Shoftim 5777

August 20, 2017

6 min read


Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 )

GOOD MORNING!  Hardly a day goes by without an expression of hatred or a terrorist attack. Every sane person is asking, "Why can't we all just get along?" However, that doesn't seem to be happening. The situation worsens, the world becomes a crazier, more dangerous place. We figuratively throw up our arms in frustration and think, "I wish I could do something to bring some sanity to the world."

In truth, we can make this world a better, more loving, more caring place. It starts with each of us and how we treat each other.

The Torah tells us that we are created b'tzelem Elokim (Gen. 1:27) -- in the image of God. Since God has no corporeal form, it means that we are created with a soul and have intrinsic worth. The Zohar tells us that when the Almighty created Adam, He created him from dirt from all over the earth so that no one people could say that they are better other people based on their geographical location. All people have value. All people need to be treated with respect.

The Torah states, 'Love your fellow man as yourself.' (Leviticus 19:18) Rambam adds, "Therefore, we must praise others, and we must care about their money just as we care about our own money and our own dignity. Whoever derives honor from humiliating someone else, loses his share in the World to Come."

The Baal Shem Tov used to say: " 'Love your fellow man as yourself.' You know that you have many faults, nevertheless, you still love yourself. That is how you should feel toward your friend. Despite his faults, love him."

To some this may sound like a simple thing to do. However, if we could all judge others just a little bit better, the world would be a far better place!

The Mishna in Pirke Avos 1:12 from the great sage, Hillel: "Be amongst the disciples of Aharon -- love peace, pursue peace; love people and bring them closer to Torah."

The commandment of loving your fellow human being can be fulfilled at all times, every single second of the day. Any favor or kindness that you do for someone is a fulfillment of this commandment. The general rule: anything you would want others to do for you, you should do for them; anything you would not want others to do to you, you should not do to them. It can also be fulfilled through thought -- to be happy at someone's good fortune, to feel sad because of his suffering.

How can we make the world a better, kinder place?

The Ktav V'hakabala gives a list of behaviors to guide us in treating others as we wish to be treated:



  1. Do not hurt people physically, financially, emotionally, or with words.
  2. Care for others' needs and feelings.
  3. Be genuine in caring for others because the feeling is part of the care -- we are commanded to be Godly.
  4. Treat people with dignity and respect.
  5. Seek to honor others.
  6. Greet people with gladness and seek their welfare.
  7. Commiserate with others and help them in their time of sorrow or need.
  8. Judge people favorably.
  9. Do not be arrogant towards others.
  10. Rejoice in their happiness.


Don't throw up your hands and say all is hopeless. If we start small and treat each individual better, then eventually we build a society and a world of love and peace.


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Torah Portion of the week

Shoftim, Deuteronomy 16:18 -- 21:9

Topics in this week's portion include: Judges and Justice, "Forbidden Trees and Pillars" worshiped as idols, Blemished Sacrifice, Penalties for Idolatry, The Supreme Court, The King, Levitical Priests, Priestly Portions, Special Service, Divination and Prophecy, Cities of Refuge, Murder, Preserving Boundaries, Conspiring Witnesses, Preparing for War, Taking Captives, Conducting a Siege and the Case of the Unsolved Murder.

This week we have the famous admonition: "Righteousness, Righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that the Almighty your God, gives you" (Deut. 16:20).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"Judges and police you shall place for yourself" (Deut. 16:18).

What homiletic lesson can we learn from this verse to improve our own character?

Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Parshicho commented: Make for yourself judges and police, that is, before you go and make judgments about other people, judge yourself first. As the Sages said, "First correct yourself and only then correct others" (Bava Basra 60b).

It is very easy to find fault with others. However, this can easily lead to becoming arrogant and retaining all of your faults. While we have an obligation to help others grow, keep reviewing your own behavior to see what you can improve. The purpose of police is to make certain that the laws are enforced. Similarly, when you find a fault in yourself, take action to fix it!

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah refers to the ultimate in spirituality:

"to love the Lord, your God, and to walk in His ways all the days..." (Deut. 19:9).

What does it mean to "walk in His ways"? Why does the Torah stress "all the days"?

The Sages explain that walking in God's ways means that we must emulate Him by bestowing kindness and being compassionate. Some people mistakenly think that if they do someone a favor, especially a major one, that they have fulfilled their obligation to do chesed (kindness) for the next few weeks. Therefore, says Rabbi Yisroel Meir Kagan, the Torah stresses that the obligation of chesed is all the days. Every single day of our lives we must go out of our way to do someone a favor. This is how we can be like the Almighty!

It is a matter of focus and thinking ahead. Make it your policy to hold the door for someone. If a car wants to enter from a side street, allow it to enter in front of you. Before you leave your home in the morning, put a coin for tzedakah in a pushka (a charity box). It is so easy, if you plan in advance.


Candle Lighting Times

August 25
(or go to

Jerusalem 6:36
Guatemala 6:00 - Hong Kong 6:29 - Honolulu 6:35
J'Burg 5:35 - London 7:44 - Los Angeles 7:10
Melbourne 5:35 - Mexico City 7:39 - Miami 7:29
New York 7:21 - Singapore 6:53 - Toronto 7:47

Quote of the Week

Don't expect more from someone else
than you expect from yourself



In Loving Memory of a Dear Friend
Judge Joseph Grimberg



With Special Thanks to
With Deep Appreciation to
Alvin and Renee Tolchinsky

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