“If a corpse be found…”

Chapter 21 of Deuteronomy (Shoftim: Deut 16:18-21:9) tells the Israelites what to do, upon entering the land, “if a corpse be found..the identity of the slayer not being known.” This is the elaborate ritual involving the Red Heifer in which the elders of the nearest town must be prepared to declare, “Our hands did not […]

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Morning: Blessing, with Echo of Gunshots

How lovely are these tents! not far from housing that has seen better days and housing that has seen too many awful ones. I love the place of Your house, reached through streets collecting cigarette butts, the odd chicken wing, echoes of homicide. Through Your abundant love, I enter Your house, where these peaceful walls […]

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In All Your Gates

Instructions to appoint judges “for yourselves,” in “all your tribes,” or, more literally, “in all your gates,” opens the Torah portion Shoftim [judges] (Deut 16:18-21:9), and the famous line, “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof… [Justice, justice you shall pursue…],” follows: שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים, תִּתֶּן-לְךָ בְּכָל-שְׁעָרֶיךָ, אֲשֶׁר יְהוָה אֱלֹהֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ, לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ; וְשָׁפְטוּ אֶת-הָעָם, מִשְׁפַּט-צֶדֶק. Judges and officers shalt […]

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Shoftim: A Path to Follow

When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees, wielding the ax against them. You may eat of them, but you must not cut them down. Are trees of the field human [ki ha-adam eitz ha-sadeh] to withdraw […]

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Shoftim: Language and Translation

Devarim/Deuteronomy 18:13 contains a command to be “wholehearted [tamim]” with God. I found the same English word, “wholehearted,” used in seven different sources, two commentaries and all five Torah translations on which I regularly rely: Alter, Fox, Jewish Publication Society, modified JPS (The Torah: A Women’s Commentary) and Scherman (Stone Edition); see Source Materials for […]

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