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מקרב אחיך תשים עליך מלך לא תוכל לתת עליך איש נכרי אשר לא אחיך הוא

From among your brethren shall you set a king over yourself, you cannot place over yourself a foreign man who is not your brother. (17:15)

The Sefer HaChinuch writes that we may not establish one who is not m’zera Yisrael (having the blood DNA of the seed of Yisrael) over us as a king.  This applies even if the person is a ger tzedek, righteous convert.  The shoresh ha’mitzvah, root of the mitzvah, is due to the fact that zera Yisrael are rachmanim, merciful.  It is critical that he show mercy to all Jews and not impose upon them a heavy yoke which they are unable to bear.  He should love truth, justice and righteousness, which are qualities that descendants of Avraham Avinu possess.  The…

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ועשית על פי הדבר אשר יגידו לך ... לא תסור מן הדבר אשר יגידו לך ימין ושמאל

You shall do according to the word that they will tell you … You shall not deviate from the word that they will tell you, right or left. (17: 10,11)

As faithful Jews we adhere to emunas chachamim, faith in our sages – in the sages of each individual generation.  Some, although observant, have difficulty accepting the interpretations of the Torah leaders concerning what they believe is fact.  In a correspondence to such a misled Jew, Horav Eliyahu Eliezer Dessler, zl (Michtav M’Eliyahu), addresses the disputant who claimed that the Holocaust might have been at least partially averted had the Torah leaders of Eastern Europe encouraged the masses to emigrate to Eretz Yisrael.  He explains that the Torah teaches us to submit in all moral judgment and outlook, even to…

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כי השחד יעור עיני חכמים ויסלף דברי צדיקים

For the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise and make just words crooked. (16:19)

We think that shochad, bribery, is about taking money to sway judgment.  As Horav Shlomo Levenstein, Shlita, points out, it is not always about accepting money.  Any favor that, when granted, makes the beneficiary /judge feel indebted is considered a bribe.  Indeed, as we see from the following story (“In the Footsteps of the Maggid,” by Rabbi Paysach Krohn), one can never be too careful with regard to the far-reaching effects of taking a bribe/accepting a favor. Horav Eliyahu Meir Bloch, zl, together with his brother-in-law, Horav Chaim Mordechai Katz, zl, founded Telshe Yeshiva in America.  The Rosh Yeshivah had…

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שופטים ושוטרים תתן לך ... ושפטו את העם משפט צדק ...צדק, צדק תרדף

Judges and officers shall you appoint… and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment… righteous, righteous shall you pursue. (16:18,20)

We are enjoined to establish a justice system in which righteousness is the criterion by which justice is determined and by which reward and punishment is to be meted out.  While justice is a concept ingrained in all humanity, the Jewish religion places a premium on justice and considers it the foundation of our existence.  Hashem is the Ultimate Judge, the Arbiter who determines what is right and what is wrong.  A society that adheres to rewarding good and punishing bad is a just society.  A society which disregards good and bad is corrupt.  Justice is the lodestar by which…

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מי האיש הירא ורך הלבב ילך וישב לביתו

Who is the man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house. (20:8)

Torah is our source of life. The individual who commits himself to a life of Torah is assured that his observance of Torah and mitzvos will never be the cause of anything negative happening to him. On the contrary, his observance of Torah and mitzvos will protect him. This is why Rabbi Yossi HaGalili contends that one who fears that he might have sinned does not go to war. Without the spiritual fortitude engendered by mitzvah observance, one does not feel secure. While this does not mean that one who is observant should stand in harm’s way, it does posit…

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והוא ינוס אל אחת הערים האלה וחי

He shall flee to one of these cities and live. (19:5)

The law providing the rotzeach b’shogeg, unintentional murderer, with a city of refuge to protect his life both physically and emotionally is a lesson for us regarding the Torah’s sensitivity to a person’s emotional well-being. Someone who causes the death of a fellow Jew is laden with awful guilt. Veritably, it was not premeditated, but, at the end of the day, a life was taken; a family was left bereft of an important member. This tragic episode affected many lives. The unintentional murderer cannot change what happened; he cannot make it right. He is down, depressed, disgraced. Now he has…

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ולא ירבה לו נשים

And he shall not have too many wives. (17:17)

Shlomo Hamelech thought that his superior wisdom would protect him from the pitfalls which the Torah specifies await the king who transgresses its limitations on horses, wives and wealth. Chazal (Midrash Rabbah Shemos 6:1) teach that when Shlomo violated the mitzvah of Lo yarbeh lo nashim, “He shall not have too many wives,” the letter yud of the word yarbeh (too many) came before the Almighty, bowed and said, “Ribon HaOlomim, Master of the Universe, Did You not say that no letter of the Torah will ever be abrogated? Yet Shlomo stands here and has nullified me. Perhaps today he…

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לא תזבח לד' אלקיך שור ושה אשר יהיה בו מום

You shall not slaughter for Hashem, your G-d, an ox or a lamb or kid in which there will be a blemish. (17:1)

The animal that is brought up as an offering to Hashem must be without blemish. Chazal (Sifri) detail a variety of disqualifications which invalidate a sacrifice. The shoresh, root, of this mitzvah is quite understandable. A person who brings a korban, sacrifice, is to focus his thoughts towards Hashem. A human being is affected by the strength of his actions. Hence, it is only proper that the sacrifice he offers be without blemish. This reflects the idea that the intentions of a man neither rest – nor become focused – upon a lesser sacrifice as they would upon a more…

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כפר לעמך ישראל אשר פדית

Atone for Your People Yisrael that You have redeemed. (21:8)

The Midrash Tanchuma (Haazinu) quotes the Toras Kohanim concerning the above pasuk: Kapeir l’amcha Yisrael, “Atone for Your People Yisrael.” This applies to the living; asher padisa; “that You have redeemed,” refers to the departed. This teaches that the living redeem the deceased. Therefore, it is our custom to memorialize the memory of the departed on Yom Kippur by praying for them, setting aside tzedakah, charity, in their behalf. I might think that tzedakah has no effect once a person passes on from this world. Thus, we learn from asher padisa, through the medium of tzedakah. The Midrash continues describing…

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תמים תהיה עם ד' אלקיך

You shall be whole hearted with Hashem, your G-d. (18:13)

Rashi explains this to mean that one should follow Hashem with perfect faith, not being concerned about what will occur in the future (as was the custom in those days to seek out the counsel of diviners and astrologers). This means accepting whatever befalls a person with wholeheartedness and absolute conviction, recognizing it as the will of Hashem. Once, during the Middle Ages (as quoted by Horav Eli Munk, zl, in The Call of the Torah), a holy man gave a kemeiah, amulet, to someone who was anxious about the future. He warned him not to open it for an…

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