For Shabbat of August 26, 2017
Shoftim (שֹׁפְטִים) — Hebrew word for “judges,” is the first word in the parashah and is the 48th weekly Torah portion in the annual cycle of Torah readings and covers Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9. 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 murder victims.
Torah Parsha Shoftim Summary
Moses instructs the people of Israel to appoint judges and law enforcement officers in every city. “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” he commands them, and you must administer it without corruption or favoritism. Crimes must be meticulously investigated and evidence thoroughly examined—a minimum of two credible witnesses is required for conviction and punishment.
In every generation, says Moses, there will be those entrusted with the task of interpreting and applying the laws of the Torah. “According to the law that they will teach you, and the judgment they will instruct you, you shall do; you shall not turn away from the thing that they say to you, to the right nor to the left.” We see a beautiful prophecy of the One who would come and speak God’s words and how all should listen to him – Deut. 18: 15-19 where God proclaims that He will send a “Prophet like unto Moshe” and we see the fulfillment of this in Yahoshua MiNazeret and we find that this Yahoshua fulfills this in over 30 different ways (see study entitle “A Prophet like unto Moshe” on our website at: http://www.calledoutbelievers.org/a-prophet-like-unto-moshe/
Shoftim also includes the prohibitions against idolatry and sorcery; laws governing the appointment and behavior of a king; and guidelines for the creation of “cities of refuge” for the inadvertent murderer. Also set forth are many of the rules of war: the exemption from battle for one who has just built a home, planted a vineyard, married, or is “afraid and soft-hearted”; the requirement to offer terms of peace before attacking a city; and the prohibition against wanton destruction of something of value, exemplified by the law that forbids to cut down a fruit tree when laying siege (in this context the Torah makes the famous statement, “For man is a tree of the field”).
The Parashah concludes with the law of the eglah arufah—the special procedure to be followed when a person is killed by an unknown murderer and his body is found in a field—which underscores the responsibility of the community and its leaders not only for what they do, but also for what they might have prevented from being done.
This week’s haftorah is the fourth of a series of seven “Haftarot of Consolation.” These seven haftarot commence on the Shabbat following Tisha b’Av and continue until Rosh Hashanah.
The haftorahs of the past two weeks open with Israel‘s complaint that they have been abandoned by G‑d. Israel is not content with consolations offered by the prophets — instead they demand that God alone comfort them. In response, this week’s haftorah begins with God’s response: “I, indeed I, will comfort you.”
After briefly reprimanding Israel for forgetting their Creator for fear of human and finite oppressors, the prophet describes the suffering and tribulations which Israel has endured. However, the time has arrived for the suffering to end. The time has come for Israel’s oppressors to drink the “cup of suffering” which they had hitherto forced Israel to drink: “Awaken, awaken, put on your strength, O Zion; put on the garments of your beauty, Jerusalemthe Holy City, for no longer shall the uncircumcised or the unclean continue to enter you. Shake yourselves from the dust, arise, sit down, O Jerusalem; free yourself of the bands of your neck, O captive daughter of Zion.”
Isaiah extols the beauty of the messenger who will announce the good tidings of Redemption. “Burst out in song, sing together, O ruins of Jerusalem, for the Lord has consoled His people; He has redeemed Jerusalem.”
The haftorah ends by highlighting the difference between the Egyptian Exodus, when the Israelites hurried out of their exile and bondage, and the future Redemption: “For not with haste shall you go forth and not in a flurry of flight shall you go, for the Lord goes before you, and your rear guard is the God of Israel.”
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Torah Parashah teaching with video and audio and illustrations by Pastor Isaac. © 2017 Assembly of Called-Out Believers. Use by Permission.