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  • Shoftim 2019

    In the Age of Enlightenment, when the notion of the “divine right of kings” was no longer universally accepted, political philosophers turned their attention to justifying the monarch or state’s authority over the individual.

    One particular theory of justification is known as “social contract theory”. In his book Leviathan, the social contract theorist Thomas Hobbes argued that, prior to the existence of “the state”, humanity lived in a “state of nature”. In the state of nature, individuals were totally free, but constantly at war with one another.

  • Shoftim 2018

    Last year I sat on a jury. I thought that I knew how to perform my duty. It all seemed pretty clear.

    ‘You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show favouritism, and you shall not take a bribe, for the briber blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts just words. Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may live and possess the land the Lord, your God, is giving you’ (D’varim 16, 17-18).

  • Shoftim 2017

    “Justice, justice shall you pursue”. How often do we see this phrase from this week’s parsha used, out of context, as a pithy call for social action? It would be easy to write a dvar on how current affairs highlight the 21st century’s pressing need for solutions to the great injustices of our day, but I would like to address the context of this phrase within the parsha.

  • Shoftim 2014

    The pursuit of justice is a tenet of any wholesome society.

    The Torah defines that principle in a clear and unambiguous way. "Righteousness,righteousness thou shall pursue" (Deuteronomy 16:20). The Torah tells us not only to seek righteousness but to pursue it. It seems to tell us to chase justice with vigilance and fervour, but the words of the verse amplify the pursuit of righteousness more than righteousness itself.

  • Shoftim 5773

    The Sidra of Shoftim is devoted to the establishment of an Israelite state. It contains a large number of Mitzvot, 73 in total. Many of those Mitzvot are major laws regarding setting up  the government of the country. The Sidra begins with the appointment of judges and officers who were charged with making sure that the decision of the judges would be enforced.  The Hebrew word for an officer is SHOTER, which consists of the same sounds as the well-known Hebrew word SEDER. It reminds us of the English phrase ‘Law and Order’.

  • Shoftim 2013

    There is a Jewish view that the stars are related to events on earth. It is not irrelevant whether one was born on Pesach, or Yom Kippur. Each day is special and has a unique imprint. If an individual was born under the "sign" of Mars, the Talmud says that he will have a tendency to spill blood. Outcomes could include a soldier, a surgeon, a murderer, a shochet, or a mohel.

  • Shoftim 5772

    The meaning of the name of today's Sidra is JUDGES. The Torah commands us to appoint judges and officers to keep social order. The first verse reads: “You shall appoint judges and officers throughout your gates, i.e. cities, which the Lord your God is giving you, in the territory of every one of your tribes, so that they shall judge people fairly.” It is interesting to note that the Hebrew word SHOTER, an officer, used nowadays to denote a police officer, is the same word as SEDER, although the consonants are different.

  • Shoftim 2012

    Among the many powerful words in the Torah are those in the opening section of Parashat Shoftim:  “Justice, justice shall you pursue”. The double use of the term tzedek certainly draws our attention to this somewhat abstract concept and makes us question why the word is repeated.

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