• Daily Aliya for Shoftim, Revii (4th Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Although the Priestly families were divided into many shifts, each serving in the Temple in their designated turn, a Kohen always retains the right to come to the Temple and personally offer his personal sacrifices. This Aliya then contains prohibitions against divination, fortunetelling and similar occult practices. Instead of probing into the future we are commanded to put our faith and trust in G‑d.

    The implication here is that we must not “learn to do” the terrible things, but we may learn about them in order to understand their ways and to better instruct our fellow Jews in this topic. (Tur Shulchan Aruch, based on the Gemara). This can be applied to countering groups dedicated to targeting Jews, such as Jews for Jesus. We are instructed to “know how to respond” to such occult and cult tactics.

  • Daily Aliya for Shoftim, Shlishi (3rd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: The Kohanim were chosen by G‑d to be His holy servants. They do not receive an inheritance (portion) in the Land of Israel, because “G‑d is their inheritance.” Instead, the Kohanim are the beneficiaries of various priestly gifts; selections of meat from certain sacrifices, as well as tithes from crops and animal shearings.

    The three sections of the animal that the Kohanim get to keep are the foreleg, the jaw (tongue) and part of the intestines. Rashi explains that this corresponds to the story of Pinchas, when Pinchas raised his hand (foreleg is the equivalent of the hand), prayed (tongue) and stabbed the transgressors through the stomach (intestines).It’s the butterfly effect, where one string of actions leads to perpetual benefit for every generation that follows, that we should all wish to emulate. You never know what one act of kindness, one little Mitzvah (which may not be so little if we realized its butterfly effect), one smile, can perpatuate.

  • Dvar for Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)

    The Parsha says “what man is there that is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house and not let him make the heart of his brethren faint as well as his heart.’” In addition to the three categories of men who were exempt from military service (someone recently built a house, grew a vineyard, or recently married), a fourth category is added — one who is fearful and fainthearted. Why would fear be a reason to be excused from fighting?

    Rabbi Yossi Hagili explains that this category refers to someone who fears that he is unworthy of being saved in battle because of his transgressions. Rabbi Yossi adds that this is the reason why the other three categories were told to go home — if someone were to leave the ranks because of his sins, he would feel embarrassed; however, since other groups were also sent home, others wouldn’t know why he was leaving. This is truly amazing — a large number of soldiers were sent home during war time in order to save a sinner from humiliation. We learn from this that we must do everything possible to protect people from shame.

    At a Pesach Seder, Rabbi Yitchak Hutner was splashed by wine inadvertently spilled by someone, staining his kittel (the white robe worn by many at the Seder). To save the other person from shame, Rabbi Hutner immediately said “a kittel from the Seder not stained with wine is like a Yom Kippur Machzor (prayer book) not wet with tears.”

  • Daily Aliya for Shoftim, Sheni (2nd Aliya)

    Aliya Summary: Moshe instructs the Israelites to coronate a king after they enter Israel. A Jewish king may not amass an excessive amount of horses, wives, or personal wealth. The king writes for himself two Torah scrolls. One of them remains with him at all times — a constant reminder to remain humble and follow G‑d’s Law.

    The reason given for the people wanting a king is in order to be like all the other nations around us (17:14), which doesn’t seem like a very good or noble reason for wanting a king. And yet G-d tells us that it’s alright, so long as we choose and act appropriately. Like wearing Tzitzit under our shirts, and many other Mitzvot, there are ways to be “normal” and yet be different, ways to be better without teasing others about it. So the Torah allows us to have a king, to have other “normal” things (armies, clothes), but have it with higher standards than anyone else.

  • Daily Aliya for Shoftim, Rishon (1st Aliya)

    General Overview: This week’s reading, Shoftim, addresses fundamental issues pertaining to the leadership of the Jewish people. It begins with a discussion regarding judges, and later discusses the concept of the kings, prophets, and the kohanim (priests). Many commandments are introduced in this weeks reading, including: appointing judges, the obligation to follow Rabbinic Law and the words of the prophets, the obligations of a king, the punishment for perjury, laws of war, and the procedure for dealing with unsolved murders.

    Aliya Summary: We are commanded to appoint judges in every city of Israel. These judges are instructed to adjudicate fairly. Capital punishment is prescribed for idolatry, and various idolatrous practices are banned. The sacrifices we offer to G‑d must be unblemished. We must follow the rulings of the Sanhedrin, the Rabbinic Supreme Court, and the Oral Law. Refusal to accept the Sanhedrin’s authority is a capital offense.

Back to top