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5 Facts About Parshat Shoftim that You (Maybe) Didn’t Know

Published on Friday October 15th, 2021

Discover and learn every week, "5 Facts" written on the weekly Parshah that you can share at your Shabbos table.


שֹׁפְטִ֣ים וְשֹֽׁטְרִ֗ים תִּֽתֶּן־לְךָ֙ בְּכָל־שְׁעָרֶ֔יךָ אֲשֶׁ֨ר ה' אֱ--לֹהֶ֛יךָ נֹתֵ֥ן לְךָ֖ לִשְׁבָטֶ֑יךָ וְשָׁפְט֥וּ אֶת־הָעָ֖ם מִשְׁפַּט־צֶֽדֶק׃ (16:18)

You shall appoint for yourself, magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the LORD your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice.

1.     Which court had jurisdiction over each tribe?

  • From the juxtaposition of the words “LiShvatecha/your tribe” and “VeShaftu/you will judge” we learn  that each tribe should be judged by its own courts and not in the courts of other tribes. Some say that each tribe had only only court for the entire tribe.[1]


עַל־פִּ֣י ׀ שְׁנַ֣יִם עֵדִ֗ים א֛וֹ שְׁלֹשָׁ֥ה עֵדִ֖ים יוּמַ֣ת הַמֵּ֑ת לֹ֣א יוּמַ֔ת עַל־פִּ֖י עֵ֥ד אֶחָֽד׃ (17:6)

By the testimony of two or more witnesses the dead shuld be put to death; he can not be put to death based on the testimony of a single witness.

2.     The “dead” should be put to death?

  • The unusual wording of “the dead should be put to death” teaches us that if the court is unable to give a clearly guilty person the death sentence due to a technicality, (such as the lack of valid witnesses), Hashem will ensure that such a person ends up “dead”.[2]


יַ֣ד הָעֵדִ֞ים תִּֽהְיֶה־בּ֤וֹ בָרִאשֹׁנָה֙ לַהֲמִית֔וֹ וְיַ֥ד כָּל־הָעָ֖ם בָּאַחֲרֹנָ֑ה וּבִֽעַרְתָּ֥ הָרָ֖ע מִקִּרְבֶּֽךָ׃ (פ) (17:7)

Let the hands of the witnesses be the first against him to put him to death, and the hands of the rest of the people thereafter. Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst.

3.     When can a witness’s new medical condition help the condemned walk away free?

  • From here the Talmud learns that if the witness loses a hand then the condemned walks away a free man. This is because the witness must take part in the execution process.[3]


וְלֹ֤א יַרְבֶּה־לּוֹ֙ נָשִׁ֔ים וְלֹ֥א יָס֖וּר לְבָב֑וֹ וְכֶ֣סֶף וְזָהָ֔ב לֹ֥א יַרְבֶּה־לּ֖וֹ מְאֹֽד׃ (17:17)

And he shall not have many wives, lest his heart go astray; nor shall he amass silver and gold to excess.

4.     How many wives can one have?

  • A man shouldn't have more than eighteen wives.[4]


וְיָסְפ֣וּ הַשֹּׁטְרִים֮ לְדַבֵּ֣ר אֶל־הָעָם֒ וְאָמְר֗וּ מִי־הָאִ֤ישׁ הַיָּרֵא֙ וְרַ֣ךְ הַלֵּבָ֔ב יֵלֵ֖ךְ וְיָשֹׁ֣ב לְבֵית֑וֹ וְלֹ֥א יִמַּ֛ס אֶת־לְבַ֥ב אֶחָ֖יו כִּלְבָבֽוֹ׃ (20:8)

The officials shall go on addressing the troops and say, “Is there anyone afraid and disheartened? Let him go back to his home, lest the courage of his comrades flag like his.”

5.     What fear is the Torah referring to?

  • The reason people were “scared” to go to war was due to their sins. Some examples of such sins include speaking between the Tefilin Shel Yad and Tefillin Shel Rosh and speaking between “Yishtabach” and “Yotzer Or.[5]

[1] Sanhedrin 16b: Messivtah Note 25: Rabenu Yonah

[2] Ohr Hachaim

[3] Sanhedrin 45b

[4] Targum Yonathan

[5] Yerushalmi

Rav Eytan CHOUCHAN - © Torah-Box Account

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