August 17, 2018 ~ Shabbat SHOFETIM. Maqam AJAM.

Shabbat Reeh

The Path

וסרתם מן הדרך - In the wilderness of Phoenix, Arizona, I used to hike Squaw Peak every week. When climbing this mountain, there was a designated path to get to the top, and this is the trail that everyone took. One time, however, thinking that I can beat the system by getting to the top quicker, I intentionally went off the path. Big mistake. The amount of times that I slipped on loose rocks causing me to land in thorns of cactus are too numerous to count. This experience caused me to understand the concept mentioned in Deuteronomy 11:28 about "straying off the path" (וסרתם מן הדרך) and the danger of pursuing ways "that you don't know" (אשר לא ידעתם). For me, this parable represents the choice of "paths" that we all have. It is the Torah's recommendation (for our own sake) that we choose a path that is most familiar to us, our families, and our community, and not an alien one; often a path to nowhere. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 19, 2017.


ודרשת וחקרת ושאלת היטב - "Innocent until proven guilty" (Presumption of Innocence) has become the standard when conducting civil affairs. Although this idea is attributed to Julius Paulus Prudentissimus, a third century Roman jurist, who said "burden of proof is on he who declares, not on he who denies," this very principle can be traced back to the Torah. In the case of wicked people who proselytize to "worship foreign gods," the death penalty is applied only after intense scrutiny. This harsh verdict, as per Deuteronomy 13:15, is delivered only after "you investigate (ודרשת), and you inquire (וחקרת), and you interrogate thoroughly (ושאלת היטב)." To maintain absolute justice in society, extreme care is always given to the investigation process in order to make sure that no one is ever punished in error. This also teaches us never to jump to conclusions. In any scenario, we must always make sure to thoroughly evaluate all the facts prior to making decisions. Beth Torah Bulletin, August 11, 2018.