KETIVAH V’CHATIMAH TOVAH
From ReformJudaism.org https://reformjudaism.org/torah/portion/shoftim
Shof’tim [שֹׁפְטִים – Hebrew for “judges”]
You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Eternal your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice. – Deuteronomy 16:18
- Laws regarding both sacred and secular legislation are addressed. The Israelites are told that in every dealing they should pursue justice in order to merit the land that God is giving them. (16:18–18:8)
- The people are warned to avoid sorcery and witchcraft, the abhorrent practices of their idolatrous neighbors. (18:9–22)
- God tells them that should an Israelite unintentionally kill another, he may take sanctuary in any of three designated cities of refuge. (19:1–13)
- Laws to be followed during times of peace and times of war are set forth. (19:14–21:9)
Isaiah 51:12-52:12 is the fourth haftarah in the cycle of seven haftarot of consolation after Tisha B’Av, leading up to Rosh Hashanah. This year Rosh Hashanah begins in about three weeks on the evening of Monday, September 6, 2021.
From Wikipedia.org https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shofetim_(parsha)
Shof’tim – judges/magistrates
The parashah provides a constitution — a basic societal structure — for the Israelites. The parashah sets out rules for judges, kings, Levites, prophets, cities of refuge, witnesses, war, and unsolved murders.
[The triennial reading for this year is Deuteronomy 18:6-19:13. The first part of the reading covers Levites living in the country and their rights. It continues with prohibiting child sacrifice, sorcery, divination, soothsaying, casting spells, and consulting ghosts and the dead.
The reading continues with Moses foretelling of God raising a prophet like him from among the people whom they are to heed. Any prophet who presumed to speak in God’s name what God had not commanded or spoke in the name of other gods, was to die. The reading concludes with another reference to the Cities of Refuge that are set aside for manslaughterers, and how the elders are to deal with murderers.]
STRUGGLING WITH TORAH [mostly abridged from last year]
We are now in the midst of the earliest section of Devarim, Chapters 12–26, containing the Deuteronomic Code (sometimes abbreviated Dtn).
Professor Gerhard von Rad of Heidelberg University in the mid-20th-century argued that the ordinances for standardizing the cult and establishing only one sanctuary are the most distinctive feature in Deuteronomy’s new arrangements for ordering Israel’s life before God. Von Rad cited Deuteronomy 12; 14:22–29; 15:19–23; 16; 17:8–13; 18:1–8; and 19:1–13 among a small number of “centralizing laws” that he argued belong closely together and were a special, later stratum in Deuteronomy. Von Rad argued that these texts indicate that Israel’s cult had become completely lacking in unity, celebrating at former Canaanite shrines intended for Baal. The instructions to centralize the cult sprang from the conviction that the cult in the different country shrines could no longer be reincorporated into the ordinances of a pure faith in God. Jewish educators Sorel Goldberg Loeb and Barbara Binder Kadden wrote that Von Rad saw the Book of Deuteronomy and the discussion of sacrifices in particular as a way of getting the Israelites back on track, as the Israelites had been influenced by other nations whose worship habits did not coincide with the Israelite belief system.
Some scholars claim Devarim was written about the time of King Josiah (c. 640-609 BCE), and others at a later date, either during the Babylonian captivity (597-539 BCE) or during the Persian period (539-332 BCE). Many scholars see Devarim as reflecting the economic needs and social status of the Levite caste.
If what Professor Gerhard von Rad cited above and other scholars say is right, the core of Devarim was written in the mid-7th century BCE, between 600 to 800 years after the events it purports to record (the Exodus is dated anywhere from 1440 BCE to 1200 BCE). It contains elements that reflect practices that had already become standard by then such as the organizing of the judicial/civil system and the waging of war. It also appears to include elements that were added as the result of the destruction of the Temple, the Babylonian Captivity, the return from exile, and the reforms of Ezra the Scribe and Nehemiah’s governance somewhere between 480 and 440 BCE.
Josiah was the sixteenth king of Judah, the great-grandson of Hezekiah, another noted and respected reformer. By Josiah’s time pagan cultic practices had made their way into Israelite religion, in part thanks to his grandfather, Manasseh, who was one of the kings blamed for turning away from the worship of Adonai and adapting the Temple to pagan practices. The Temple in Jerusalem had been built more than 300 years earlier by King Solomon (c.1000 BCE).
In general, scholars think the “Book of the Law” found in the Temple and “authenticated” by the Prophetess Huldah, is an early predecessor of the Torah, which was invented by Josiah’s priests, who were motivated by ideological interests to centralize power under Josiah in the Temple in Jerusalem. It appears that in order to convince the Israelites to accept these reforms, they used something called an argument from/appeal to authority. That is, they attributed its authorship to Moses, who all apparently agreed to be the most reliable and ultimate teacher.
In ancient times, even up to more “recent” times, it was common practice to attribute important writings to well-known and respected figures and/or to use ancient words and grammar to convey a sense of antiquity. Doing so enhanced the messages being conveyed rather than making them suspect.
The authors may have had their own reasons and motives for writing Devarim and attributing it to Moses. However, like any significant literary work, it has taken on a life of its own and has had an impact far beyond its literal words. In this case, it reveals ethical and spiritual values that apply to today.
From “Mishkan T’filah / A Reform Siddur”:
FOR OUR COUNTRY p.516
THUS SAYS ADONAI, This is what I desire: to unlock the fetters of wickedness, and untie the cords of lawlessness; to let the oppressed go free, to break off every yoke. Share your bread with the hungry, and take the wretched poor into your home. When you see the naked, give clothing, and do not ignore your own kin.
O GUARDIAN of life and liberty, may our nation always merit Your protection. Teach us to give thanks for what we have by sharing it with those who are in need. Keep our eyes open to the wonders of creation, and alert to the care of the earth. May we never be lazy in the work of peace; may we honor those who have [served, suffered or] died in defense of our ideals. Grant our leaders wisdom and forbearance. May they govern with justice and compassion. Help us all to appreciate one another, and to respect the many ways that we may serve You. May our homes be safe from affliction and strife, and our country be sound in body and spirit. Amen.
We recite MI SHEBËRACH for the victims of abuse, brutality, conflicts, fear, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence especially against all minority communities including us, and war; for all those at home alone or lonely; for all those in need of physical, emotional, and mental healing. “R’fuah sh’lëmah” – a complete recovery!
We say KADDISH YATOM for those of our friends and families who have died and been buried this last week; those in the period of Sh’loshim (30 days since burial); those who have died in the last year; and those whose Yahrzeits/Anyos occur at this time; as well as the victims of brutality, conflict, disease, natural disasters, pandemics, tragedies, violence of all kinds, and war.
This coming week, the 29th of Av through the 5th of Elul, we lovingly remember:
Those victims of the Sho’ah (Holocaust) who died at this time of year.
“ZICHRONAM LIV’RACHAH” – MAY THEIR MEMORIES BE FOR BLESSING.
EREV SHABBAT SERVICE – 7:30 PM
An in-person Erev Shabbat Service led by Dr. Sam Caron will take place this Friday evening at Temple Kol Hamidbar. Those wishing to join online through Zoom may do so as indicated below [it is different from the usual Torah Study/Shazoom access.] There is NO Torah Study this week.
Topic: Erev Shabbat Service
Time: Aug 13, 2021 07:30 PM Arizona
To join Zoom Meeting click on the following link [you may need to copy it into your browser]:
Or from Zoom go to join meeting and enter the following information:
Meeting ID: 836 3668 2225
Ketivah Vechatima Tovah,
Shabbat Shalom – Buen Shabbat!
- Of David. The Eternal One is my light and my help;
whom should I fear?
The Eternal One is the stronghold of my life,
whom should I dread?
- When evil men assail me to devour my flesh—
it is they, my foes and my enemies, who stumble and fall.
- Should an army besiege me, my heart would have no fear;
should war beset me, still would I be confident.
- One thing I ask of the Eternal One, only that do I seek:
to live in the house of the Eternal One all the days of my life,
to gaze upon the beauty of the Eternal One, to frequent God’s temple.
- God will shelter me in God’s pavilion on an evil day,
grant me the protection of God’s tent, raise me high upon a rock.
- Now is my head high over my enemies roundabout;
I sacrifice in God’s tent with shouts of joy,
singing and chanting a hymn to the Eternal One.
- Hear, O Eternal One, when I cry aloud;
have mercy on me, answer me.
- In Your behalf my heart says:
“Seek My face!”
O Eternal One, I seek Your face.
- Do not hide Your face from me; do not thrust aside Your servant in anger;
You have ever been my help.
Do not forsake me, do not abandon me, O God, my deliverer.
- Though my father and mother abandon me,
the Eternal One will take me in.
- Show me Your way, O Eternal One,
and lead me on a level path because of my watchful foes.
- Do not subject me to the will of my foes,
for false witnesses and unjust accusers have appeared against me.
- Had I not the assurance that I would enjoy the goodness of the Eternal One
in the land of the living…
- Look to the Eternal One;
be strong and of good courage!
O look to the Eternal One!