Daf HaShavuah: A weekly digest of Parshat HaShavuah (weekly Torah portion)
Friday, August 13
Candle lighting: 7:38 pm
- Stone Chumash p. 1025
- 97 Psukim
- Haftorah: Isaiah “Anochi Anochi” Stone Chumash p.1199
Important Shabbat Times
- Candle lighting: 7:38 pm
- Vasikin (Sunrise): 6:21:48 am
- Latest Shma: 9:45 am
- Earliest Mincha: 1:42 pm
- Pirkei Avot: Chapter 6
- Havdalah: 8:35 pm
- Zoom: 8:45 pm
Parshat Shoftim contains 41 Mitzvot. Here are just a few:
- Moshe informs the people of a new mitzvah, that of appointing honest and reliable judges in order to strengthen the practice of the Torah;
- Modes of prayer in the Temple should not be borrowed from idolatrous nations;
- Protocols defining valid witnesses and their testimony;
- Decisions of the Sanhedrin or “Supreme Court” will define and resolve any doubts about Jewish Law and practice through majority rule;
- Appointing a king in Israel from amongst the tribes of Israel (except the tribe of Levi);
- The laws governing the kings of Israel;
- The laws defining the obligations of the Cohanim (priests) in the Temple;
- Prohibitions against astrology and necromancy;
- Rules regarding a prophet of Israel, and how to determine his or her authenticity;
- Laws regarding the cities of refuge, and people convicted of involuntary manslaughter;
- Wars of defense of the Land of Israel;
- The prohibition against wanton destruction of trees, and other valuables;
- The expiation of an untraceable murder (Eglah Arufah).
In this week’s Haftorah, G-d consoles the people of Israel after their long and arduous exile. Isaiah compares the people to a person in a deep slumber. The people have grown so accustomed to life in exile that they must be shaken awake. How glorious will be the day when Elijah the Prophet announces the arrival of the Messiah! Jerusalem will yet be rebuilt, the Temple restored, and all will return to the days of yore.
Taking it to a deeper level
In today’s parsha, G-d tells His people that He will communicate with them through the agency of prophecy. According to Talmudic tradition, authentic prophecy ceased at the beginning of the Second Temple period, around 350 BCE. The Torah gives us rules for determining whether or not a prophet is authentic, and the rabbis elaborate upon them. For example, if a man who is generally known to be scrupulous in his observance of Judaism announces to us that G-d appeared to him in a dream, and that G-d wants us to do A, B, or C, then we are obligated to follow those instructions. Nevertheless, we are entitled to ask for a legitimate sign. The sign must be a miraculous prediction or occurrence or event which would be considered extraordinary, and we must be fully satisfied that this occurrence was not a magic trick. If we are still not satisfied (Jews are by nature very skeptical), we may ask for up to two other miracles. If we are convinced that the prophet is authentic, we must do whatever he says – but there are a few possible exceptions.
If the prophet tells us that a particular mitzvah is suspended temporarily (e.g. Elijah on Mt. Carmel, performing a sacrifice outside of Jerusalem), then we must obey the prophet. If he tells us that the suspension is permanent or even for a very long time, then we would know that he is a false prophet. This would only apply to most of the mitzvot of the Torah. However, if the prophet tells us to suspend the mitzvah prohibiting idolatry even temporarily, or if he were to tell us that the Torah, or a partial number of mitzvot of the Torah no longer apply, or he creates a new unknown mitzvah, then we would understand that he is a false prophet, and it would be prohibited to listen to him.
When did prophecy cease to exist? Apparently, we lost our close connection to G-d, which actually persisted throughout the entire first Temple period. According to the book of Malachi, the final book of the prophets, Malachi himself would be the last prophet with the exclusive exception of Elijah the prophet, who is still alive. Elijah will come at the end of days to be the harbinger of the Moshiach, bimheira biyameinu / may it be speedily in our days. Amen!