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Weekly Torah Portion

Shoftim/Judges

Torah: Deuteronomy 16:18Deuteronomy 16:18
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

18 Judges and officers shalt thou make thee in all thy gates, which the LORD thy God giveth thee, throughout thy tribes: and they shall judge the people with just judgment.  

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– 21:9; Haf Torah: Isaiah 51:12Isaiah 51:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

12 I, even I, am he that comforteth you: who art thou, that thou shouldest be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass;  

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– 52:12;

Brit Chadashah: 1-3 John

Depending on your background, when you hear the word ‘judge’ different images, feelings and/or scenarios will come to mind. For some, it’s a word that strikes feelings of fear, condemnation and trepidation. For others, the word evokes a sense of justice and security. Some might see the image of someone who is stoic and cold, while others see images of someone boldly, but fairly upholding the law. This week’s Torah portion, Shoftim (Judges) continues with the second giving of the Torah to the new generation of Israelites that are getting ready to cross the Jordan, conquer territories and enter the Promised Land. In Hebrew, the word “judge” means “deliver”. Judges were given the same respect as the priests and the decisions that they and the priest rendered in cases that came before them were to be upheld; failure to carry out a judgment rendered could result in the death penalty.

“You are not to show distort justice or show favoritism, and you are not to accept a bribe…anyone presumptuous enough not to pay attention to the cohen (priest)…or to the judge – that person must die.” Dt. 16:19; 17:12Dt. 16:19; 17:12
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 Thou shalt not wrest judgment; thou shalt not respect persons, neither take a gift: for a gift doth blind the eyes of the wise, and pervert the words of the righteous. words: or, matters 12 And the man that will do presumptuously, and will not hearken unto the priest that standeth to minister there before the LORD thy God, or unto the judge, even that man shall die: and thou shalt put away the evil from Israel. and will...: Heb. not to hearken  

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(CJB)

God is our Righteous Judge/Deliverer who does not accept a bribe and whose eyes are unable to be diverted from what is right, just, balanced and accurately measured. This is the same standard that He sets forth in the requirements for any judge that Israel appoints. Even though Israel had no king at that time, God knew that they would eventually want to adopt the way of the nations around them and ask for a king…a request that was an outright rejection of the not only the government God established for them, but a form of rejecting God and His faithfulness (1 Sam. 10:191 Sam. 10:19
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 And ye have this day rejected your God, who himself saved you out of all your adversities and your tribulations; and ye have said unto him, Nay, but set a king over us. Now therefore present yourselves before the LORD by your tribes, and by your thousands.  

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). However, in spite of this rejection, God still outlined the expectation and standard that the king should uphold, including writing a copy of the Torah once he occupies the throne. The king, who would also take the place of a judge, would ultimately wind up writing a minimum of two copies of the Torah in his lifetime; he was to keep one copy with him at all times and “…read every day, as long as he lives.; so he will learn to fear the Lord his God and keep all the words of this Torah…so that he will not think he is better than his kinsmen; and so he will not turn aside…” (Dt. 17:19, 20Dt. 17:19, 20
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

19 And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: 20 That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left: to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he, and his children, in the midst of Israel.  

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).

As a king and priest…a judge and deliverer…we get the amazing opportunity to walk in God’s teaching and instruction. The ability to keep and follow the Torah is literally built within us. Our Kohen Rosh Gadol (Great High Priest) safeguarded our potential to overlook this instruction and wrote a copy of the Torah on our hearts and minds.

As kings and priests, we must be diligent in the pursuit of Godliness and righteousness/right standing. We are not to adopt the ways of the world and the seductive allure that it puts before us “because all the things of the world…and the pretentions of life are not from the Father but from the world and is passing away.” (1 Jn. 2:16, 171 Jn. 2:16, 17
English: King James Version (1611) - KJV

16 For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world. 17 And the world passeth away, and the lust thereof: but he that doeth the will of God abideth for ever.  

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). God has given us authority here on earth through His power. Take the time to write out the Torah. As you physically write it out, know that you are writing a copy of the government that God established within you and that He seeks to uphold and perform. The Word written within us is contains our rights, our boundaries, and the keys to our blessings. As we move from one season to the next, remain steadfast in His Word so that you do not think of yourself higher than you ought or forget the Lord your God. During times of turbulence and trouble, remember that God has gone ahead of you, is behind you and will fight for you.

As you walk the Torah, the distinctiveness of your lifestyle will cause others to want the same deliverance from bondage that you have. The keys of deliverance are already within you. Do not be presumptuous in the instruction and judgment/deliverance from your Great High Priest, which only leads to death/dysfunction. But shake off the dust! Arise! Be enthroned, Jerusalem! Loosen the chains on your neck…for the Lord has comforted His people and redeemed you!

–Rabbi Messer

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