PARASHAH: “Shoftim” (judges)
DEUT: 16:18: -21:9………
This parashah starts off with; “Judges (shoftim) and officers shalt thou make thee at thy gates, which YHVH thy Elohim giveth thee…. they shall judge the people with “righteous judgment…” Many people when they think of the word “judge” think of the elderly man or woman with the black robe in the courtroom who points a finger and dishes out a prison sentence, a sentence that condemns a criminal who is standing before said, judge.
While it is true that the word “judge” can mean to issue or decide a sentence that could condemn, in Hebrew, it also means one who “knows, teaches, and decides issues related to the Torah”. A “shofet” was someone like a Torah teacher, but the job not only included making plain the teachings of Adonai through His Torah, but the “shofet” also rendered decisions based on God’s Holy Writ.
Today, there are “shoftim” in every Bible-based church, synagogue, congregation, Torah study group, etc., perhaps we do not call them “shoftim” or “judges” we just call them “rabbis, pastors, Torah teachers, Sunday school teachers. They (should) expound and make plain the scriptures to those who are listening, and if needed, take necessary decisions based on God’s Word, concerning matters such as finances, church/synagogue discipline, or any decision based on our Judeo-Christian faith and ethics.
Some call them “gatekeepers” the “gatekeepers” keep in sound doctrine, and “do not let in” false teaching, or, have to “expose” false teaching that perhaps has been circulating. “making a righteous judgment” is making “correct or decisions which are “right” according to God’s Word.
The Word of God and the Torah is for ALL PEOPLE, and for this reason, the Torah says; “thou shalt not respect persons…” meaning that “one should not single out a person because that person is either rich, poor, famous, in politics, etc.… in order to say, “well, because it is YOU, my friend, I will make an exception to the Torah rule” Elohim says NO!, we are ALL EQUAL, we are ALL SINNERS are deserve righteous judgment, and what applies to the rich man, applies to the poor man as well.
(16:20) “Tzedek, Tzedek tirdof” (Righteousness, Righteousness pursue!) Why does the Torah say “righteousness twice? There are two points of view from the rabbis.
One is that one must pursue (run after) righteousness as long as the end result is also righteous. An example is, from the Talmud, a story about an olive grower. The Owner owns many acres of olive trees and he makes a lot of olive oil and fills many urns with the oil and sells each urn for 100 shekels. A servant of the owner is carrying an urn to the storehouse and he slips and falls, dropping and breaking the urn. As a result, the oil is lost. The owner’s son drags the servant to the judge at the city gate, and the judge judges according to the “eye for an eye” judgment.
He renders a “right” judgment, that, the servant will have to pay 100 shekels for the lost oil. The son is also in agreement. He will dock the servant's pay for that month, which is also 100 shekels. The servant cries out to the owner and explains the situation.
The owner who is kind and merciful calls his son “My son, you had the right to bring the servant to judgment, and the judgment is just and right according to the Torah…HOWEVER… the end result will be very unfair and unrighteous, the servant’s family will suffer loss and will not be able to buy food for the month….so…we, on the other hand, can afford the loss, while the servant cannot. I will render this judgment, that the servant’s mishap is forgiven, and no wage kept back!” Thus, “righteousness, righteousness we will pursue!”
The other understanding of this verse is that there are two kinds of “righteousness” “Righteous faith” and “Righteous works” both we must pursue! We pursue “righteous faith” through prayer and our personal relationship with Yeshua HaMashiach, reading/studying the Torah, and occupy ourselves as well with “righteous mitzvoth” through our obedience and following the commandments.
The Scripture says that “we are saved (righteous faith) unto good works (righteous works). But we must always remember that “righteous works never lead to righteous salvation, rather it is the other way, “righteous salvation leads us to do works of righteousness”
Also, the three Hebrew letters “Tzadik, Dalet, and Qof” could also mean “The Righteous ONE” and there is only “One righteous one” whom we must follow, that is Yeshua HaMashiach, not only in this present world, but in the world to come as well.
Chapter 17 deals with offering sacrificial animals with blemishes. Since today, we don’t sacrifice animals, how can we relate to this verse? The animals were “offered up” to Adonai, we “offer up” to YHVH our praises, prayers, and our service in form of our spiritual gifts, may our prayers be “without blemish” (without distraction, wholehearted, and sincere) not just repeating words that are printed in a prayer book, but “understanding” the words in the prayer book, or better yet, your own words from the heart. May we offer up our spiritual gift with a whole heart to the best of our ability.
(17:14) talks about “setting a king over thee” It was not Adonai’s perfect will that Israel would have kings, as He already knew what the outcome would be. You could probably count on one hand the righteous kings of Israel; David, Josiah, Hezekiah, the rest were perverted and evil (perhaps there were a few more). Manasseh corrected his ways towards the end of his life. God instructs every king to make a copy of the Torah and to study the Torah (17:18). If every president of every nation did that, every nation would be at peace, one with the other, we would not have anti-immigrant laws, racism, etc. We must pray that our president, men, and women in authority govern according to the commandments of the Torah, in accordance to what the Bible teaches.
Chapter 18. The priests and Levites are supported by the people, they get food, (meat, and produce from the field) and skins from the animals that are sacrificed. This was God’s provision for his ministers. Should it be any different today? I would say not! Those who live to teach God’s Word should be maintained by God’s people. Unfortunately, in many countries, some pastors, rabbis, etc. live lives in poverty because the people of their congregation don’t give, yet, some probably do live well, IF they teach their people to give, then, they will, because they love God’s teaching servants and want the best for them and their families. Some ministers have to work secular jobs in order to survive, this affects their ministry because their time is limited.
(18:9) “When you come unto the land which YHVH gives you…you will NOT… and the Torah mentions the abominations that the pagan peoples do. When we move to go to a new town, city, or even to a different job, we will notice the habits, and customs of the people of those new towns, cities, or job sites. Perhaps some of their ways will not be in accordance to what the WORD of God teaches; Cheating on spouses, cheating at work, gossip, (Leshon Hara) dirty jokes, lying to the boss, ill-treatment of others, the list could go on, will we separate ourselves from them? Or…in order to be accepted and not ridiculed, will we “compromise” our standards? Yet the Torah says; “thou shall not learn to do after the abominations of those nations!” (or job sites, neighborhoods, cities, towns, etc.)
(19:14) “Thou shalt not remove thy neighbor’s landmark which they of old time have set” I remember when I lived in New York, seeing 4-foot-high stone walls that were in the wooded area behind my house. I was told that way back in colonial days, the owners of that property built those walls to separate their property from the property of others. The stone walls indicated, “behind this wall is my area, beyond the wall is your area”. God has established “landmarks” His WORD is a “boundary” a “landmark” when we venture out of God’s Holy Writ, we leave the protection of “His property” and enter into the property of HaSatan. In this world, there are only two standards of living, God’s standards, and Satan’s standards. YHVH has guidelines, it is called “The Torah” the landmarks are the 66 books of his Torah, outside of that, is the “anything goes” philosophy, “do whatever feels good” way of living.
If we attempt to change a biblical landmark, we are “taking away” from the Word of God, we are headed for trouble. Dad told Jimmy, “Ten feet away from the wasp nest is the landmark, don’t go beyond it!” but Jimmy went beyond it, he got closer, the wasps didn’t like that, and a wasp flew over and stung little Jimmy on the leg” had Jimmy obeyed the voice of his father, and had respected the landmark, he wouldn’t have gotten stung. (yes, that is a portion from “my life”)
(20:19) teaches us to respect trees. Yes, YHVH is concerned about trees. There are some trees that are used for building, like Oak, pine, willow, etc.… yet there are trees that are for fruit and nuts. Many times, when people build homes, they must first clear the field. At times, these fruit trees are cut down. These trees are for food, I have seen in some places, that homes are built “around” a certain fruit tree, and the tree grows in the corner of the kitchen, and a place is made in the roof so that the tree can keep growing without hitting obstacles. The family then can enjoy the fruit and is honoring God’s Word concerning fruit trees.
If we remember back in Genesis, the whole food menu consisted only of fruit and nuts from the trees, and from grains and vegetables, and people lived to 900 years. It makes sense to protect “food trees”.
(18:15) And who is this prophet who is "likened" unto Moshe? The one we will listen to? It can only be Yeshua our Messiah and LORD. Are you listening to Him through his Word and through His Spirit?