Note: As I begin and continue to build this blog, part of what I aim to do is create a bit of a personal archive. So I’ve been posting sermons I gave in years past, and I thought I’d look ahead to next Shabbat and post one I gave a few years back for parashat Shoftim (the Torah weekly reading known as “Shoftim” in Hebrew).
This week’s Torah portion is the 48th of the 54 parashiyot that make up the Torah. The end of the great story is in sight! Moses continues his farewell speeches to the Israelites as they prepare themselves for entry into the Promised Land.
Judges and officers you shall make for yourself in all your gates, which the HOLY ONE your God gives you, tribe by tribe; and they shall judge the people with judgments of righteousness.
These are the opening words of the portion, and the Hebrew word shoftim – meaning ‘judges’ or ‘magistrates’ – makes up its main theme. Moses instructs the people, giving them guidelines for courts of law. Social ethics are laid out for people with political, religious, and economic power in society – monarchs, prophets, priests, and judges themselves. Impartiality and objectivity are mandated for judges, and bribes are strictly forbidden.