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Parshat Shoftim (5763)

This week's Torah portion contains thirty eight commandments.

One is to appoint Judges and policemen that enforce their decisions; another is to follow the Prophets and another is to appoint a King.

Let's examine the difference between the first two, Judges and prophets.

Judges are G-d fearing Torah geniuses that base their decisions on Torah logic and visible evidence while Prophets are almost the opposite; their words are only from G-dly inspiration and often contradict what is logical and obvious.

That is probably why that throughout Jewish history the Judges were, for the most part, respected and obeyed while the prophets, including even Moses, were rejected, scorned and even murdered (!).

If so it seems a bit strange that our portion tells us that there was a commandment to appoint policemen (Shotrim) to enforce the orders of the Judges but none for the Prophets!

If anyone needed enforcement it, it was the Prophets.

In fact we can ask even more; why does G-d have to send Prophets at all?

Haven't we got enough problems just doing what is reasonable? Why send us men who command us to act …. even the OPPOSITE of reason?

To answer this here is a story.

Once a great Chassidic leader called Rabbi Mordechi of Nadvorna was on a long train trip with many of his pupils.

The train made a stop in the city of Niridihous where they had to disembark, wait a while and then change trains for their intended destination.

They had been waiting for several minutes when suddenly a young gentile woman began screaming and wailing.

At first she was the center of attraction. Police rushed to control the situation and a large crowd gathered around. But when everyone heard her tragic story (It seems that someone had stolen her wallet from her purse and now she was left without money or tickets) and there was nothing more to do, they turned back to their places, left her to her woes and got ready for the train which was approaching in the distance.

It was usually always best for Jews to keep out of gentile affairs, especially here when the police were looking for a suspect. So it was a bit strange when Rabbi Mordechi turned to one of his younger Chassidim and ordered him to run to the ticket office, buy a ticket for the woman, give her some traveling money as well and not to say a word about where it came from.

The Chassid did as he was told and although he almost missed the train he ran, bought the ticket and gave it to the bewildered woman who was literally speechless with gratitude.

Fifteen years passed. The Chassid married had children, the holy Rebbe had passed away and the incident was completely forgotten. But the anti-Semitism didn't change.

The Chassid, who had since become a successful businessman and even had gentile friends in high places, early one morning received a subpoena to appear in court; he was charged with cheating the government.

The charges were transparently false, the witnesses had obviously been paid but it didn't help. Suddenly he revealed that he didn't have any real friends after all and no one was willing to help him. He ran from office to office and got the same empty sympathetic statements and excuses.

Finally he got himself a lawyer, prayed to G-d for a miracle, and went to the police station.

The pre-trial hearing took less than an hour. He was found guilty of all charges, sentenced a million dollar fine, life imprisonment and incarceration until the trial.

He was desperate. He posted bail for himself and began searching for a good lawyer, but now no lawyer wanted to take his case; if he lost all his money, how ould he pay?

He had no recourse than to travel to Budapest where the Judge who was to preside over his trial lived and try to see him. Maybe he could convince him of his nnocence … even if it meant bribery. Hastily he packed a bag, took a large sum of money and caught the next train out.

But in Budapest he was in for another bitter surprise. This particular judge happened to be a rabid Jew hater. There was no chance that he would even look at, no less talk to, and certainly not have mercy on any Jew in the world.

But our Chassid did not lose heart; 'Everything G-d does is for the best' he said to himself, 'and nothing good will come from getting depressed'.

So he went around the city talking to people until he formulated a plan of action.

He found out that the Judge's wife, also no small anti-Semite, had a weakness for embroidered things, especially tablecloths.

He would buy the most expensive tablecloth he could find and appear at her doorstep as a salesman. Then, if he could get her interested, he would offer it to her as a gift and beg her to try to influence her husband for him.

It was a dangerous plan, even a bit foolish; she could easily just take the tablecloth to herself and then report him to the police; she would have the tablecloth and he probably would not live out the night in the jail. But he had no other solution.

He spent the entire next morning looking for the most expensive embroidery in Budapest and finally ended up spending a small fortune on a truly elegant masterpiece of a tablecloth with matching napkins. He walked quickly to the Judge's home trying to keep as calm as possible. A cold sweat covered his body as he finally reached his destination, walked up the stairs to the door, closed his eyes, said a prayer and knocked.

It opened. It was the Judges wife, she looked at him strangely. He tried his best to smile as he, held out the tablecloth and tried to begin his sales pitch but the words simply didn't come out. He was trembling, frozen with fear.

Suddenly she let out a scream and fainted!

His first impulse was to run! If he just stood there they would certainly accuse him of something. But then if he ran and they caught him it would certainly be worse; they would kill him on the spot! On the other hand if he tried to help her up it might appear as he was attacking her!

Meanwhile her husband, the Judge, heard the commotion and came running and when he got there and saw the Chassid it was hard to tell who was more astounded.

He sensed that the Jew was no threat so he bent down to his wife and began talking to her, "Are you all right Greta, what happened?"

She opened one eye, looked around and finally pointed at the Jew. 'Yorik, Yorik!' She said kept repeating her husband's name as she rose to her feet" Look!.

"Do you remember that I told that about fifteen years ago at the train station in Niridihous when I lost my tickets and money an angel came and saved me?

"Well, this Jew...he has a face just like the angel I saw!!! It's him!!

When the Judge realized that this was the man who saved his wife his countenance changed completely. He invited the bewildered Jew into his home and offered him a reward. Needless to say, when he heard the reason for his visit he promised him not only a fair trial but that from now on that his attitude toward all the Jews would be completely different as well.

Needless to say the Chassid was acquitted of all charges.

This answers our question. The Chassid had to obey the prophetic orders of his Rebbe from his own free will. If he had be coerced it may have not impressed that Judge's wife so she would remember him as a angel of G-d for fifteen years.

So it is with all the Prophets. Judges are only concerned with what the eye sees, so it is sufficient to them if their policemen keep law and order.

But the purpose of a Prophet is to change people's hearts so they are devoted only to the Creator; as we say twice daily in Kriat Shma to love G-d with all your heart, soul and might.

And this cannot be accomplished by police or external coercion but rather through personal devotion to the truth and therefore to the words of the Prophets...even if it contradicts logic.

That is why we need prophets today; to change the hearts and priorities of the world's population (especially the Jews) to prepare for Moshiach.

The Maimonides writes in his Igrot Teiman that prophecy will return before the arrival of Moshiach. And, in fact, almost of the pupils of the Baal Shem Tov (and his successor the Maggid of Mezeritz) had varying degrees of prophecy despite the fact that in the time of the Temple the generations were MUCH
higher spiritually.

One of the great Chassidic masters (Rabbi Elimelech of Lazinsk) said that he had heard an explanation for this from the Maggid.

When a king is in his palace he won't leave to dine at the home of a simple person, only at the homes of nobility. But if he on the last leg of a long
journey back home then he will accept almost any invitation.

So also regarding prophesy; when the Temple was standing and the King was in His palace, so to speak, He would only shine prophesy on great and holy people that had worked for years to completely purify themselves such as Isaiah and Elijah but now when the King is on the road and is almost at home in the final Third Temple, His standards are not as high and prophesy is easier to achieve.


The synthesis of the two: Prophet and Judge will be found in the ultimate King (This week's section also contains the commandment to appoint a King) the Moshiach!

He will be a leader from the house of David that will be both a judge, a prophet and a true leader. (The Gemora Sanhedredin 98b gives two examples: Rabbi Yehuda HaNassi (if he comes from the living) and Daniel (if he comes from the dead))

He will completely change the priorities and hearts of all mankind so as to love only G-d, His Torah and the Jewish people. The world will be a different world with no hatred, jealousy or competition.

We just have to open our eyes and hearts, learn the works of the Rebbe and DO all we can to bring....

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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