Points to Ponder
Shoftim V’shotrim Teeten Lecha (16:18) – The Avir Yaakov quoted the Zohar which notes that the Shotim V’Shotrim refers to the Malachim who guard each and every Jew to inspire him to do Mitzvos and stay away from Avairos. Those Malachim need to be there for everything L’Shvateicha to lead you on the path of good and away from the path of evil.
Shoftim V’Shotrim Teeten – Lo Teeta Lecha Ashaira Eitzel Mizbach (16:18) – Why is the Mitzva of Shoftim next to the Mitzva of the Mizbeiach? Rav Meir Shapiro ztl. explains that this teaches us that a Dayan needs to be like the Mizbeiach – at his core he needs to be an Anav like the ground but tough like copper on the outside to defend the office he upholds.
Lo Sakim Lecha Matzeiva (16:23) – We find that Yaakov Aveinu DID establish Matzeivos. Why was THAT ok if Hashem hates it? Rav Moshe Feinstein ztl. quotes Rashi who explains that in the times of the Avos it was ok but now it is Assur. Why? Rav Moshe explains that before Matan Torah the people were not obligated in Mitzvos so people could demand reward for past events – and put up pillars to record it even though today the person is not planning on building on his success. After Matan Torah, there is demand to keep growing and to keeping doing more Torah U’Mitzvos throughout the rest of his life. Hence, in Torah there is no room for monuments while there is time to grow.
And he will write 2 Sifrei Torah (17:18) – Rav Kalman Ber Shlita noted that the job of writing 2 Sifrei Torah became the king’s because he serves a dual function for the Jewish people. On the one hand, he has a personal obligation like all Jews to write a Sefer Torah. But he also has a second obligation based on his responsibility to represent the monarchy which leads the people. In fact, the institution of Melech was supposed to be one of representative leadership – not one of lordship. This was Shmuel’s problem with the request of the people when they sought a king – he understood that they wanted a king to lead them away from prophesy leadership which connected them to Aveinu She’BaShomayim. Their real need was to have a king who would handle leadership matters with the people’s mission – that of Hashem – in mind.
When the Levi shall come from the one of your cities with all of his soul’s desires..to serve in the name of Hashem (18:6-7) – Rav Belsky Shlita has pointed out that some people go to serve in the name of Hashem while others need to be dragged in order to participate in spiritual matters and undertakings. The difference reflects the commitment of the one who is involved in the process. Each Jew needs to act on his or her motivations for spiritual growth in order to become a true servant of Hashem.
And the Kohein shall approach the nation (20:2) – Later we will find that the Shotrim were supposed to speak to the people about the fear. It seems like the jobs are reversed. Shouldn’t the Shotrim speak to the people and tell them not to be afraid and then have Kohanim speak to the people about their Avairos? Rav Refael Sorotzkin ztl. explains that when we speak of Jewish law and Jewish fear of war, we are not speaking of battle fears. Thus the Kohein – the spiritual leader, speaks to the soldiers to inspire them. It is the Shotrim who ask the people to follow the Torah and follow through.
Because man is like the tree of the earth (20:19) – Man is like tree? In what way? Rav Schachter Shlita would often remind us that trees derive sustenance from both their roots and from the environment (Basar Gidulo or Basar Nofo). In that manner man is similar – he is like the tree wherein he too, derives his sustenance from his roots (previous generations) and his branches (the future). He would need to be a fool to buy into the philosophy of living just for the moment.
Haftorah: Rav Moshe Lichtenstein Shlita suggests that the Haftorah needs to be broken into three sections: 51:12-16 – Anokhi Anokhi. This section speaks in general terms about Israel's fear of its enemies and God's capability of defeating them owing to the greatness of His power that expresses and reveals itself in creation.51:17-23 – Hit'oreri hit'oreri. This section describes in detail Israel's past and present suffering at the hands of the nations, and God's war against the nations to rescue Israel. We are no longer dealing with God's greatness in creation, but rather with His fighting against the nations; concrete historical arguments, however, are not cited. And 52:1-12 – Uri uri. In this section, the prophet relates to the Jewish historical framework of Egypt and Ashur and to God's promise of redemption. Each section begins with a repeated word – perhaps for emphasis and perhaps for consolation.