Category Archives: Parshat שופטים

Parshat שופטים

Parshat שפטים  – Deuteronomy – 17:1 – Can a Murderer Bless Others?

Deuteronomy:17:1 – You shall not sacrifice to the Lord, your God, an ox or a sheep that has in it a blemish or any bad thing, for that is an abomination to the Lord, your God.

Sifri: We learn in a beraisa that Rabbi Shimon said: One might think that just as an ox or a sheep become invalid for being used as a sacrifice if it was used for immoral sexual relations, so too a Cohen would become invalid. However, since the verse states “it is an abomination to the Lord” we see that the animal becomes invalid but not a Cohen.

Coloquial translation of Note 6:

See also the Mishna in Bechoros (7:7) where it lists reasons why an animal would become invalid yet would not apply to a Cohen. In the list, it includes animals that were used for sexual immorality and also animals that killed a person. The Tosfot Yom Tov states that in some editions of the Mishna it excludes the phrase “that were used for sexual immorality and also that killed a person”. The Tosfot Yom Tov states this because of what it says in the Gemora Bechoros (32a) that Rabbi Yochanan states that a Cohen who has killed someone is forbidden to participate in the communal blessing ceremony. A logical deduction would be that he is also forbidden from participating in the service in the temple when it was standing. This is also true of a Cohen who committed sexually immoral acts.

However, the Sifri explicitly disproves his comments. The Sifri state that a Cohen who commits sexually immoral acts would still be allowed to participate in the communal blessing ceremony. Further, the Tosfot Yom Tov’s observation that it would be a logical deduction to ban such a Cohen from the temple service would only be a [optional] stringency not the strict letter of the law.

In Numbers (6:27) regarding the verse “and I will bless them”, I show that the Jerusalem Talmud Gittin (5:8) explicitly states that a Cohen who has committed sexually immoral acts or who has killed someone is permitted to participate in the communal blessing ceremony.

Translator’s Note: Not only does the Torah Temimah mention his view on this once, he mentions it twice; once in Numbers (6:27) and once here. I think this indicates that he feels very strongly about this issue.


Parshat שפטים  – Deuteronomy – 16:18 – How Many Courts In Each City?

Deuteronomy – 16:18 – You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment.

Gemora Sanhedrin 16:2 – this verse teaches that it is an obligation to set up judges and law enforcement officials in each city.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation of note #76
In a nearby Gemora on the same page an opinion is stated to set up judges and law enforcement officials for each tribe. Tosafot writes that if there is in a given city people from two tribes, then there is an obligation to set up two court systems; one for each tribe in that city.

It appears that Tosafot are answering the apparent contradiction of how one can set up a court system [simultaneously] in each city and also one for each tribe. For that reason, they explain that sometimes it is necessary to set up two court systems in one city if there are members of two tribes in that city.

However, in my opinion, that is a forced explanation. According to that line of thinking if one were to have a city with inhabitants from ten tribes, it would be necessary to set up ten court systems in [just] one city. Being that it was common to have more than one tribe in a given city, it would [often] be necessary to set up ten court systems in a single city. Logic does not incline towards such an explanation.

Therefore, it appears that the explanation is as follows: in addition to the requirement to set up a court system in each city, it is also required to set up one central court system per tribe (no matter what city they are in) to cover the entire land of Israel. This central court, for a given tribe, would have jurisdiction over tribal matters even though the members of that tribe may be scattered in many different cities. With this method, it comes out that each Jewish person in Israel would be under the jurisdiction of two court systems – one for his city and one for his tribe. Perhaps this is the intent of Rabbi Shimon Ben Gamliel’s statement that it is a commandment for each tribe to judge its own.

DBS Note: I found this note amazing because the Torah Temimah is basically rejecting an opinion that pre-dated him by approximately 800 years because it didn’t seem logical to him. Usually, I think he cites other commentators to support his critique but in this note he does not do that.

Parshat שפטים – Deuteronomy – 17:11 – Don’t Deviate Right Nor Left

Deuteronomy:17:11 – According to the Torah that they will teach you, according to the judgment that they will say to you, do it; don’t deviate from the word that they say [neither] right nor left.

Gemora: Jerusalem Talmud: Horayot: Chapter 1: Halacha 1: I might think that even if they say right is left or left is right, you should listen to them anyway. No. Since it says “right nor left” it means, if they tell you right is right and left is left, you should not deviate from them

Sifri: Even if it appears in your eyes that they are telling you right is left or left is right, you should listen to them anyway.

DBS Note: The Jerusalem Gemora and the Sifri appear to contradict each other. Also, note that the Rashi on this posuk is often quoted to support blind obedience to the rabbis. Rashi omits the words “appears in your eyes”.

Torah Temimah Colloquial Translation:
The Gemora needs to comment here because it should have said: Don’t deviate right nor left from the word that they tell you. [The modifier in the sentence is basically a misplaced modifier.] From the fact that is relates right nor left to the WORD that they tell you, we see that the teachers are actually saying “go right” or “go left”.

Also, we have quoted the text in the Sifri according to the emandations of the Vilna Gaon and used the words “appears in your eyes”. However, the meaning is still the same. In other words, even if your opinion is the opposite of the rabbis, you should do it anyway. This is because, as is well known, in many topics there are a variety of thoughts and opinions. As it says in Gemora Berakot 58a – anyone who sees a large multitude of Jews should say the blessing, “Blessed are You, G-d, who knows all secrets”. This is because of the multitude of opinions that occur and no individual mind is like any other. As we also see about any given halacha that there are often opposite opinions. These say “impure” and these say “pure”. These say “forbidden” and these say “permitted”. To such an extent that even something that appears easy in your eyes and that the true view is yours just as clearly as your know your right from your left, never-the-less you should still listen to the rabbis.  

It is clear from this that only under these conditions should you listen to the rabbis when they tell you to go right even though IN YOUR EYES the correct answer is to go left. But if, in truth, they tell you that right is left and left is right one should not listen to them. For example, if they tell you that forbidden fat is permitted or that sexual immorality is permitted certainly it is forbidden to listen to them. This is shown explicitly in the Jerusalem Talmud section quoted above.

The Ramban in his commentary says the following, “Even if you think in your heart that they are mistaken and the thing appears obvious in your eyes like right and left, you should do as the rabbis command. You should NOT say ‘how can I eat this forbidden fat or how can I kill this innocent person?’ Rather you should say that this is what the rabbi who is the commander has commanded and it is required of me to listen to him even if he is in error.” [end quote of the Ramban]

 These words of the Ramban seem to imply that even if the rabbis were to say something completely forbidden in the Torah, it is still required to listen to them. However, the words of the Jerusalem Talmud quoted above explicitly show exactly the opposite. Furthermore, such a view would be totally illogical.

The truth is that we do find in Gemora Rosh haShana 25(a) a comment on the posuk “these are the holidays that you should announce”. The Gemora states that by emphasizing the word “you” we see that even if the rabbis intentionally announce the wrong date for the holiday, the date that they announced is still binding. This, apparently, supports the position of the Ramban. However, I have already proved in my commentary on Parshat Emor that the text in the Gemora that states the word “intentionally” is a scribal error. Rather the word should be written “coerced”. That reading is also the reading of the Rambam and the Torat Cohanim.

So, one needs to be forced to explain the words of the Ramban as I originally wrote in the first paragraph above.  It can’t mean that the rabbi explicitly commands to eat forbidden fat.

DBS Note: The Torah Temimah is saying that the Ramban could not have meant what he wrote literally.