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Addressing fundamental issues for functional society

08/15/2018 10:56:38 AM


David Harris

This week’s parsha, Shoftim, with its outstanding rhetoric, addresses fundamental issues for a functional society. Conflicts arise at all levels, and there must be an equitable mechanism to resolve them. The regulations and the underlying ethical principles apply to all persons of the society: the people, religious leaders and the government. The example of idolatry is used as the model for procedural conduct. It must be thorough and fair, including a mechanism of appeal to a higher authority, and that decision must be accepted and followed.
The notion that everyone must conform to the law is extended to include the ruler, who should not follow his whims, but must study and observe the teaching so that all are treated equitably.
Two other remarkable ideas that are developed are the cities of refuge for the unintentional manslayer and the rules for the conduct of war. The former limits the expression of vengeance, while the latter attempts to bring some sensitivity to a chaotic situation. The last element is a procedure to establish the innocence of the community in the case of an unsolved murder.
The parsha demonstrates concern for ethical issues underlying legislation that applies universally to the entire population. Exceptions may be made, but there must be adequate justification.

David Harris a member of Temple Shalom.

Thu, April 25 2019 20 Nisan 5779