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This week’s portion opens saying, יח שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים תִּתֶּן-לְךָ בְּכָל-שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר יְהוָֹה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ וְשָׁפְטוּ אֶת-הָעָם מִשְׁפַּט-צֶדֶק: 16:18 ‘You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which the Lord your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. (NASB) The Lord commands us to administer justice (מִשְׁפַּט-צֶדֶק) in the land. In the context of conflict, the terms justice and fairness are often used interchangeably. Taken in its broader sense, justice is action in accordance with the requirements of the Torah. Here we find the Lord commanding His people to create a system common to all people in Eretz Yisrael. (Note, this is not restricted to the Land of Israel only but to all places that we set our feet because it is who we are as God’s people.) From the Torah perspective, the justice (מִשְׁפַּט-צֶדֶק) the Lord commands for each individual is something greater (higher) than a society’s legal system. Within the context of this command of justice, Moshe tells us the following, 17:1 ‘You shall not sacrifice to the Lord your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to the Lord your God. (NASB) The Lord commanded us not to bring a defective sacrifice. This is related to justice (מִשְׁפַּט-צֶדֶק) in our lives towards men and towards the Lord God of Israel. So, how do we apply this to our lives today? Rashi on Devarim / Deuteronomy 17:2 states the offering of a defective sacrifice may be achieved through and evil utterance (something which comes from the heart). Ibn Ezra states one is not to offer to God your god. These are interesting comments when taken in context to the command for justice (מִשְׁפַּט-צֶדֶק), and our service of worship to our God. The Lord requires justice and righteousness from us. These Torah commands have great application for us today. Note the rabbinic parallels to what we are reading here on idolatry where “idolatry→immorality→slander→sin→the idols of our heart and the defective sacrifice.” Taking these things from the context of the Scriptures and the rabbinic literature, this command for justice becomes a very practical command with respect to repentance!

 

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