Long live the king / who’s in charge?
Nu, Irene has come and gone and like many women before her, she’s left us confused. Many were klerring (pondering) as to whether or not she was coming altogether and if yes, when? On Shabbis perhaps, what time, with what intensity, for how long and what to taka do if she taka did come. Nu, avada for many of you oisvorfs, this isn’t such a new concept, as men think about these things all the time, if you chap. How would we know what to do on the heylige shabbis? Would we have a heter (permission) to listen to the radio, efsher also watch TV and if yes, which channel? Only the weather channel, or might we argue and suggest that once it’s already on…. that it’s efsher (perhaps) also ok to watch Letterman, The Tonight Show and more? Efsher a Seinfeld re-run or even Curb; so many shaylois (questions). Would we get to -err I mean, have to- evacuate, drive our cars on shabbis and feel like doctors without having spent 10 years in medical school? And in the end, she taka surprised many, did come, with some force I might add and like many before, left quite the mess behind. Cleanup is avada part of the avoida, if you chap. Nu, it’s nearly a week later and all is just about back in order and we’re getting ready for another Shabbis Koidesh (holy Shabbis).
I have mamish gevaldige news for you: this week, we’ll get to hear the action packed Parsha of Shoiftim (judges) in which the indefatigable Moishe Rabaynu will deliver another 41 mitzvois. Moreover it’s the first shabbis in Choidesh Ellul (the Hebrew month known as Ellul) and time to start thinking seriously about doing tshuva (repentance) for our wayward actions and thoughts, at least that’s what my Rebbe taught me. With its 14 ah-says (positive commandments) and 27 loi- sa-says (prohibitions), Parsha Shoftim is up there in the rankings of Mitzvo packed Parshious, 6th overall; impressive mamish. And guess what? If you listen carefully to the laining (Toirah reading), you’ll also learn that many of the answers about what actions to have taken this past week during the storm, are leadership issues that are addressed right here in the parsha. Ober do you care, or is your mind already on labor day weekend? Are you chas vsholom thinking about sitting on the beach gazing at half nakedta (naked) mydlich and wishing you were 25 years younger? Ok- don’t answer that.
How can we cover the Parsha in these few pages? We can’t and like I’ve done over the last few weeks, mostly because many of you with severe ADD can’t absorb more, I’ll give you an overview first and then, if time and space permit, we’ll look into what’s on the Oisvorfer’s mind with a shtikel bikius (depth). Here then for the older generation the Monarch Notes version and for my younger readers, the Cliff Notes version of the gantza parsha. Hopefully once you see how exciting the heylige Toirah can be, you’ll get your minds out of the gutter and be mamish enthusiastic to read more, efsher even take out a sefer on your own. Let’s begin.
Moishe lays out the fundamentals of the judicial system, the rules by which way back in ancient times, when the Yiddin first entered the land, things were supposed to work. First: the Yiddinwere to appoint judges whose job it was to carry out the will of the RBSO and they mustn’t be deterred from their mission to carry out the pursuit of justice. The most important pre-qualifier to being a judge was the ability to remain objective and the strength to refuse bribery. Nu, avada this didn’t work out too well since most Jews eat too much challah and kugil, and aren’t all that strong. Moreover, who isn’t susceptible to a shtikel bribe now and then? Of course we no longer have this system and it’s been replaced by an even more corrupt system known as the Din Toira, but that for another day. Next: Idolatrous practices must be eradicated and punished. Idol worship represents the greatest perversion of justice by replacing divine justice with human failings and desires. Avada most of you chazerrim (swine) can relate to such failings and if not with idols mamish, zicher in other areas, if you chap and seemingly most of you have. Veyter: The BNY are commanded to follow the rulings of the Sanhedrin (Supreme Court), or when there is no Sanhedrin, the Rabbis of their time, provided of course that the Rabbis stand up and provide such leadership. A perfect example of such leadership was in display or was it, just this past stormy weekend. More on that shortly. The Sanhedrin are to be the final arbiters and the Yiddin are to follow their rulings and interpretations as if their directives were given down by the RBSO. This system too is now extinct.
Next: the Yiddin are commanded, upon entry into the land, to appoint a King over themselves, or were they? More on that later too. His job is to have horses but not too many, many wives but not too many, accumulate wealth but not too much and he must write, learn, and carry around the heylige Toirah wherever he goes. Nu, it’s good to be the King! Next: Moishe tells the BNY how important the Liviyim (Levites) are; though they won’t be land owners, they shall receive a portion of each sacrifice that is offered and that they must be properly treated. Hey: schnorring is also a business, sometimes real big. In the Land there will be temptations to follow after omens and divination, these are prohibited, as is consulting with the dead unless of course it’s some deceased Rebbe and someone has convinced you that by davening and dancing on or near his grave and also by giving the bag man lots of money, only good things will befall you. We may not charm animals and astrology too is now forbidden. Moishe then tells the Yiddin about the Novee, both the real and fake ones, then reviews laws previously discussed about the unintentional murderer and his escape hatch. I see that nebech (very sadly) that you already forgot this topic though we just covered it weeks ago. Ok- here we go. The BNY must set aside six cities of refuge. Someone who accidentally commits manslaughter must flee to one of them and remain there until the death of the current Koihain Godol (High Priest). If he leaves the confines of the city, the victim’s next of kin may kill him- nice! Someone who commits murder willfully and flees to one of these cities shall be tried and either sent away or put to death, depending on the nature of the evidence of the witnesses. The Parsha ends with a discussion of the first ever murder mystery: the unique mitzvah of the Eglah Arufa (broken calf) and the process through which the community takes responsibility for the unsolved murders. If you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, it’s not your fault as the Rebbe likely didn’t do too good a job illuminating the subject. Bikittzur (in short) as we have many other vichtige (important) subjects to cover, it goes like this: Should the body of a murder victim be discovered and the culprit’s identity unknown, and there’s no Colombo to help solve the case, the religious leadership of the city nearest to the crime scene must conduct the eglah arufa ritual. This ceremony entailed breaking the neck of a calf and a formal declaration by the city’s elders disavowing any responsibility for the crime. Kohanim participate in the ceremony as well and pray for the nation’s atonement. Whatever.
Oh and I mamish forgot this little known loi sah-say (prohibition), right here in our Parsha, one on my mind daily as I walk the local shopping strips. Moishe cautions the Yiddin not to move boundary markers to increase their property; encroachment is a penalty in every sport. And it’s from this most unlikely of places that the Rabbis derived an injunction against infringing on another’s livelihood. Hey: whatever happened to this loi sah-say, yet another mitzvo long gone. In its place we have local Vaads (kosher certification agencies) that allow food establishments to open right next to one another as long as they pay the Vaad enough money to cover the salaries of their Mashgichim (kashrut supervisors). Interestingly, this line of the heylige Toirah also became the proof text for the rights of both business owners and trades people to form associations and fix prices. More on that another time.
Mistama you’re wondering what happened to a portion of these mitzvois, especially the ones listed above? Aren’t we supposed to have 613? And why did they disappear? Who got rid of them and why? Mistama you can recommend a few others for extinction. And efsher we need to bring some of them back? Maybe, as we were about to experience Irene, we could have used some strong leadership, efsher a King?
And switching for a moment over to Inyonay Diyomo (issues of the day), this past Friday afternoon as Irene was making threatening noises, taka unusual for a hurricane named after a Jewish girl, if you chap, especially to zone A residents, the Mayor of the City of New York, the Governors of various other states and even our local Mayor here in the five towns, all took to the radio, the TV, the internet and even to bullhorns to talk about and recommend evacuation. Later, as the heylige shabbis was approaching, these calls became mandatory and for the many shoimer shabbis yiddin living in the potentially affected areas, there was confusion: many Toirah-observing Yiddin found themselves facing a conundrum mamish. Evacuate as the Mayor and Governor called for or sit home and enjoy the kugil and the eishes chayil, of course while thinking about Irene, if you chap? And the Oisvorfer was thinking whether it’s time or not to bring back the Jewish king, who may have made a decision for all, because as he read the email messages from the local Rabonim, a headache he zicher did get.
And if you left Lawrence as one Rabbi said you could, another that you should, but got to Woodmere where another said you shouldn’t, what next? Turn around? – Yikes!!! Said a practical Rabbi from Lawrence azoy. Actually he didn’t say much but did disseminate the following clear and concise directions:
The following is reprinted from the Halacha Hurricane Manual published by Agudath Israel of Florida, based on questions asked to Rabbi Moshe Heinemann, Rav Agudas Yisroel of Baltimore. I approve of all the piskei halacha on this page:
1. In case of an impending hurricane predicted to hit on Shabbos, may one leave the radio on?
Yes, leave the radio on in a private area on a low volume.
2. If told to evacuate, what should one do?
One must always do whatever is necessary to protect one’s life. Therefore one is allowed to drive to a secure place and take along whatever is necessary, even money. Once one is out of harm’s way, he should stay put until after Shabbos. If a child or elderly person is present and staying in the car would be a danger, one can proceed to a shelter. One may also put gas in the car if needed to arrive at a safe place.
3. If one stays home, may the shutters be placed on the windows?
There are two popular types of shutters: accordion and panel. Accordion shutters are permanently attached to the home and may be closed. Panel shutters need to be installed with each use and may only be placed on the windows if the situation is one where life is in danger-not to protect property.
4. If instructed to bring indoors all loose furniture and garden equipment, is one allowed to?
One is permitted to bring indoors whatever might pose a danger.
5. If someone sees a power line fall and it poses a danger can one contact the authorities?
A person should never venture out during or right after a hurricane. Coming in contact with downed power lines could be fatal. Unless the power line could cause a serious danger to the people in the home, one should wait until after Shabbos to report it.
6. Does the category of the hurricane make a difference?
The different categories represent the intensity of the hurricane winds and the danger they pose. But the authorities can determine that even a category one or two hurricane poses enough of a threat to certain areas to demand an evacuation. In such cases, all necessary precautions should be taken.
7. If someone lives alone and needs assistance to evacuate, may one drive there to pick the person up and bring him or her to safety?
One is allowed to do what is necessary to protect one’s own life or the life of someone else in danger.
8. At what wind velocity should the eruv not be assumed to be kosher?
Once the winds reach the speed of 35 mph, one should assume the eruv is not kosher and should not carry outside.
9. If the electricity went out and was then turned back on, may one eat the food that was on the blech or hot-plate?
If the food was fully cooked (or even 1/3 cooked) and is still hot, one may consume the food. Otherwise, one should consult a Rav.
List of essential items: batteries, flashlights, candles, yartzheit candles, canned food, bottled water- 1 gallon per day per person, battery powered radio, important documents sealed in a water proof bag, insurance information, photographs of household valuables.
Ober (but), said a Rabbi from Woodmere (one of my personal favorites):
In the midst of our Shabbat preparations, a mandatory evacuation was just announced. Everyone in our area who lives south of Sunrise Highway up to Rockville Centre is urged to evacuate by 5 PM on Saturday to areas north of Sunrise Highway. It is too late for most of us to leave or even to take advantage of the Far Rockaway bus to Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim Dormitory. The phone is ringing constantly in our house with people asking for advice.
I am not a prophet and I speak for myself only. This is my opinion: I plan to stay put unless they announce an approaching Tsunami. I believe THERE IS NO REASON TO PANIC AND RUN. THERE IS NO REASON TO BE MECHALEL SHABBOS (VIOLATE THE SABBATH RULES) AT THIS TIME. I PLAN TO CELEBRATE SHABBOS AS I ALWAYS DO. The weatherman has predicted that the storm will really begin in earnest well after Shabbos, more like Sunday early morning. Hence, I believe there is ample time to leave after Shabbos if you choose to leave your home. If it makes you feel better, leave your radio on over Shabbos. In the case of any Pikuach Nefesh (LIFE-THREATENING) communal issue that emerges on Shabbos, the shul dialer will call your home and I will personally give instructions on the dialer.
All regularly scheduled minyanim will take place tomorrow. We are adding a 4 PM minyan for Mincha for your convenience.
I am told that police and fire sound trucks will announce the evacuation tomorrow in the streets. No one will be forced to leave! However, if you stay and you have a rescue emergency during the storm, rescue personnel will not be allowed to put themselves at risk to help you..
AGAIN, THERE IS PLENTY OF TIME TO LEAVE YOUR HOMES ON SATURDAY NIGHT TO MOVE NORTH OF SUNRISE HIGHWAY BEFORE THE STORM !!!
I do believe that there will be heavy rains and strong winds. There may be power outages and flooding and trees may fall on Sunday. Stay inside on Sunday. Stay safe!
May HASHEM protect all of us.
And what if you left Lawrence and went to the right (I meant towards Far Rockaway,) what then? Nu, you heard this:
Impending Hurricane Irene. According to the latest weather forecast, the hurricane will hit the South Shore no earlier than early Sunday morning. Therefore: as of right now there is no reason to be Mechalel Shabbos or to do anything to desecrate the sanctity of Shabbos. Hence there are many reasons Halachacally NOT to evacuate on Shabbos. Especially because you don’t know what the situation will be after you evacuate, and at the point of your arrival. Re: food, shelter, clothing etc.. Considering there is nothing to do on Shabbos there is no reason to listen to the radio or watch television this Shabbos more than any other Shabbos. The statement issued by “The Vaad Harabonim” is not a product of a meeting of the Rabbonim of the community. (Editors note: is that last statement a shtikle tarte di-sasre (conflcitng message) or not? How could the Vaad as a collective unit be saying this when the writer clearly states that his writing is not a product of a meeting?) For those who live in low lying areas, or are susceptible to flooding i.e. basements etc. and are concerned that they will not have time Motzei Shabbos to make necessary arrangements should certainly plan ahead and do so on Friday Erev Shabbos and not wait for Shabbos. This includes following other prudent advice, such as securing anything loose i.e. outdoor furniture, garbage cans etc.. for those who would feel more comfortable moving into parents, in-laws, friends etc. should certainly do so, and enjoy a Gut Shabbos as all of us who will stay home will B’ezras Hashem. Should you have any She’elos on Shabbos feel free to walk over to the Rav and ask, the Rav and family will B”EH be home for Shabbos. In fact they are having others come to them. Mayor Oliner of the Village of Lawrence has informed me that there is no order of mandatory evacuation. Mayor Blumberg’s order to evacuate pertains to hospitals. Lawrence Village Hall will remain open through the weekend (including Shabbos). He graciously allowed me to share his home phone number: 516-239-1418 and his cell phone number: 516-238-3109, use it with good judgment. Remember he is Shomer Shabbos (use it before and after Shabbos). We will try our best to keep you posted. GUT SHABBOS
Said another Rabbi from Lawrence: nothing at all. Why? He evacuated on Friday to a safe location and seemingly didn’t want to get involved. Said his new assistant at early Mincha: that those feeling unsafe, should evacuate. Shoin! Are we confused or not?
Shtleltz zich di shaylo (the question arises): What happens to people, the Oisvorfer included, that belong to several community shuls? Which Rabbi does one listen to? Can one pick and choose? Why not? We seem to follow the Tanna Abaya in some cases and Rovo, his sparring partner in others. We seem to follow Rav in some case and Shmuel in others; sounds logical to me. Moreover, all the Rabbis seem to agree on one issue: support your local Rabbi and since not all local Rabbis agree on much else, as we read just above, by following Rabbi A, you’re by definition not following the others who may in fact be right or wrong on the particular issue. Gevald, I’m so confused! Maybe it’s time for a Jewish king to make the call? And who was the Jewish King and what happened to him? Nu- believe it or not- it’s all here in this week’s parsha. Says the heylige Toirah azoy:
When the People will enter the Land, conquer it, and settle down, and they will ask for a king like the nations around them, it is a mitzva to “place over us” a king (of the RBSO’s choosing) from among the Jewish People; we may not choose a non-Jew as king, or a woman for that matter. In fact, the appointment of a king is one of the last Mitzvois (commandments) listed in the Toirah. The king must not possess too many horses (i.e. in excess of those necessary for his army, etc.) nor may he lead the People back to Mitzrayim (Egypt) – it is forbidden for us to live there (visits are permitted). A king may not have an excessive number of wives (more than 18) nor may he amass excessive wealth (referring to wealth for its own sake; funds necessary for running the kingdom are excluded from the prohibition.) A king must write a Sefer Torah for himself (in addition to the one he is commanded to write as a Jew – mitzva #613).
Say the Rambam: that when the BNY enter the land, they are commanded to fulfill three mitzvois: They must appoint a king, destroy all of Amolake, and build the Beis Hamikdash (Sanhedrin 20b, as codified by the Rambam, Hilchot Melachim 1:1). The Rambam goes on to say that the mitzva of appointing a king precedes and seems to be a prerequisite to the other two mitzvot.
Ober does everyone agree that the appointment of a king was mamish a mitzvah? Avada nisht!! The emes is that there is, of course, a machloikes (argument) in the heylige gemoro regarding the verses of the Toirah that discuss the Jewish king. The Toirah plainly states(Devarim 17:14): “When you come to the land that Hashem your G-d is giving you, you will inherit it and settle in it and you will say: I shall appoint a king over myself … Then indeed you should appoint a king over yourself …” Could this be any more clear? Ober for some, it’s not! They say the language of the Toirah seems obscure and therefore is subject to further interpretation. On the one hand: is it trying to tell us that the monarchy is not the ideal system of government, but the RBSO allows it if the people will demand it? Or is it trying to say that indeed there is a mitzvah to appoint a Jewish King at some point in our history? In fact both interpretations exist and there are more, what else is new? And speaking of Nu, since we got to this point, let’s learn a shtikel gemoro, it won’t kill you, at least that’s what my Rebbe said. His attempt to put his hands in the pants of the talmidim wasn’t so pleasant but he said it was part of Toirah she-baal peh, if you chap.
Says the heylige Gemoro (Sanhedrin 20b): there are three opinions regarding Jewish monarchy in general. First up Reb’ Nechemya who said that the entire issue of appointing a king was written in order to alarm the community to the dangers inherent in monarchy. The mitzva is phrased as a conditional statement which is not obligatory: “When you enter the land which is given to you by God, and possess it and settle, and then say, ‘I wish to appoint a king'”. According to him, there is no mitzva to appoint a King, but if you wish, you may do so. Next: Reb Nehorai agreed with R’ Nechemya that there is no obligation to appoint a king. He said that it’s always better not to have a king. Mistama, it’s also not too pleasant to find out you’re living with a queen, if you chap. However, if the people choose to have a king “like all the other nations in our area,” the Toirah allowed it. Since the Toirah added this phrase, it implied that any request to appoint a king is motivated by a desire to emulate other nations. It is obviously more appropriate for the Yiddin to retain its unique identity and proclaim that the RBSO alone is our king.
Reb Yehudah says farkert (opposite) and that there is a positive mitzva to appoint a king. The Rambam, who knew quite a bit about just about everything, codified the opinion of Reb Yehudah, even though the majority opinion is that monarchy is not the desirable form of government.
R’ Yitzchak Abarbanel was strongly opposed to monarchy. He claimed that there is, in fact, no opinion in the Gemoro that there is a mitzva to appoint a king. Ony if and when the people ask for a king, then we are permitted to appoint one. Shoin!
What taka happened to the Yiddin after they entered the land? Some 400 years later the yiddin woke up and asked Shmuel the Novee (prophet of the time), that a king should be appointed(Shmuel 1:8:5). They wanted “a king so that we may be like all the surrounding nations.”Ober Shmuel was not at all pleased with the prospect of losing his job; Rabbis and other leaders like holding on. We read that Shmuel was very upset at their request and kept warning them that the kingship they were asking for, wouldone day turn against them. Even when the first king Shaul was appointed, Shmuel made a startling ceremony that frightened the people. Many explanations are given regarding why Shmuel was so unhappy. In any case, even if appointing the king is generally a mitzvah, the exact way they asked for it in that generation was, according to the RBSO, inappropriate. Discarding the elderly righteous prophet who was leading them for all these years in favor of a king who “would judge them” was totally improper. Moreover, the people did not ask for a king to fulfill the mitzvah but rather for their own reasons to get the benefits of monarchy.
Efsher (perhaps) he knew through Nevuah (prophecy) that one day Shlomo hamelech (King Solomon) would disobey these rules and collect not 18 wives but 1000 and mistam he would need horses for all of them lest he be the sole rider, if you chap. So Raboyseyee, vus iz de intershta shira (what’s the bottom line)? Ver veyst? The kings are gone, so are their horses, their wives and wealth. It’s hard to imagine the Jews being ruled by a king; hec the Shul President can’t get quiet when he asks for it. The Jewish monarchy has been defunct for more than two thousand years, can it make a comeback? But we do avada still have our local Rabbis and if you read carefully between the lines on what they say and don’t, mistama you’ll know just what to do if Irene or a relative appear on a given Shabbis. Or is the king really gone? Some have suggested that a Rebbe no longer on the scene, at least physically, is or was the king. Long live the king!
Efsher pshat goes back to the first words and possik of the Parsha. “Justice, justice shall you pursue,” he (Moishe) commands them, and you must administer it without corruption or favoritism. Crimes must be meticulously investigated and evidence thoroughly examined-a minimum of two credible witnesses is required for conviction and punishment.
In every generation, says Moishe, there will be those entrusted with the task of interpreting and applying the laws of the Toirah. “According to the law that they will teach you, and the judgment they will instruct you, you shall do; you shall not turn away from the thing that they say to you, to the right nor to the left.”
A gitten Shabbis