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The Kohen shall approach and speak to the people. And he shall say to them, “Hear, O’ Yisrael, today you are coming near to the battle against your enemies; let your heart not be faint; do not be afraid; do not panic; and do not break down before them.” (20:2,3)

There is a well-known passage in the Talmud Berachos 5a which addresses the strategy one should employ upon being confronted by man’s greatest enemy from within: the yetzer hara, evil inclination. Chazal give us four options which, based upon a person’s spiritual level, should assist him in staving off the yetzer hara’s crippling influence. The first approach is yargiz yetzer tov al yetzer hara, agitate one’s good inclination against his evil inclination. Take the yetzer head on, using the good inclination within oneself to overwhelm the evil. If this does not prove effective, Chazal advise engaging in Torah study. If this…

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And do not erect for yourself a matzeivah (idolatrous pillar) which Hashem, your G-d, hates. (16:22)

Much of Sefer Devarim alludes to warnings concerning the idolatrous behavior of the nations inhabiting Eretz Yisrael. The Torah admonishes us not to learn from their nefarious practices, lest we fall prey to the yetzer hara, evil inclination, which seduces one to worship idols. One of the prohibitions is the erection of a matzeivah, pillar of stone, on which they would offer sacrifices. This is forbidden, even if the offerings are to Hashem. Rashi explains that Hashem abhors a matzeivah. He commanded us to make a mizbayach avanim, altar of stones, a mizbayach adamah, altar of earth, but not a matzeivah….

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Justice, justice shall you pursue. (16:20)

Rashi explains the Torah’s enjoinment that we pursue justice as a demand that we seek out the most competent, knowledgeable court of law to adjudicate our dispute with another Jew. Sifsei Chachamim adds that, even though the case we have can really be listened to by any decent court of law, the claimant has an obligation to go out of his way to seek the most learned, qualified, impartial bais din available. A din Torah is often “cut and dry.” Reuven owes Shimon, so all that is necessary is a judge who is not “blind,” and who has the courage…

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They shall judge the people with righteous judgment. (16:18)

The simple meaning of this command is that the judges who are appointed to adjudicate various disputes should do so with integrity and righteousness, acting with impartiality in maintaining a system of justice that is above reproach. The Midrash Tanchuma adds that the appointed judges were to intercede before Hashem on behalf of the Jewish People and find merit for them. While this is certainly a noble calling, the choice that the Midrash presents as an example of a leader who exemplifies the trait of seeking merit in behalf of Klal Yisrael is enigmatic. The fifth Shofet, judge of the…

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