Below is a collection of Parashat Shoftim resources created by The Lookstein Center staff or contributed to the site by Jewish educators.
This is a growing collection. Check back soon or write to us at email@example.com if you didn’t find what you’re looking for.
DISCUSSION AND REFLECTION QUESTIONS
Question #1: Parashat Shoftim teaches us about different types of leadership. Although very few countries have kings today, it was the most common form of rulership in much of the world for centuries. Kings would have absolute power, but the Torah demands a different kind of king. Among other rules, a king was not allowed to accumulate too much gold and silver or too many horses. Why is this an important rule? Can it ever be a bad thing to have too much money? The king is also commanded not to be arrogant and think he is better than others. What is the purpose of this rule? Have you ever known of someone who is in a position of authority and feels they are “better than anyone else”?
Look inside the text (Devarim 17:15-20),
שׂוֹם תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה’ אֱלֹהֶיךָ בּוֹ מִקֶּרֶב אַחֶיךָ תָּשִׂים עָלֶיךָ מֶלֶךְ לֹא תוּכַל לָתֵת עָלֶיךָ אִישׁ נָכְרִי אֲשֶׁר לֹא אָחִיךָ הוּא – You should be free to set a king over yourself, one chosen by God. Be sure to set as king over yourself one of your own people; you must not set a foreigner over you, one who is not your relative.
רַק לֹא יַרְבֶּה לּוֹ סוּסִים וְלֹא יָשִׁיב אֶת הָעָם מִצְרַיְמָה לְמַעַן הַרְבּוֹת סוּס וה’ אָמַר לָכֶם לֹא תֹסִפוּן לָשׁוּב בַּדֶּרֶךְ הַזֶּה עוֹד – Also, he should not keep many horses or send people back to Egypt to add to his horses, since God has warned you, “You must not go back that way again.”
וְלֹא יַרְבֶּה לּוֹ נָשִׁים וְלֹא יָסוּר לְבָבוֹ וְכֶסֶף וְזָהָב לֹא יַרְבֶּה לּוֹ מְאֹד – And he should not have many wives, so that his heart does not go astray; nor should he have too much silver and gold.
וְהָיָה כְשִׁבְתּוֹ עַל כִּסֵּא מַמְלַכְתּוֹ וְכָתַב לוֹ אֶת מִשְׁנֵה הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת עַל סֵפֶר מִלִּפְנֵי הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם – When he is seated on his royal throne, he shall have a copy of this Teaching written for him on a scroll by the Levites and kohanim (priests).
וְהָיְתָה עִמּוֹ וְקָרָא בוֹ כָּל יְמֵי חַיָּיו לְמַעַן יִלְמַד לְיִרְאָה אֶת ה’ אֱלֹהָיו לִשְׁמֹר אֶת כָּל דִּבְרֵי הַתּוֹרָה הַזֹּאת וְאֶת הַחֻקִּים הָאֵלֶּה לַעֲשׂתָם – Let it remain with him and let him read in it all his life, so that he may learn to fear God, to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching as well as these laws.
לְבִלְתִּי רוּם לְבָבוֹ מֵאֶחָיו וּלְבִלְתִּי סוּר מִן הַמִּצְוָה יָמִין וּשְׂמֹאול לְמַעַן יַאֲרִיךְ יָמִים עַל מַמְלַכְתּוֹ הוּא וּבָנָיו בְּקֶרֶב יִשְׂרָאֵל – So, he will not act in an arrogant way toward his fellows or deviate from the Instruction to the right or to the left, to the end that he and his descendants may reign long in the midst of Israel.
Question #2: In this week’s parasha, we read about the laws of a judge and leader. How can money, and bribery make even a wise person blind? Can you think of an example?
Look inside the text (Devarim 16:19),
לֹא תַטֶּה מִשְׁפָּט לֹא תַכִּיר פָּנִים וְלֹא תִקַּח שֹׁחַד כִּי הַשֹּׁחַד יְעַוֵּר עֵינֵי חֲכָמִים וִיסַלֵּף דִּבְרֵי צַדִּיקִם – You should not judge unfairly: you should show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.
Question #3: The Torah mandates the death penalty for a number of different kinds of crimes, especially those which threaten to undermine the very fabric of society. Rabbinic interpretation and legislation limited the death penalty so much that it is nearly impossible to ever carry out. Can you imagine a case in which there should be a death penalty? For what kinds of crimes would it apply? Are there alternatives? What is its purpose? What is the purpose of any form of punishment?
Question #4: We are commanded to pursue justice. Does justice mean that everyone gets the same treatment? Is it reasonable to expect the same behavior from a fifteen-year-old and a fifty-year-old? Is justice served when a wealthy businessperson who shoplifts a candy bar is treated the same as a hungry homeless person who shoplifts the same candy bar? Think about two people who drove through a red light – one was driving his wife to the hospital while she is in labor and the other didn’t want to miss me opening scene of a movie. How do we decide what is just?