Making Space for Community

Making Space for Community

Aug 13, 2021 By Rafi Cohen | Commentary | Shofetim

For two weeks this summer, I was a visiting educator at Ramah Sports Academy. My responsibilities were fairly typical for a visiting rabbi at camp: leading classes for campers and staff, supporting a particular edah (age group). But I also had an opportunity to assist the summer mashgiah in assessing and repairing the eruv before Shabbat. The camp’s eruv—a ritual legal enclosure fixed for the purpose of allowing activities such as carrying from one domain to another on Shabbat—was constructed using some of the natural boundaries around camp. To identify the sightline of the trees at the far end of a field or a stream of water that connects one part of camp to another as part of the created boundary, string and small wooden posts (lehim) were affixed along parts of the camp periphery.

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Appoint Judges and Officials

Appoint Judges and Officials

Aug 21, 2020 By Marcus Mordecai Schwartz | Commentary | Shofetim

The year was 1752, the place Copenhagen, and Rabbi Yehonatan Eybeshutz, Chief Rabbi of Hamburg, Altona, and Wandsbeck, was on trial before the royal court of Denmark. King Frederick V himself was acting as the presiding judge. Altona was legally a province of Denmark, and the Altona City Council had turned to the king to resolve a controversy among the Jews that was breaking into violence in the streets. They had already tried placing Eybeshutz’s opponent in the matter, Rabbi Yaakov Emden, under house arrest. Emden’s escape to Amsterdam under cover of darkness made matters worse. The intensified presence of the city watch among the Jews only increased tensions. In desperation the burghers of Altona had turned to the king of Denmark.

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Prophets of Faith

Prophets of Faith

Sep 6, 2019 By Amy Kalmanofsky | Commentary | Shofetim

I often distinguish between faith and belief and consider myself to be a person of faith. Whereas belief implies a degree of certainty that I am uncomfortable with, faith embraces doubt. To my ear, the statement that I believe something to be true communicates that you know something is true. The statement that I have faith that something is true suggests that you desire or suspect something is true. Belief seems restrictive to me—confined by only what is known or can be known—and is at risk of dogmatism.

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Fourth haftarah of consolation

Fourth haftarah of consolation

Aug 17, 2018 By Jan Uhrbach | Commentary | Shofetim

This fourth and middle haftarah of consolation and comfort begins with a challenge to the people: why do you allow a mere mortal, however seemingly powerful, to send you into a tailspin of fear and anxiety? Isaiah points out that the people are suffering not only from externally imposed oppression, but from their own internal response—dread, reeling like a drunkard, despair. This hopelessness that denies or ignores unforeseen possibility and unexpected redemption is called “forgetting God.”

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A Diligent Inquiry

A Diligent Inquiry

Aug 17, 2018 By Malka Strasberg Edinger | Commentary | Shofetim

The main theme in this week’s parashah, Parashat Shofetim, is justice. One of the many legal matters discussed is false witnesses. Deuteronomy 19:16–20 reads:

If an unrighteous witness rise up against anyone to bear perverted witness against him; then both people, between whom the controversy is, shall stand before Hashem, before the priests and the judges that shall be in those days. And the judges shall inquire diligently…

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The King’s Torah and the Torah’s King

The King’s Torah and the Torah’s King

Aug 25, 2017 By Barry Holtz | Commentary | Shofetim

This week’s Torah portion focuses on a wide array of topics, but underlying virtually everything we can see a thematic coherence well reflected in the parashah’s name (“judges”). The sidrah contains one of the most famous lines in the entire Bible, tzedek, tzedek tirdof: “Justice, justice shall you pursue” (Deut. 16:20). And throughout the parashah we see the Torah outlining various aspects of the pursuit of justice.

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Limbs

Limbs

Aug 25, 2017 By JTS Alumni | Commentary | Shofetim

Gavriella Kornsgold, Student, The Rabbinical School, and JTS Alumna (LC ’17, DS ’19)
Limbs (2017)
Sharpie, colored pencil, and acrylic on plexiglass

Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city? (Deut. 20:19)

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Our Eyes Did Not See

Our Eyes Did Not See

Sep 9, 2016 By Eliezer B. Diamond | Commentary | Shofetim

The history of murder begins with Cain’s slaying of Abel. That murder itself has a prehistory. When Adam and Eve ate forbidden fruit, God called them to account, and gave them the opportunity to acknowledge their sin and seek forgiveness. Instead, they chose obfuscation and recrimination. Adam shifted blame to Eve, who in turn argued that the serpent was culpable. As when they ate the fruit (Gen. 3:7), their eyes again were opened; each now saw that the other was capable of sin without remorse, and indifference born of self-interest.

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Corruption Begins at Home

Corruption Begins at Home

Sep 9, 2016 By Hillel Gruenberg | Commentary | Shofetim

Only here are three prime ministers
investigated and don’t cooperate.

Only here do I feel belonging,
Even though I’m angry about the corruption.

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The Roots of Our Ideals

The Roots of Our Ideals

Sep 3, 2011 By Andrew Shugerman | Commentary | Text Study | Shofetim

“Peacetime” may seem today like a distant memory, yet ancient texts like the midrash above show how far we have advanced from the conflicts of biblical times. If our Sages could express that insight in their generation (nearly two millennia ago and just centuries after Israel conquered Canaan), it behooves us to appreciate how our Torah has inspired us and our non-Jewish allies to pursue peace in this global age.

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