Parashat Shoftim


Devarim 16:18 Judges and officers shall you appoint in all your cities - which Hashem, your G-d, gives you - for your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.

Rashi on 16:18 JUDGES AND OFFICERS. Hebrew: shoftim veshotrim. Shoftim are judges who decide the verdict, and shotrim are those who chastise the people in compliance with their order, (who strike and bind [not found in early editions]) with rods and straps, until he [the guilty party] accepts the judge’s verdict.

IN ALL YOUR CITIES, in every city.

FOR YOUR TRIBES. [This phrase] refers back to "You shall set up... for yourself." Thus, the understanding of the verse is "You shall set up judges and officers for yourself, for your tribes, in all your cities that Hashem, your G-d, is giving you."

FOR YOUR TRIBES. This teaches us that judges must be appointed for every tribe, and for every city.

AND THEY SHALL JUDGE THE PEOPLE WITH RIGHTEOUS JUDGMENT. Appoint judges who are expert and righteous so that they will judge justly.

16:19 YOu shall not pervert judgment, you shall not take notice of [someone's] presence, and you shall not take a bribe, for the bribe will blind the eyes of the wise and make righteous words crooked.

Rashi on 16:19 YOU SHALL NOT PERVERT JUDGMENT. [This is to be understood] according to its apparent meaning.

YOU SHALL NOT TAKE NOTICE OF [SOMEONE'S] PRESENCE. Even during the statement of pleas [by the litigants]. This is an admonition addressed to the judge, that he should not be lenient with one litigant and harsh with the other, [e.g., ordering] one to stand [while allowing] the other to sit, because as soon as one notices that the judge is showing more respect toward his opponent, he cannot plead his case any longer [because he thinks that it will be of no use].

AND YOU SHALL NOT TAKE A BRIBE. Even [if you intend] to judge justly.

FOR THE BRIBE WILL BLIND. As soon as he [the judge] accepts a bribe from him [a litigant], it is impossible for him not to be favorably disposed towards him, to decide the judgment in his favor.

RIGHTEOUS WORDS, just words, true judgments.

16:20 Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and take possession of the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you.

Rashi on 16:20 RIGHTEOUSNESS, RIGHTEOUSNESS SHALL YOU PURSUE. Seek out a good court.

SO THAT YOU WILL LIVE AND TAKE POSSESSION OF THE LAND. The appointment of fitting judges is sufficient merit to keep Yisrael alive and settled in their land.

16:21 You shall not plant for yourself a tree for idol worship, any tree, near the Altar of Hashem, your G-d, that you shall make for yourself.

Rashi on 16:21 YOU SHALL NOT PLANT FOR YOURSELF A TREE (ASHERAH). [This admonition is] to make one liable [to punishment] from the time of planting it, and even though he did not worship it, he transgresses a prohibition for its planting.

YOU SHALL NOT PLANT...ANY TREE, NEAR THE ALTAR OF HASHEM, YOUR G-D. This is a prohibition addressed to one who plants a tree or builds a house on the Temple Mount.

16:22 And you shall not erect for yourself a pillar, which Hashem, your G-d, hates.

Rashi on 16:22 AND YOU SHALL NOT ERECT FOR YOURSELF A PILLAR. A monument of one stone, to sacrifice on it even to Heaven.

WHICH HASHEM, YOUR G-D, HATES. G-d has commanded you to make an altar of stones and an altar of earth. This, however, He hates, because this was a [religious] statute of the Kenaanim, and although it was dear to Him in the days of the Patriarchs, now He hates it, since these [people] made it a statute for idolatry.

17:1 You shall not slaughter for Hashem, your G-d, an ox or a lamb/kid in which there will be a blemish, any bad thing, because that is an abomination of Hashem, your G-d.

Rashi on 17:1 YOU SHALL NOT SLAUGHTER...ANY BAD THING. This is an admonition to one who would make sacrifices disqualified (pigul) through an evil [improper] utterance dibur ra. And from this [expression] our Rabbis derived other explanations as well, as they appear in [the tractate] Shechitat Kodashim [early name for Zevachim (36)].

17:2 If there will be found among you in one of your cities, which Hashem, your G-d, gives you, a man or woman who commits what is evil in the eyes of Hashem, your G-d, by violating His covenant,

Rashi on 17:2 BY VIOLATING HIS COVENANT which He made with you, namely, not to worship idols.

17:3 and he will go and serve the gods of others and prostrate himself to them, or to the sun or to the moon or to any hose of heaven, which I have not commanded,

Rashi on 17;3 WHICH I HAVE NOT COMMANDED to worship them.

17:4 and it will be told to you and you will hear; and you shall investigate well, and behold! it is true, the matter is well-founded: This abomination was done in Yisrael.

Rashi on 17:4 WELL-FOUNDED, the testimony coincides. [I.e., the testimony of one witness coincides with that of the other.

17:5 Then you shall remove that man or that woman who did this evil thing to your cities - the man or the woman - and you shall pelt them with stones, so that they will die.

Rashi on 17:5 THEN YOU SHALL REMOVE THAT MAN...TO YOUR CITIES. One who translates elo-sheareicha as litra beit dinach, "to the gate of your court," is mistaken, for we have learned the following: when the verse [here] says "elo-sheareicha, this refers to the city where [the accused] worshipped idols, or does it refer to the gates [of the court] where he was judged [since the courts were located at the gates]? [In answer to this,] the verse here says sheareicha, and above (v2), it says sheareicha. Just as sheareicha mentioned [clearly] refers to the city where he worshipped [idols] [and not to the gates of a court], so too, the word sheareicha mentioned here refers to the city where he worshipped [idols]. Thus the correct version of the Targum is lekirvaich, to your cities.

17:6 By the word of two witnesses or three witnesses shall the condemned person be put to death; he shall not be put to death by the word of a single witness.

Rashi on 17:6 TWO WITNESSES OR THREE WITNESSES. But if testimony can be executed through two witnesses, why then does Scripture specify "or three"? [It does so] to draw a comparison between [testimony of] three to that of two; just as two witnesses are considered one unit, so too, are three witnesses considered one unit, and they are not subject to the laws of "plotting witnesses", unless all of them are proven to be "plotting witnesses." (See Devarim 19:16-21.)

17:8 If a matter of judgment will be hidden from you, between blood and blood, between verdict and verdict, or between affliction and affliction, matters of dispute in your cities - you shall rise and ascend to the place that Hashem, your G-d, shall choose.

Rashi on 17:8 IF A MATTER OF JUDGMENT WILL BE HIDDEN FROM YOU. [The term] hafelaah always denotes detachment and separation; [here it means] that the matter is detached and hidden from you.

BETWEEN BLOOD AND BLOOD. Between ritually unclean blood [of menstruation], and ritually clean blood. (See Rashi on VaYikra 12:1-5.)

BETWEEN VERDICT AND VERDICT. Between a verdict of innocent and a verdict of guilty.

BETWEEN AFFLICTION AND AFFLICTION. Between a ritually unclean affliction, and a ritually clean affliction, i.e., an affliction that renders the sufferer impure, and a clean affliction that leaves the sufferer clean.

MATTERS OF DISPUTE whereby the Sages of the city [the judges] differ in their opinion on the matter, one declaring it impure, the other pure, one ruling guilty, the other innocent.

YOU SHALL RISE AND ASCEND. [This] teaches [us] that the Temple [the seat of the Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court] was on a higher elevation than all other places.

17:9 You shall come to the Kohanim, the Leviim, and to the judge who will be in those days; you shall inquire and they will tell you the word of judgment.

Rashi on 17:9 YOU SHALL COME TO THE KOHANIM, THE LEVIIM i.e., the Kohanim, who are descended from the tribe of Levi.

AND TO THE JUDGE WHO WILL BE IN THOSE DAYS. Although this judge may not be [of the same stature] as other judges who preceded him, you must listen to him, for you have only the judge [who lives] in your time.

17:11 According to the teaching that they will teach you and according to the judgment that they will say to you, shall you do; you shall not turn from the word that they will tell you, right or left.

Rashi on 17:11 RIGHT OR LEFT. Even if this judge tells you that right is left, and that left is right. How much more so, if he tells you that right is right, and left is left!

17:13 The entire nation shall listen and fear, and they shall not act willfully any more.

Rashi on 17:13 THE ENTIRE NATION SHALL LISTEN. From here we derive [the ruling] that they postpone his execution [i.e., of the zekan mamre, the rebellious sage] until the Festival [when all Yisrael appears in Yerushalayim], and they execute him on the Festival.

17:16 Only he shall not have too many horses for himself, and he will not return the people to Egypt in order to increase horses, for Hashem has said to you, "You shall no longer return on this road again."

Rashi on 17:16 HE SHALL NOT HAVE TOO MANY HORSES FOR HIMSELF. But, only what he needs for his chariots, "so that he will not cause the people to return to Egypt" [to purchase the horses], because horses come from there, as it is said of Shlomo (1Melachim 10:29), "And a chariot that went up and left Egypt sold for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for one hundred fifty."

17:17 And he shall not have too many wives, and his heart shall not turn astray; and he shall not greatly increase silver and gold for himself.

Rashi on 17:17 AND HE SHALL NOT HAVE TOO MANY WIVES. Only eighteen, for we find that David had six wives, and it was told to him [by Natan the prophet] (2Shmuel 12:8): "and if this is too little, I would add for you like them and like them" [totaling eighteen].

AND HE SHALL NOT GREATLY INCREASE SILVER AND GOLD FOR HIMSELF. However, he may have what is required to provide for his troops.

18:18 And it shall be that when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah in a scroll, from before the Kohanim, the Leviim.

Rashi on 18:18 AND IT SHALL BE THAT WHEN HE SITS ON THE THRONE OF HIS KINGDOM. If he does this, he merits that his kingdom will remain established.

TWO COPIES OF THIS TORAH, i.e., two Torah scrolls, one that is placed in his treasury, and the other that comes and goes with him. [I.e., a small scroll, which the king carries with him. Thus the Talmud derives mishneh from shenayim, two.] Onkelos, however, renders patshegen, copy/account. He interprets [the word] mishneh in the sense of repeating and uttering. [I.e., one copy of the Torah, which the scribe would write while uttering the words before he writes them, deriving mishneh as meaning learning and speaking.]

17:19 It shall be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life, so that he will learn to fear Hashem, his G-d, to observe all the words of this Torah and these decrees, to perform them,

Rashi on 17:19 THE WORDS OF THIS TORAH. [This is to be understood] according to its apparent meaning [namely a commandment written in the Torah].

17:20 so that his heart does not become haughty over his brothers and not turn from the commandment right or left, so that he will prolong years over his kingdom, he and his sons amid Yisrael.

Rashi on 17:20 AND NOT TURN AWAY FROM THE COMMANDMENT. Not even from a minor commandment of a prophet.

SO THAT HE WILL PROLONG YEARS OVER HIS KINGDOM. From this positive statement, one may understand the negative inference [i.e., if he does not fulfill the commandments, his kingdom will not endure]. And so we find in the case of Shaul, that Shmuel said to him, "Seven days shall you wait until I come to you to offer up burnt-offerings" (1Shmuel 10:8), and it is stated, "And he waited seven days" (1Shmuel 13:8), but Shaul did not keep his promise and neglected to wait the entire [last] day. He had not quite finished sacrificing the burnt-offering, when Shmuel arrived and said to him (1Shmuel 13:13-14), "You have acted foolishly; you have not kept [the commandment of Hashem your G-d, which He commanded you...] so now your kingdom will not continue" (1Shmuel 13:13-14). Thus we learn, that for [transgressing] a minor commandment of a prophet, he was punished.

HE AND HIS SONS. [This] tells [us] that if his son is worthy of becoming king, he is given preference over any [other] person.

18:1 There shall not be for the Kohanim, the Leviim - the entire tribe of Levi - a portion and an inheritance with Yisrael; the fire-offerings of Hashem and His inheritance shall they eat.

Rashi on 18:1 THE ENTIRE TRIBE OF LEVI whether whole-bodied or blemished.

A PORTION i.e., in the spoils.

AN INHERITANCE in the land.

THE FIRE-OFFERINGS OF HASHEM. The holy sacrifices of the Temple. (Other editions: The holiest sacrifices.)

AND HIS INHERITANCE. These are the holy things of the boundaries, [i.e., those eaten throughout the entire land, namely,] the terumot and the tithes.

18:2 He shall not have an inheritance among his brothers; Hashem is his inheritance, as He spoke to him.

Rashi on 18:2 HE SHALL NOT HAVE AN INHERITANCE. He shall have no absolute inheritance among his brothers. In Sifrei 18:41, our Rabbis expound [as follows]: But he shall have no inheritance. This refers to the "inheritance of the remainder."

AMONG HIS BROTHERS this refers to the "inheritance of the five." I do not know what this means. It appears to me, however, that across the Yarden and onwards is called "the land of the five nations," and that of Sichon and 'Og is called "the land of the two nations," namely, the Emorim and the Kenaanim. Now the expression, "inheritance of the remainder," is meant to include the [remaining three nations of the ten whose land G-d promised to Avraham, namely] the Kenim, the Kenizzim' and the Kadmonim (Bereishit 15:19). The Sifrei in the section dealing with the [priestly] gifts specified for Aharon expounds this in a similar fashion, on the verse (Devarim 10:9), "Therefore, Levi has no portion or inheritance," to admonish [the Levi to take no portion in] the inheritance of the Kenim, the Kenizzim, and the Kadmonim. It has since been found in the words of Rabbi Kalonimus, that the proper version of this passage in Sifrei reads as follows: And he will have no inheritance This refers to the"inheritance of the five."

AMONG HIS BROTHERS. This refers to the inheritance of the seven, [Rashi now explains this version of the Sifrei:] [The first reference is to] the inheritance of five [of the twelve] tribes [of Yisrael]. [The second, is to] the inheritance of [the remaining] seven tribes [of Yisrael]. Now Moshe and Yehoshua apportioned inheritance only to five tribes: Moshe, to Reuven, Gad, and half the tribe of Menashshe; Yehoshua, to Yehudah, Efrayim, and [the other] half of the tribe of Menashshe. The remaining seven tribes took their inheritance by themselves after Yehoshua's demise. Thus, because of this [distinction between these five former tribes and the seven latter ones], the Sifrei mentions five and seven separately.

AS HE SPOKE TO HIM i.e., to Aharon [saying], "You shall not inherit in their land... I am your portion [and your inheritance, among the children of Yisrael]." [BaMidbar 18:20]

18:3 This shall be the due of the Kohanim from the people, from those who perform a slaughter, whether of an ox or of a lamb/kid: he shall give the Kohen the foreleg, and the jaw, and the stomach.

Rashi on 18:3 FROM THE PEOPLE. But not from the Kohanim [i.e., a kohen is exempt from these dues].

WHETHER OF AN OX OR A LAMB/KID. But not [from the category of] beast (chayah.

THE FORELEG from the carpus to the shoulder blade, called espaldun, espalde, or espaleron in Old French.

THE JAW together with the tongue. Those who interpret the symbolism of Biblical verses say, the zeroa [which is, in effect, the "hand" of the animal, became the due of the Kohanim, as a reward] for the "hand" [which Pinchas, the Kohen, raised against the sinners], as it is said, "and he took a spear in his hand" (BaMidbar 25:7); the jaws [as a reward] for the prayer [he offered], as it is said, "Then Pinchas stood and prayed" (Tehillim 106:30); and the maw (hakeva) as a reward [for his action against the sinning woman], as it said, "[And he stabbed both of them, the man of Yisrael] and the woman in her stomach (kevatah)" (BaMidbar 25:8).

18:4&5 The first of your grain, wine, and oil, and the first of the shearing of your flock you shall give to him. For him has Hashem chosen from among all your tribes, to stand, to miniser in the Name of Hashem, him and his sons, all the days.

Rashi on 18:4 THE FIRST OF YOUR GRAIN. This refers to terumah; and although the verse does not state a required amount, our Rabbis set an amount for it [ranging from a sixtieth to a fortieth of the total produce as follows]: A generous [person] gives one fortieth of the crop, a miserly [person] one sixtieth, and [a person of] average generosity one fiftieth. They base [this ruling] that one should not give less than one sixtieth on what is said, "[This is the offering that you shall set apart: a sixth of an efah from a homer of wheat,] and you shall separate a sixth of an efah from a homer of barley" (Yechezkel 45:13). [Since an efah is equivalent to three se’ah,] a sixth of an efah is equivalent to half a se’ah. [Now the "homer" mentioned in the verse is the same as a kor.] When you give [one sixth of an efah from a homer, which we now know to be] one half of a se’ah for a kor, this amounts to one sixtieth because a kor is thirty se’ah.

AND THE FIRST OF THE SHEARING OF YOUR FLOCK. When you shear your sheep each year, give the first of it [the wool] to the Kohen. And [although the verse] does not mention a required amount, our Rabbis set an amount, namely, one sixtieth. And how many sheep [are the minimum to] be liable to the law of "the first of the fleece?" At least five sheep, as it is said (I, "[Then Avigail... took] and five prepared (asuyot) sheep" (1Shmuel 25:18). [The asuyot, here, is interpreted as meaning that five sheep compel their owner and say to you, as it were, "Get up and fulfill the commandment of wthe first of the fleece.'"] Rabbi Akiva says: [that the minimum number of sheep liable to this commandment is derived from our verse here]: The phrase reshit gez denotes two sheep; tzoncha [an additional two, making] four, and titen-lo denotes one more, which is a total of five sheep.

TO STAND, TO MINISTER. From here we learn that [the Temple] service is performed only when standing.

18:6 When the Levi will come from one of your cities, from all of Yisrael, where he sojourns, and he comes with any desire of his soul to the place that Hashem will choose,

Rashi on 18:6 WHEN THE LEVI WILL COME. One might think that Scripture is referring to an actual Levi [i.e., not a Kohen ]. Therefore it says, "Then he shall minister" (v7). And since Leviim are not fit to serve in the whole service, we see that this verse is not referring to them [but rather to Kohanim ].

18:7 then he shall minister in the Name of Hashem, his G-d, like all of his brothers, the Leviim, who stand there before Hashem.

Rashi on 18:7 [HE COMES WITH ANY DESIRE OF HIS SOUL TO, etc.,] THEN HE SHALL MINISTER. [This] teaches [us] that a Kohen may come and offer his own freewill and obligatory sacrifices even when it is not his shift. Another explanation: It further teaches concerning Kohanim who come to the Temple [as pilgrims] on the Festivals, that they may offer [together with those of the shift] and perform the services connected with the sacrifices that are brought because of the Festival—for instance, the "additional offerings" of the Festival even though it is not their shift.

18:8 Portion for portion shall they eat, except from what was transacted by the forefathers.

Rashi on 18:8 PORTION FOR PORTION SHALL THEY EAT. This teaches that they [the Kohanim present as pilgrims on the Festivals] receive a portion of the hides [of the Festival burnt-offerings] and the flesh of the he-goats of sin-offerings [of the Festival]. Now one might think that [these Kohanim may participate] also in sacrifices which are brought unrelated to the Festival, such as the tamid, the daily burnt-offerings, musfei shabbat, additional offerings of the Sabbath [on which a Festival may coincide] and sacrificial vows and donations. Therefore, it says: except what was transacted by the forefathers. Except what his ancestors sold [to one another] in the days of David and Shmuel when the system of shifts was established, trading with each other thus, "You take your week, and I will take my week."

18:9 When you come to the land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you, you shall not learn to act according to the abominations of those nations.

Rashi on 18:9 YOU SHALL NOT LEARN TO ACT ACCORDING TO THE ABOMINATIONS OF THOSE NATIONS. But you may learn [their practices] to understand [them] and to teach [them], i.e., to understand how degenerate their actions are, and to teach your children, "Do not do such and such, because this is a heathen custom!"

18:10 There shall not be found among you one who causes his son or daughter to pass through fire; one who practices divinations, a me'onen, or one who reads omens, or a sorcerer;

Rashi on 18:10 WHO CAUSES HIS SON OR DAUGHTER TO PASS THROUGH FIRE. This was the Molech worship. They made two bonfires on either side and passed the child between them both.

ONE WHO PRACTICES DIVINATIONS. A soothsayer. What is a soothsayer? One who takes his rod in his hand and says [as though to consult it], "Shall I go, or shall I not go?" Similarly, it says (Hoshea 4:12), "My people takes counsel of his piece of wood, and his rod declares to him."

A ME'ONEN. Rabbi Akiva says: These are people who determine the times (onot), saying, "Such-and-such a time is good to begin [a venture]." The Sages say, however, that this refers to those who "catch the eyes (einayim)" [i.e., they deceive by creating optical illusions].

ONE WHO READS OMENS [e.g.,] bread falling from his mouth, a deer crossing his path, or his stick falling from his hand.

18:11 or an animal charmer, or one who inquires of ov or yidoni, or one who consults the dead.

Rashi on 18:11 OR AN ANIMAL CHARMER. One who collects snakes, scorpions or other creatures into one place.

OR ONE WHO INQUIRES OF OV. This is a type of sorcery called pithom. The sorcerer raises the [spirit of the] dead, and it speaks from his [the sorcerer’s] armpit.

[OR]...YIDONI. Here the sorcerer inserts a bone of the animal called yido’a into his mouth, and the bone speaks by means of sorcery.

OR ONE WHO CONSULTS THE DEAD [NECROMANCER]. As, for example, one who raises [the dead spirit] upon his membrum, or one who consults a skull.

18:12 For all who do these are an abomination of Hashem, and because of these abominations, Hashem, your G-d, banishes [the nations] from before you.

Rashi on 18:12 FOR ALL WHO DO THESE ARE AN ABOMINATION OF HASHEM. It does not say, "one who does all these things," but' "for all who do these," even one of them.

18:13 You shall be wholehearted with Hashem, your G-d.

Rashi on 18:13 YOU SHALL BE WHOLEHEARTED WITH HASHEM, YOUR G-D. Conduct yourself with Him with simplicity and depend on Him, and do not inquire of the future; rather, accept whatever happens to you with [unadulterated] simplicity and then, you will be with Him and to His portion.

18:14 For these nations that you are possessing - they listen to astrologers and diviners; but as for you - not so has Hashem, your G-d, given for you.

Rashi on 18:14 NOT SO HAS HASHEM, YOUR G-D, GIVE FOR YOU to hearken to diviners of auspicious times and soothsayers, for He caused His Divine Presence to rest upon the prophets and upon the Urim and Tummim.

18:15 A prophet from your midst, from your brothers, like me, shall Hashem, your G-d, establish for you - to him shall you listen.

Rashi on 18:15 A PROPHET FROM YOUR MIDST, FROM YOUR BROTHERS, LIKE ME. This means: Just as I am among you, from your brothers, so will He set up for you [another prophet] in my stead, and so on, from prophet to prophet.

18:20 But the prophet who will willfully speak a word in My Name, that which I have not commanded him to speak, or who will speak in the name of the gods of others - that prophet shall die.

Rashi on 18:20 WHICH I HAVE NOT COMMANDED HIM TO SPEAK. But which I commanded his fellow prophet [to speak].

OR WHO WILL SPEAK IN THE NAME OF GODS OF OTHERS. Even though his words coincide with the halachah [Jewish law], forbidding what is forbidden or permitting what is permissible. [That prophet] shall die By strangulation. Three [sinful prophets] are executed by man [i.e., by the court]: One who prophesies what he has not heard, one who prophesies what was not told to him but was told to his fellow [prophet], and one who prophesies in the name of a pagan deity. However, one who suppresses his prophecy [i.e., does not announce it], or one who transgresses the words of a prophet, or a prophet who transgresses his own words [of prophecy]—their death is by the hands of Heaven, for it is said (v19), "I will make demands of him."

18:21 When you will say in your heart, "How can we know the word that Hashem has not spoken?"

Rashi on 18:21 WHEN YOU WILL SAY IN YOUR HEART, "HOW CAN WE KNOW THE WORD THAT HASHEM HAS NOT SPOKEN?" [This verse alludes to a future time when Yisrael will want to know which prophet is speaking the word of God. It means:] You are destined to say this when Chananya, the son of Azzur [a false prophet], came and prophesied, "Behold the vessels of the house of Hashem will be returned from Babylon now hastily" (Yirmeyahu 27:16), and Yirmeyahu stood and cried (Yirmeyahu 27: 19-22), "concerning the pillars, concerning the sea,... and concerning the remainder of the vessels..." which had not been exiled, ‘they shall be brought to Babylon’ "together with the exile of Tzidkiya.

18:22 What the prophet will speak in the Name of Hashem and that thing will not occur and not come about- that is the word that Hashem has not spoken; with willfulness has the prophet spoken it, you should have no fear of him.

Rashi on 18:22 WHAT THE PROPHET WILL SPEAK IN THE NAME OF HASHEM. And says, "This thing is destined to happen to you," and you see [afterwards] that it does not come about, "that is the thing Hashem did not speak"; so execute him. But you might say, "This applies to one who prophesies regarding the future. However, suppose one comes and says ‘Do such and such a thing, and I am telling you this by the command of the Holy One, blessed is He,’ [how do we know whether he is speaking the truth? Regarding such a case,] they were already commanded that if someone comes to make you stray from any of the commandments, "Do not hearken to him" (Devarim 13:4), unless you are certain that he is a perfectly righteous person, e.g., Eliyahu on Mount Carmel, who sacrificed on a high place when high places were forbidden, [but did so] in order to control Yisrael [against idolatry]. Everything must be done according to the needs of the time, and the need for preventive measures to protect against breaches [in the religion]. Therefore [with respect to this authentic prophet], it is stated, "hearken to him" (v15).

YOU SHOULD HAVE NO FEAR OF HIM. I.e., do not restrain yourselves from advocating his guilt, and do not fear that you will be punished for this [when your advocating leads to his death].

19:3 Prepare the way for yoruself, and divide three times the boundary of your land that Hashem, your G-d, causes you to inherit; and it shall be for any killer to flee there.

Rashi on 19:3 PREPARE THE WAY FOR YOURSELF -"Refuge! Refuge!" was inscribed at each crossroads [directing the way to the nearest refuge city].

AND DIVIDE THREE TIMES THE BOUNDARY OF YOUR LAND so that [the distance] from the beginning of the border to the first refuge city should be the same as the distance from this first city to the second, and so from the second to the third and from the third to the opposite border of Yisrael.

19:5 or who will come with his fellow into the forest to chop wood, and his hand swings with the axe to cut the wood, and the iron will shoot off the wood and finds his fellow and he dies, he shall flee to one of these cities and live,

Rashi on 19:5 AND HIS HAND SWINGS WITH THE AXE TO CUT THE WOOD. The Targum renders this to mean his hand swayed while letting the stroke of the ax fall upon the tree. [Similarly,] the words ki shamtu habakar (2Shmuel 6:6), are rendered in Targum Yonatan as: arei marguhi toraya "for the oxen swayed."

AND THE IRON WILL SHOOT OFF THE WOOD. Some of our Rabbis say that this means that the iron head [of the ax] slipped off its handle, while others say, the ax chipped a splinter of wood off the tree which was being chopped, and it ricocheted, killing [the victim].

19:6 lest the redeemer of the blood will chase after the killer, for his heart will be hot, and he will overtake him for the way was long, and he shall strike him mortally - and there is no judgment of death upon him, for he did not hate him from yesterday and before yesterday.

Rashi on 19:6 LEST THE REDEEMER OF THE BLOOD WILL CHASE AFTER THE KILLER. This is why I am telling you prepare a way for yourself, and [to prepare] many refuge cities.

19:8 When Hashem will broaden your boundary, as He swore to your forefathers, and He will give you the entire land that He spoke to your forefathers to give,

Rashi on 19:8 WHEN HASHEM WILL BROADEN YOUR BOUNDARY. As He swore to give you the land of the Keniim, the Kenizzim, and the Kadmonim.

19:9 when you observe this entire commandment to perform it - which I command you today - to love Hashem, your G-d, and to walk in His ways all the years, then you shall add three more cities to these three.

Rashi on 19:9 YOU SHALL ADD THREE MORE CITIES. Thus, [altogether you will have] nine: The three on the other side of the Yarden, the three in the land of Kenaan, and three more in the future [when G-d will expand your boundary].

19:11 But if there will be a man who hates his fellow, and ambushes him and rises up against him, and strikes him mortally and he dies, and he flees to one of these cities -

Rashi on 19:11 BUT IF THERE WILL BE A MAN WHO HATES HIS FELLOW, AND AMBUSHES HIM. Through this man’s hatred of his fellow, he comes to "ambushes him" (lie in wait for him). From here our Rabbis derived the maxim: If a man transgresses a minor commandment, he will ultimately transgress a major commandment. [Here,] since he transgressed the command: "You shall not hate your brother in your heart" (VaYikra 19:17), he ultimately came to shed blood. This is why it says here, "But if there will be a man who hates his fellow," for it should have written only: "But if a man rises up and lies in wait for his fellow and strikes him mortally."

19:13 Your eye shall not pity him; you shall remove the innocent blood from Yisrael; and it shall be good for you.

Rashi on 19:13 YOUR EYE SHALL NOT PITY HIM. I.e., you should not say, "The first [person] has already been killed; why should we kill this one too and cause two Yisraelim to be killed?"

19:14 You shall not move back the boundary of your fellow, which the early ones marked out, in your inheritance that you shall inherit, in the Land that Hashem, your G-d, gives you to possess it.

Rashi on 19:14 YOU SHALL NOT MOVE BACK THE BOUNDARY OF YOUR FELLOW, an expression similar to, "they shall turn back (nasogu achor )" (Yeshayahu 42:17). [Here therefore, it means] that he moves the boundary-mark of the land backwards into his neighbor’s field, thereby enlarging his own [property]. But has it not already been stated, "You shall not rob" (VaYikra 19: 13)? Why then, is it stated here: "You shall not move back the boundary?" [The answer is that this verse teaches that the person who removes his neighbor’s boundary mark transgresses two negative commandments, "You shall not rob (lo tigzol)" and "You shall not move back [the boundary]?" (lo tasig. Now I might think that [this applies] outside Eretz Yisrael as well. Therefore it says, "in your inheritance, which you will inherit [in the land]", [indicating that] in [only] Eretz Yisrael, one transgresses two negative commandments, whereas outside Eretz Yisrael, one transgresses only the commandment of "you shall not rob."

19:15 One witness shall not stand up against any man for any iniquity or for any sin, regarding any sin that he may commit; by the word of two witnesses or by the word of three witnesses shall a matter be confirmed.

Rashi on 19:15 ONE WITNESS SHALL NOT STAND UP AGAINST ANY MAN FOR ANY INIQUITY. This verse establishes a general principle [i.e., from here it is derived] that wherever the term "witness" (ed) appears in the Torah, it means two [witnesses], unless the Torah specifies [that] one witness is meant.

FOR ANY INIQUITY OR FOR ANY SIN where his testimony would lead to the accused being punished, either with corporal punishment or with or monetary punishment. However, one [witness] may rise up to [compel his fellow to take] an oath, as follows: If one says to his fellow, "Give me the maneh [100 zuzim ] that I lent you," and his fellow replies, "I have nothing of yours," and one witness testifies for him [the plaintiff] that he [the defendant] owes him [the money], [the defendant] is required to swear [that he did not borrow any money].

BY THE WORD OF TWO WITNESSES...A MATTER BE CONFIRMED. [The expression, "by the word" means here that only the direct, verbal testimony suffices,] but they should not write their testimony in a letter and send it to the court, or have an interpreter stand between the witnesses and the judges.

19:16 If a false witness stands against a man to testify a fabrication against him,

Rashi on 19:16 TO TESTIFY A FABRICATION AGAINST HIM. [That is, he testifies about] a thing which is not so, that this witness is removed (husar) from the whole testimony [meaning that he could not possibly have been a witness,] such as if [a second set of witnesses] said [to the first set of witnesses], "But weren’t you with us on that day in such and such a place [and not with the defendant, as you claim to have been]?"

19:17 then the two men [and those] who have the dispute shall stand before Hashem, before the Kohanim and the judges who will be in those days.

Rashi on 19:17 THEN THE TWO MEN...SHALL STAND. The text is referring to the witnesses, and it teaches us that there is no testimony by women. It also teaches us that witnesses must submit their testimony while standing.

WHO HAVE THE DISPUTE. These are the litigants.

BEFORE HASHEM. It should seem to them as though they are standing before the Omnipresent, as it says: "in the midst of the judges He will judge" (Tehillim 82:1).

WHO WILL BE IN THOSE DAYS. [Now could one stand in front of those who are not in his day? Rather, it means that] Yiftach [Yephthah] [one of the less important judges] in his generation, is [to be considered] as Shmuel [the greatest judge] in his generation; you must treat him with respect.

19:18 The judges shall inquire well, and behold, the witness is a false witness; he testified falsely against his brother.

Rashi on 19:18 THE JUDGES SHALL INQUIRE WELL. By means of the testimony of [the new set of witnesses] who rebut them, that they investigate and examine those who come to prove that they [the first pair] are edim zommin, "plotting witnesses," by diligent inquiry and examination.

AND BEHOLD, THE WITNESS IS A FALSE WITNESS. Wherever ed, witness, is written, Scripture is speaking of two [witnesses].

19:19 You shall do to him as he conspired to do to his brother, and you shall destroy the evil from your midst.

Rashi on 19:19 AS HE CONSPIRED. But not as he did. From here [our Rabbis] said that if the first set of witnesses [before being proven false,] already killed the defendant [by their testimony], they are not to be put to death.

TO DO TO HIS BROTHER. Why does Scripture state, "to his brother?" To teach, that in the case of witnesses who conspired against a married daughter of a Kohen [by accusing her of adultery], that they are not executed with burning [the form of execution to which she would have been subjected], but rather, by strangulation, the form of execution of the adulterer. For it says [regarding such a woman] "she shall be burnt with fire" (VaYikra 21:9) -"she," but not her paramour [who is dispatched by strangulation]; therefore it says here, "to his brother" — "as he conspired to do to his brother," but not as he conspired to do to his sister. With other crimes, however, Scripture regards women equally with men, and conspiring witnesses against a woman are executed in the same way as those who conspired against a man. For instance, if they testified that a women killed a person, or that she desecrated the Shabbat [and they are revealed to be false witnesses before she is executed], then they are executed in the form that they intended for her, for Scripture does not exclude his sister [by stating "brother"] except in a case where one may carry out the punishment of the conspiring witnesses by the form of execution of the adulterer [as opposed to the adulteress].

19:20 And those who remain shall listen and fear; and they shall not continue again to do such an evil thing in your midst.

Rashi on 19:20 SHALL LISTEN AND FEAR. From here, [we derive the law] that a public announcement is required: "So-and-so and so-and-so are to be executed because they were proven by the court to be plotting witnesses." [Note that Rashi on Mak. 5a and San. 89a writes that the proclamation is made after the perpetrators have been executed.]

19:21 Your eye shall not pity; life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.

Rashi on 19:21 EYE FOR EYE i.e., financial compensation; and similarly, "tooth for tooth, etc."

20:1 When you go out to battle against your enemy, and you see horse and chariot - a people more numerous than you - you shall not fear them, for Hashem, your G-d, is with you, Who brought you up from the land of Egypt.

Rashi on 20:1 WHEN YOU GO OUT TO BATTLE. Scripture juxtaposes the departure for war alongside this ["eye for eye etc.,"] to teach us that a person with a missing limb does not go out to war. Another explanation: It teaches that if you execute righteous judgment, you can be sure that when you depart for war you will be victorious. Similarly, David says, "I performed justice and righteousness; do not leave me to my oppressors" (Tehillim 119:121).

AGAINST YOUR ENEMY. Let them be in your eyes as enemies; have no pity on them, for they will have no pity upon you.

HORSE AND CHARIOT. In My eyes, they are all like one horse. Similarly, it says, "and you shall strike Midyan as one man." (Shoftim 6:16) And similarly, it says,' "When Pharaoh’s horse... came [into the sea]" (Shemot 15:19).

A PEOPLE MORE NUMEROUS THAN YOU. In your eyes, they are numerous, but in My eyes, they are not numerous.

20:2 It shall be that when you draw near to the war, the Kohen shall approach and he shall speak to the people.

Rashi on 20:2 WHEN YOU DRAW NEAR TO THE WAR. When you are on the point of leaving the border.

THE KOHEN SHALL APPROACH. This refers to the kohen anointed for this purpose, and he is called "the one anointed for war."


20:3 And he shall say to them, "Hear, O Yisrael, today you are coming near to the battle against your enemies; let your heart not be faint; do not be afraid, do not panic, and do not break down before them.

Rashi on 20:3 HEAR, O YISRAEL. Even if you have no merit other than the reading of the Shema', you are worthy that He [G-d] save you.

AGAINST YOUR ENEMIES. These are not your brothers, for if you fall into their hands, they will not have pity on you; this is not like the war of Yehudah with Yisrael, of which the verse states, "And the men, who were mentioned by name, rose up and took hold of the captives, and, and clothed all their nakedness from the spoils, and they dressed them and shod them, and fed them and gave them to drink, and anointed them, and led them on donkeys, every feeble one, and they brought them to Yericho, the city of the palms, beside their brothers, and they returned to Shomeron" (2Divre HaYamim 28:15). You, however, are going against your enemies; therefore strengthen yourselves for battle.

LET YOUR HEART NOT BE FAINT; DO NOT BE AFRAID, DO NOT PANIC, AND DO NOT BREAK DOWN. Four warnings, corresponding to four practices in which the kings of the nations engage [during battle]: They hold their shields close together to strike them against one another, thereby producing a loud noise to alarm those confronting them, so that they should flee; they stamp [the ground heavily] with their horses and make them neigh, sounding the beating of their horses' hoofs, and they shout loudly and blow horns and [other] kinds of noisy instruments.

LET YOUR HEART NOT BE FAINT. Because of the neighing of the horses.

DO NOT BE AFRAID of the noise made by the fastening of the shields.

DO NOT PANIC. At the sounds of the horns.

AND DO NOT BREAK DOWN. By the noise of the shouting.

20:4 For Hashem, your G-d, is the One Who goes with you, to fight for you with your enemies, to save you."

Rashi on 20:4 FOR HASHEM, YOUR G-D... They are coming with the victory of flesh and blood, whereas you approach with the victory of the Omnipresent. The Pelishtim came with the victory of Goliat — What was his end? He fell, and they fell with him.

WHO GOES WITH YOU. This refers to the camp of the ark.

20:5 Then the officers shall speak to the people, saying, "Who is the man who has built a new house and has not inaugurated it? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the war and another man will inaugurate it.

Rashi on 20:5 WHO IS THE MAN WHO HAS BUILT A NEW HOUSE AND HAS NOT INAUGURATED IT i.e., has not yet lived in it. The term chinuch denotes beginning.

LEST HE DIE IN THE WAR AND ANOTHER MAN WILL INAUGURATE IT. This would be a source of great grief.

20:6 And who is the man who has planted a vineyard and not rendered it profane? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the war and another man will render it profane.

Rashi on 20:6 AND WHO IS THE MAN WHO HAS PLANTED A VINEYARD AND NOT RENDERED IT PROFANE. He has not redeemed the vineyard in the fourth year [of its growth], for the fruits [of the fourth year] have to be eaten in Yerushalayim or redeemed [by exchanging them] for money, and to eat [food purchased with] the money in Yerushalayim.

20:7 And who is the man who has betrothed a woman and not married her? Let him go and return to his house, lest he die in the war and another man will marry her.

Rashi on 20:7 LEST HE DIE IN THE WAR. He should return lest he die, for if he does not obey the Kohen, he deserves to die.

20:8 The officers shall add in speaking to the people and say, "Who is the man who is fearful and fainthearted? Let him go and return to his house, and let him not melt the heart of his brothers, like his heart."

Rashi on 20:8 THE OFFICERS SHALL ADD. Why does it say here: "shall add"? They add this [statement] to the words of the Kohen, for the Kohen speaks and announces aloud to the people from "Hear, O Yisrael" (v3) until "to save you," (end of v4) while "What man is there" (v5), and the second and third one [with the same beginning (v6 and v7)], the Kohen speaks, and an officer announces aloud [to the people]. This verse, however, an officer speaks, and an officer announces aloud. According to several incunabula editions of Rashi, "a Kohen announces aloud."

WHO IS THE MAN WHO IS FEARFUL AND FAINTHEARTED. Rabbi Akiva says: [This verse is to be understood] according to its apparent meaning, that he cannot stand in the closed ranks of battle and look upon a drawn sword. Rabbi Jose the Galilean says that [it means] one who is afraid of his sins [that they will cause him to fall in war, as he is unworthy], and therefore, the Torah gives him the excuse of attributing his return home because of a house, a vineyard, or a wife, to cover up for those who return because of their sins, so that people should not understand that they are sinners. [Consequently,] one who sees this person returning would say, "Perhaps he has built a house, or planted a vineyard, or betrothed a woman."

20:9 When the officers have finished speaking to the people, they shall appoint leaders of legions at the head of the people.

Rashi on 20:9 THEY SHALL APPOINT LEADERS OF LEGIONS. This means that they place (zakafin guards in front of them and behind them, with iron arrows in their hands, and if anybody attempted to retreat, the guard had the authority to strike his legs. Zakafin are people who stand at the edge of the battle array to pick up (lizkof) the fallen and to encourage them with words: "Return to the battle and do not flee, for flight is the beginning of defeat."

20:10 When you draw near to a city to wage war against it, you shall call out to it for peace.

Rashi on 20:10 WHEN YOU DRAW NEAR TO A CITY TO WAGE WAR AGAINST IT. Scripture is speaking of an optional war, as is explicit in the context of this section (v15), "Thus you will do to all the cities which are very far away [from you]..."

20:11 It shall be that if it responds to you in peace and opens for you, then all the people who are found within it shall be for you as tribute, and they shall serve you.

Rashi on 20:11 ALL THE PEOPLE WHO ARE FOUND WITHIN IT SHALL BE FOR YOU AS TRIBUTE. Even if you find in it people of the seven nations, whom you have been commanded to exterminate, you are permitted to spare their lives.

FOR YOU AS TRIBUTE, AND THEY SHALL SERVE YOU. [You shall fight them] until they accept upon themselves both tribute and bondage.

20:12 But if it does not make peace with you, but makes war with you, you shall besiege it.

Rashi on 20:12 BUT IF IT DOES NOT MAKE PEACE WITH YOU, BUT MAKES WAR WITH YOU. Scripture is informing you that if it does not make peace with you, then, if you let it be and go away, [this city] will ultimately wage war against you.

YOU SHALL BESIEGE IT. Even to starve it out, and cause them to [die of] thirst and to kill [the inhabitants of the city] through diseases.

20:13 Hashem shall deliver it into your hand, and you shall smite all its males by the edge of the sword.

Rashi on 20:13 HASHEM SHALL DELIVER IT INTO Y OUR HAND. If you have done all that is stated in this section, Hashem will ultimately deliver it into your hands.

20:14 Only the women, the small children, the animals, and everything that will be in the city - all its booty - may you plunder for yourselves; you shall eat the booty of your enemies, which Hashem, your G-d, gave you.

Rashi on 20:14 THE SMALL CHILDREN...MAY YOU PLUNDER FOR YOURSELVES. Even the male children. But, how then, am I to explain "and you shall strike all its males"? (v13) It refers to adult males.

20:17 Rather you shall utterly destroy them: the Chitti and the Emori, the Kenaani and the Perizzi, the Chivvi and the Yevusi, as Hashem, your G-d, has commanded you,

Rashi on 20:17 AS HASHEM, YOUR G-D, HAS COMMANDED YOU. [This is] to include the Girgashi [the seventh nation, not mentioned here, but you were commanded to destroy them].

20:18 so that they will not teach you to act according to all their abominations that they performed for their gods, so that you will sin to Hashem, your G-d.

Rashi on 20:18 SO THAT THEY WILL NOT TEACH YOU TO ACT ACCORDING TO ALL THEIR ABOMINATIONS. But if they repent and wish to convert, you are allowed to accept them.

20:19 When you besiege a city for many days to wage war against it to seize it, do not destroy its trees by swining an axe against them, for from it you will eat, and you shall not cut it down; is, then, the tree of the field a man that it should enter the siege before you?

Rashi on 20:19 WHEN YOU BESIEGE A CITY FOR MANY DAYS. The word "days" implies two days. [But when it says many [this means] three [days]. From here our Rabbis derived [the ruling that] the siege of a heathen city may not be initiated less than three days before the Shabbat, and this verse teaches us that the offer of peace (v10) must be repeated for two or three days. Similarly, it says: "that David dwelt in Tziklag for two days" (2Shmuel 1:1). Scripture is speaking here of an optional war.

IS, THEN, THE TREE OF THE FIELD A MAN THAT IT SHOULD ENTER THE SIEGE BEFORE YOU? The word ki here means "perhaps:" Is the tree of the field perhaps a man who is to go into the siege by you, that it should be punished by the suffering of hunger and thirst like the people of the city? Why should you destroy it?

20:20 Only a tree that you know is not a food tree, it you may destroy and cut down, and build a bulwark against the city that makes war with you, until it is conquered.

Rashi on 20:20 UNTIL IT IS CONQUERED. Hebrew: ridta, an expression of subjugation, [meaning] that it becomes submissive to you.

21:2 your eleders and your judges shall go out and they shall measure to the cities that are around the corpse.

Rashi on 21:2 YOUR ELDERS...SHALL GO OUT the distinguished ones of your elders, [namely] the Great Sanhedrin.

AND THEY SHALL MEASURE from the place where the corpse lies.

TO THE CITIES THAT ARE AROUND THE CORPSE in every direction, in order to ascertain which is the nearest.

21:4 The elders of that city shall bring the calf down to a firm valley, which has not been worked and has not been sown, and they shall break the back of the calf's neck in the valley.

Rashi on 21:4 TO A FIRM VALLEY, hard, [a valley] that was never tilled.

SHALL BREAK THE BACK OF THE CALF'S NECK. He breaks its neck with a hatchet [i.e., from the back]. The Holy One, blessed be He, says: Let the calf which is in its first year and has, therefore, produced no fruits, come and be decapitated at a place [the valley that was not tilled] which has not produced fruits, in order to atone for the murder of this man, whom they [the murderers] did not allow to produce fruit [i.e., to perform mitzvot].

21:7 They shall speak up and say, "Our hands have not spilled this blood, and our eyes did not see.

Rashi on 21:7 OUR HANDS HAVE NOT SPILLED THIS BLOOD. But would it enter one’s mind that the elders of the court are murderers? Rather, [they declare:] We [ourselves] did not see him and let him depart without food or escort [which would have indirectly caused his death, leaving this man to the elements and to robbers].

21:8 Atone for Your people Yisrael whom You have redeemed, O Hashem: Do not place innocent blood in the midst of Your people Yisrael!" Then the blood shall be atoned for them.

Rashi on 21:8 ATONE FOR YOUR PEOPLE YISRAEL... THEN THE BLOOD SHALL BE ATONED FOR THEM. Scripture informs them that from the time they complete all this, their sin is atoned.

21:9 And you shall remove the innocent blood from your midst, for you shall do what is upright in the eyes of Hashem.

Rashi on 21:9 AND YOU SHALL REMOVE. This tells [us] that if the murderer is found after the calf is decapitated, the murderer must be executed, and that is "what is upright in the eyes of Hashem."


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