leches im…

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כי ימצא חלל באדמה

If a corpse will be found on the land. (21:1)

The Torah relates the halachah of eglah arufah, the axed heifer, which is used to atone for the murder of a Jew whose death came about possibly due to communal neglect or indifference. A public ritual is performed, during which the elders of the community closest to where the corpse is discovered declare their innocence and non-culpability in this incident. They then pray for forgiveness for the Jewish People. Baal HaTurim notes that the laws of eglah arufah are placed between “two wars”, the parsha of going out to war which is in Parashas Shoftim; and the war at the beginning…

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ידינו לא שפכה את הדם הזה

“Our hands have not spilled this blood.” (21:7)

Chazal (Sotah 45b) ask: “Did anyone suspect the elders of committing murder?” They mean to say that they did not see the traveler (deceased) and had no part in allowing him to go on his way – alone, without food or escort. If the elders would have been guilty of this neglect, they would be considered as having (his) blood on their hands. The elders/leaders of a community have an enormous responsibility. When they renege their responsibility, and, as a result, someone is hurt – they have blood on their hands. The commentators debate whose blood the elders are atoning….

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שופטים ושטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך... ושפטו את העם משפט צדק

Judges and officers shall you appoint in all your cities… and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. (16:18)

Titen lecha, “Shall you appoint” (Literal translation: shall you put for you/yourself). The Kli Yakar derives from you/yourself that, before one concerns himself with helping others, he must first judge himself. Make absolutely certain that your house is in order before you reach out to others. How true this is. There are some who occupy themselves with reaching out to others as an excuse, in order to delay addressing their own personal issues. In a similar vein, Horav Simcha Bunim, zl, m’Peshischa, explains Shoftim v’shotrim titen lecha, “Judges and officers shall you appoint” in the following way: As long as…

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שפטים ושוטרים תתן לך... לא תטה משפט לא תכיר פנים ולא תקח שחד

Judges and officers shall you appoint in your cities… you shall not pervert judgment, you shall not respect someone’s presence; and you shall not accept a bribe. (16:18,19)

The Torah exhorts us to appoint honest judges who will adjudicate accordingly. It then follows up with three rules (so to speak) for keeping the judges “honest”. They should not pervert judgment; they should treat everyone equally, regardless of the litigant’s financial portfolio or eminence and power; last, they should not accept a bribe – even if the bribe comes without strings attached. Once one has accepted anything from another person, he becomes predisposed to him and the judgment that he renders might in some way be biased. The appointment of judges is obviously critical for the healthy growth of…

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צדק צדק תרדוף

Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue. (16:20)

The Mishnah in Meseches Peah 8 derives from the above pasuk that one who is healthy, but claims he is crippled or blind, for whatever reason (usually for profit), will not leave this world until he himself  becomes afflicted with what he has claimed to have. Horav Bunim, zl, m’Peshischa questions this statement. Will this, likewise, apply to one who presents himself as a tzaddik, righteous person? Will he also not die before he becomes a tzaddik? If the pasuk teaches us that one must be straight, trustworthy and honorable, can we consider this man honorable? Should he be rewarded…

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על פי התורה אשר יורוך ועל המשפט אשר יאמרו לך תעשה – לא תסור מן הדבר אשר יגידו לך ימין ושמאל

According to the teaching that they will teach you and according to the judgment that they will say to you, shall you do; you shall not deviate from the word that they will tell you, right or left. (17:11)

The decision rendered by the courts must be obeyed, even if one is convinced that it is wrong. Even if the judge/Torah scholar seems to be conveying that right is left and left is right, you must listen, accept and execute the law as told. We must maintain unswerving obedience to the directive issued by our gedolim, Torah leaders of the generation. Not everyone warrants the title gadol, Torah giant. Some may qualify as scholars, but, unless one reflects the total demeanor of mussar, ethics, yiraas Shomayim, fear of Heaven, in addition to being erudite, one does not qualify as…

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מי האיש אשר בנה בית חדש ולא חנכו ילך וישב לביתו פן ימות במלחמה ואיש אחר יחנכנו

Who is the man who has built a new house and has not inaugurated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the war and another man will inaugurate it. (20:5)

An individual whose mind is not on the battle, will – due to his fear or lack of enthusiasm – erode the morale of his comrades. The Torah mentions those individuals who return home and are free from joining the army. These are men who had just initiated an endeavor: taken a wife; built a house; planted a vineyard. For practical reasons, their minds are focused elsewhere – not on the battlefield. Rashi remarks concerning one who has built a house and has yet to move in: He is anxious concerning the possibility that he might die and someone else…

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שופטים ושוטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך... ושפטו את העם משפט צדק

Judges and officers shall you appoint in all your cities… and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. (16:18)

It is almost that time of year when Hashem makes a reckoning of our deeds of the past year and renders His decisions for the coming year. We all could use “help” in obtaining favorable judgments. The easiest and most propitious way is by doing all that is asked of us. In other words, good people will receive a good judgment. What about those who were not perfect, who made their share of mistakes, who committed sins without malice (of course), but sins nonetheless? What is the best advice for them, other than teshuvah and going through the process of…

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