Shoftim: Words are Not Enough

August 21, 2020 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
"The hand of the witnesses should be against him first to put him to death, and the hand of the nation at the end" (Devarim 17:7). Giving testimony in a court of law, especially in capital cases, is an awesome responsibility. The Talmud describes the harsh tone and even accusatory statements directed at the witnesses, warning them of the dire consequences of false testimony: "You are responsible for their blood and the blood of...
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Shoftim: Nothing to Fear

September 06, 2019 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
The basic duty of every government is to provide security and protect its citizens from both internal criminal activity and external enemies. Parshat Shoftim, which contains the mitzvah to appoint a king, thus also contains the mitzvot of appointing a police force and the laws relating to a Jewish army. Our inability to have a Jewish army for close to two thousand years served to highlight our national degradation. During the battles...
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Shoftim: Enabling Evil

August 17, 2018 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Evil does not exist in a vacuum. A culture is needed for evil to be nurtured, in which it can grow and develop. And when that happens, aveirah gorreret aveirah; one misdeed leads to another, greater sin. Perpetrators of corporate wrongdoing do not begin by defrauding shareholders of billions of dollars. Rather, they might begin with a little plagiarism in college, and some padding of a resume. They may then move on to...
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Shoftim: Intellectual Honesty

August 25, 2017 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Judaism has always placed tremendous emphasis on intellectual achievement and development. Talmud Torah k’neged kulam—the study of Torah is equal to all other mitzvoth—speaks to this emphasis. Our Sages teach that, "An ignorant person cannot be pious” (Avot 2:6).   The Torah expects every Jew, young or old, poor or wealthy, man or woman, married or single, to study Torah each and every...
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Shoftim: Church and State

September 09, 2016 By: Rabbi Jay Kelman
Judaism has long understood that politics and religion are a dangerous mix. Political office was destined for those from the tribe of Judah and the religious functions of the state were carried out by the kohanim and levi’im. The Ramban asserts that the Hasmoneans, being kohanim, sinned greatly in trying to usurp the kingdom for themselves following their successful revolt against the Hellenists. The Jewish version of separation of church...
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