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Commentary - Year 3 Sabbath 35

Deuteronomy 16:18 - 17:13   -   1 Samuel 8:1-7   -   Psalm 132   -   John 5:1-47

 

 

Kislev   4, 5764 / November 29, 2003

Kislev   4, 5767 / November 25, 2006

Kislev   4, 5770 / November 21, 2009

Kislev 10, 5773 / November 24, 2012

 

Shofetim / Judges   SCRIPTURES should be read first

 

We regularly pray, “Restore our judges, as in earliest times” (eleventh blessing of the Shemoneh Esrei). We may expect Biblical judgment to be restored during the millennial reign of Yeshua.

 

 (V.16:18) Today’s portion begins with the command to appoint judges: “You shall appoint for yourself judges”.

 

Appointing an unjust judge is likened to planting a tree for idolatry (v.21). “If the community has a hand in appointing unqualified judges, God holds them all responsible for the resultant perversions of justice” (Or HaChaim). Here is a basis for moral democracy (under God), and for believers to take part in voting.

 

Judges must not pervert judgment: they are not to be a respecter of persons, and are not to take bribes.

 

John 5:44 “How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another, and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God?

 

Here are Talmudic disqualifications for a judge or witness:

One who gambles to make money, one who loans at interest, one who bets on races, one who violates Sabbath for profit; a near kin, a friend, an enemy (one who had not spoken due to enmity for 3 days).

 

[Note: Completion of Jerusalem Talmud – 351 CE

End of Sanhedrin – 425 CE

Babylonian Talmud – 200 - 499 CE]

 

John 12:42-43 “Nevertheless many even of the rulers (judges) believed in Him (Yeshua), but because of the Pharisees they were not confessing Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue; for they loved the approval of men rather than the approval of God.”

 

1 Samuel 8:1 “And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel.

After these sons perverted judgment, Israel wrongly asked for a king, and was given Saul.

 

In Exodus 21, we are told that penalty judgments are to be proportionate to the seriousness of the crime: “an eye for an eye”, which means the fair price of an eye for the loss of an eye; we are also told that the defendant must be held to the court’s judgment: “he shall pay as the judges decide”. In Exodus 22, a defendant that is unable to pay a judgment shall be sold for payment.

 

Titus 3:1 “Remind them to be subject to rulers (judges)”.

 

(V.17:1) Next we are forbade worship using “a detestable thing”.

 

The order is thus:

(a) Proper justice is of tantamount importance.

(b) Perversion of justice will lead to idolatrous degrading of places of worship, in the guise of external beautification (trees).

(c) Blemished animals and unjustly gained money will be used for offerings.

 

(V.2-7) For example: if the judges are told that someone has worshipped an idol, the matter is to be thoroughly examined. Two or three witnesses are required that give exactly comparable testimony concerning time and place and details of the deed. The guilty one must be stoned to death, and the witnesses must cast the first boulders upon the prostrate person, followed by all the people.

 

Here are Talmudic rules for testimony:

Witnesses questioned separately, beginning with eldest;
Must be eye/ear-witness, must be in agreement in details of time and place and circumstances.

 

 

The reason given for capital punishment is to cleanse evil from the land. It is a warning to others. It is not revenge. Compassion for the person is not only misplaced, but wrong.

 

(V.17:8) Any dispute that cannot be resolved by a lower court, is to be taken the high court – the Sanhedrin. A decision there is absolutely binding.

 

Here are the levels of courts:

Sanhedrin = Court of Justice

A)      Reference to Great Beit Din = Court of 71 (Num 11:16) ordained scholars in Jerusalem (from Moses’ time to 425 CE); *=halachic ruling, **=culpatory ruling
Beit Din haGadol shebeLishkat haGazit (Great House of Judgment in the Circular Chamber of Hewn Stone)
Met every day (except Sabbaths and Festivals and their eves), only during the daytime – between the morning and evening sacrifices (approx. 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM); the place where “the Law went forth to all Israel”.
Three semi-circular rows of twenty-three disciples, needed additional judges selected from first row, replaced from second row, which were replaced from third row, which were replaced from congregation.
*Wrote Mishnah/Talmud
*Establish lower courts, determination of Rosh Hodesh, set up King or High Priest, determination of Temple structure, need for Red heifer, Priestly genealogy, waging non-defensive battle
**exceptional cases – trying a high priest, false prophet, or a whole city

B)      Also reference to Small Beit Din = subordinate District Court of 23 (see Sanhedrin 1:6);
**criminal cases which may involve death penalty: defamer, owner of animal that killed; judging animals involved in beastiality or killing a person

C)      Synagogue Bench of 3 usually only called Beit Din.
*Sabbath preparation and starting times, evaluation of fourth year tree fruit, assessment of second tithe redemption, assessment of consecrated property redemption,
**monetary matters (inheritances, loans, sales), theft, bodily injury, seduction, crimes punishable by flogging

Synagogues had a bench of three judges, called “Rulers of the Synagogue” (Matthew 9:18) because they made halachic rulings and culpability rulings.

 

1 Corinthians 6:1-6 “Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous, and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? And if the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we shall judge angels? How much more, matters of this life? If then you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

 

Psalm 132

The Holy Temple was the center for instruction in righteousness, and judgment – the place of the Sanhedrin. It is called the resting place of Yahweh forever (v.13), and the place from whence the power of David will spring forth (v.17).

 

John 5

22 For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 in order that all may honor the Son, even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. 25 Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear shall live. 26 For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 28 Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs shall hear His voice, 29 and shall come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. 30 I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 31 If I alone bear witness of Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 There is another who bears witness of Me, and I know that the testimony which He bears of Me is true. 33 You have sent to John, and he has borne witness to the truth. 34 But the witness which I receive is not from man, but I say these things that you may be saved. 35 He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 But the witness which I have is greater than that of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me.

Readings:

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who chose us from among all peoples by giving us Your Torah.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."

 

Reader 1*  Amen. 18 "You shall appoint for yourself judges and officers in all your towns which Yahweh your God is giving you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment. 19 "You shall not distort justice; you shall not be partial, and you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. 20 "Justice, and only justice, you shall pursue, that you may live and possess the land which Yahweh your God is giving you.

Reader 2*  Amen.  21 "You shall not plant for yourself an Asherah of any kind of tree beside the altar of Yahweh your God, which you shall make for yourself. 22 "You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which Yahweh your God hates.

Reader 3*  Amen. 17:1 "You shall not sacrifice to Yahweh your God an ox or a sheep which has a blemish or any defect, for that is a detestable thing to Yahweh your God.

Reader 4*  Amen.  2 "If there is found in your midst, in any of your towns, which Yahweh your God is giving you, a man or a woman who does what is evil in the sight of Yahweh your God, by transgressing His covenant, 3 and has gone and served other gods and worshiped them, or the sun or the moon or any of the heavenly host, which I have not commanded, 4 and if it is told you and you have heard of it, then you shall inquire thoroughly.

Reader 5*  Amen. Behold, if it is true and the thing certain that this detestable thing has been done in Israel, 5 then you shall bring out that man or that woman who has done this evil deed to your gates, that is, the man or the woman, and you shall stone them to death. 6 "On the evidence of two witnesses or three witnesses, he who is to die shall be put to death; he shall not be put to death on the evidence of one witness. 7 "The hand of the witnesses shall be first against him to put him to death, and afterward the hand of all the people. So you shall purge the evil from your midst.

Reader 6*  Amen.  8 "If any case is too difficult for you to decide, between one kind of homicide or another, between one kind of lawsuit or another, and between one kind of assault or another, being cases of dispute in your courts, then you shall arise and go up to the place which Yahweh your God chooses. 9 "So you shall come to the Levitical priest or the judge who is in office in those days, and you shall inquire of them and they will declare to you the verdict in the case. 10 "You shall do according to the terms of the verdict which they declare to you from that place which Yahweh chooses; and you shall be careful to observe according to all that they teach you.

Reader 7*  Amen.  11 "According to the terms of the law which they teach you, and according to the verdict which they tell you, you shall do; you shall not turn aside from the word which they declare to you, to the right or the left. 12 "The man who acts presumptuously by not listening to the priest who stands there to serve Yahweh your God, nor to the judge, that man shall die; thus you shall purge the evil from Israel. 13 "Then all the people will hear and be afraid, and will not act presumptuously again.

 

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who in giving us Yeshua, the Living Torah, has planted everlasting life in our midst.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, giver of the Torah."

------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Who selected good prophets, delighting in their words which were spoken truthfully.

Blessed are You, Yahweh, Who chose the Torah, Your servant Moses, Your people Israel,

and the prophets of truth and righteousness."

 

1 Samuel 8:1-7

Reader 8*  Amen. 1 And it came about when Samuel was old that he appointed his sons judges over Israel. 2 Now the name of his firstborn was Joel, and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judging in Beersheba. 3 His sons, however, did not walk in his ways, but turned aside after dishonest gain and took bribes and perverted justice. 4 Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah; 5 and they said to him, "Behold, you have grown old, and your sons do not walk in your ways. Now appoint a king for us to judge us like all the nations." 6 But the thing was displeasing in the sight of Samuel when they said, "Give us a king to judge us." And Samuel prayed to Yahweh. 7 Yahweh said to Samuel, "Listen to the voice of the people in regard to all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected Me from being king over them.

 

Psalm 132    (To be sung.)   A Song of Ascents.

1 Remember, O Yahweh, on David's behalf, All his affliction; 2 How he swore to Yahweh And vowed to the Mighty One of Jacob, 3 "Surely I will not enter my house, Nor lie on my bed; 4 I will not give sleep to my eyes Or slumber to my eyelids, 5 Until I find a place for Yahweh, A dwelling place for the Mighty One of Jacob." 6 Behold, we heard of it in Ephrathah, We found it in the field of Jaar. 7 Let us go into His dwelling place; Let us worship at His footstool. 8 Arise, O Yahweh, to Your resting place, You and the ark of Your strength. 9 Let Your priests be clothed with righteousness, And let Your godly ones sing for joy. 10 For the sake of David Your servant, Do not turn away the face of Your anointed. 11 Yahweh has sworn to David A truth from which He will not turn back: "Of the fruit of your body I will set upon your throne. 12 "If your sons will keep My covenant And My testimony which I will teach them, Their sons also shall sit upon your throne forever." 13 For Yahweh has chosen Zion; He has desired it for His habitation. 14 "This is My resting place forever; Here I will dwell, for I have desired it. 15 "I will abundantly bless her provision; I will satisfy her needy with bread. 16 "Her priests also I will clothe with salvation, And her godly ones will sing aloud for joy. 17 "There I will cause the horn of David to spring forth; I have prepared a lamp for Mine anointed. 18 "His enemies I will clothe with shame, But upon himself his crown shall shine."

 

John 5

Reader 9*  Amen. 1 After these things there was a feast of the Jews, and Yeshua went up to Jerusalem. 2 Now there is in Jerusalem by the sheep gate a pool, which is called in Hebrew Bethesda, having five porticoes. 3 In these lay a multitude of those who were sick, blind, lame, and withered, waiting for the moving of the waters; 4 for an angel of the Lord went down at certain seasons into the pool and stirred up the water; whoever then first, after the stirring up of the water, stepped in was made well from whatever disease with which he was afflicted. 5 A man was there who had been ill for thirty-eight years. 6 When Yeshua saw him lying there, and knew that he had already been a long time in that condition, He said to him, "Do you wish to get well?" 7 The sick man answered Him, "Sir, I have no man to put me into the pool when the water is stirred up, but while I am coming, another steps down before me." 8 Yeshua said to him, "Get up, pick up your pallet and walk." 9 Immediately the man became well, and picked up his pallet and began to walk.

Reader 10*  Amen. Now it was the Sabbath on that day. 10 So the Jews were saying to the man who was cured, "It is the Sabbath, and it is not permissible for you to carry your pallet." 11 But he answered them, "He who made me well was the one who said to me, 'Pick up your pallet and walk.'" 12 They asked him, "Who is the man who said to you, 'Pick up your pallet and walk '?" 13 But the man who was healed did not know who it was, for Yeshua had slipped away while there was a crowd in that place. 14 Afterward Yeshua found him in the temple and said to him, "Behold, you have become well; do not sin anymore, so that nothing worse happens to you." 15 The man went away, and told the Jews that it was Yeshua who had made him well. 16 For this reason the Jews were persecuting Yeshua, because He was doing these things on the Sabbath. 17 But He answered them, "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." 18 For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.

Reader 11*  Amen.  19 Therefore Yeshua answered and was saying to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner. 20 "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel. 21 "For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son also gives life to whom He wishes. 22 "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son, 23 so that all will honor the Son even as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him. 24 "Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life.

Reader 12*  Amen.  25 "Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. 26 "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself; 27 and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man. 28 "Do not marvel at this; for an hour is coming, in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice, 29 and will come forth; those who did the good deeds to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil deeds to a resurrection of judgment. 30 "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 31 "If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 "There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true. 33 "You have sent to John, and he has testified to the truth. 34 "But the testimony which I receive is not from man, but I say these things so that you may be saved. 35 "He was the lamp that was burning and was shining and you were willing to rejoice for a while in his light. 36 "But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish-- the very works that I do-- testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me. 37 "And the Father who sent Me, He has testified of Me.

Reader 13*  Amen. You have neither heard His voice at any time nor seen His form. 38 "You do not have His word abiding in you, for you do not believe Him whom He sent. 39 "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; 40 and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 41 "I do not receive glory from men; 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves. 43 "I have come in My Father's name, and you do not receive Me; if another comes in his own name, you will receive him. 44 "How can you believe, when you receive glory from one another and you do not seek the glory that is from the one and only God? 45 "Do not think that I will accuse you before the Father; the one who accuses you is Moses, in whom you have set your hope. 46 "For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. 47 "But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?"

 

"Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, King of the Universe,

Rock of Ages, righteous throughout all generations.

You are the faithful God, promising and then performing, speaking and then fulfilling,

for all Your words are true and righteous.

Faithful are You, Yahweh our God, and faithful are Your words,

for no word of Yours shall remain unfulfilled;

You are a faithful and merciful God and King.

Blessed are You, Yahweh our God, Who are faithful in fulfilling all Your words.


© 2003  Beikvot HaMashiach
(Followers of the Messiah)