Weekly Reading Insights: 



From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of Moses)

13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman

14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben Asher

16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe Alshech of Tsfat

17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya Horowitz

18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar


"If there be found in the midst of you within any gates which the Eternal your G-d gives you."

I have already explained that when he speaks of the ordinances, he mentions first the judgment to be executed upon the idols or their worshipers. He states [here] "within any of your gates which the Eternal your G-d gives you," not to imply that this law applies only in the Land of Israel, since one who worships idols outside the Land is also liable to stoning. The purport thereof is rather to state, "if the matter be found in one of the distant cities which G-d will give you when He will enlarge your border - and it be told you, and you hear it, in whatever city you may be, you are to investigate the matter diligently and if you discover that the charge is true, you shall bring them forth to that city wherein they worshipped, and stone them. [verse 4 here]" He states that such abomination was done in Israel [verse 4 here] [implying that it is done within the nation rather than within the Land] in order to hold the worshipper [of the idols] culpable even outside the Land, for in the case of the apostate city he said, that such abomination is done 'in your midst' [above 13:15] [within the Land], but here he mentioned 'within any of your gates' [a term generally limited to the Land] for it refers to common events as we have explained, and then he states in Israel in order to teach that the worshiper be stoned at the gates [of the city] in which he worshipped the idols. This is [the law] in the Land, for outside the Land he is stoned at the entrance of the court where he was judged.
Now this commandment is explanatory, since He already stated 'He that sacrifices unto the gods shall be utterly destroyed', this applying in every place and at every time. Therefore he repeated it in order to explain what must be added to the commandment, but he abbreviated regarding matters previously mentioned.
And by way of the Truth, [the mystic teachings of the Kabbalah], it is possible that he mentioned 'within any of your gates' because he stated in transgressing His covenant this [transgression] being the abomination done in [the Land of] Israel. Scripture made it known that the covenant is in the Land of the covenant, whereas he who lives outside the Land is as if he worshipped idols. [Kethuboth 110b] I have already mentioned this subject. [Lev. 18:25]


Rabbeinu Bachya

"Judges and law enforces you shall appoint for yourself ..." [16:18]

The power of justice is great seeing that as long as men sit in judgment judging crime G-d (the attribute of Justice) does not bother to sit alongside of them but judges them by means of the attribute of Mercy. Should the system of justice on earth become corrupt, the attribute of Justice will judge mankind instead. We find an allusion to this in Psalms (Midrash Tehillim 62) "when justice is not practiced on earth it will be practiced in heaven," when it is not practiced on earth G-d will have to exercise His "vocation" of being a Judge. When man enacts Justice G-d is relieved of this duty. In appreciation of being relieved of this task G-d judges mankind with the attribute of Mercy. This is the deeper meaning of Leviticus 26:3: "If you will walk in My statutes…I will give your rain at its appropriate time."



"Do not bend the judgement; do not show favoritism; do not take bribes...." [16:19]

What is judged down here on earth has been decreed already in the heavens. A faulty decision would therefore be tantamount to corrupting judgment already made. The reason for faulty decisions would be hakarat panim, "regognizing faces," the tendency to favour certain litigants for a variety of reasons. The judge is warned to concentrate on Him who has no face, i.e., is invisible, whose sense of justice has to be honoured. Be guided by supra personal considerations. Then you will not be tempted to accept bribes, and incorruptibility will follow naturally ("you will not," rather than "you shall not").
The Zohar points out that the Torah does not only forbid the practice of showing preference, i.e., lo tissa panim, but even lo takkir panim, not even to do so in one's own mind, when such attitude is not visibly reflected in the judgment handed down. In other words, if you do not want to express favoritism, do not even think it. The commandment not to deflect the law is absolute, even if the judge's considerations are to save the face of the losing litigant, and thereby preserve a measure of harmony between the litigants. By decreeing compromise for reasons of maintaining peace and harmony, the next time the judge may depart from the strict rule of law for reasons of personal honour etc., and in the end the entire system will be corrupted.



"Justice, justice you shall pursue." (Deut. 17:20)

The active pursuit of justice will be a direct result of the Courts handing down fair judgments. The reason the word "justice" is repeated is because there is a justice in our world and there is another justice in the Celestial Regions. The first kind is generally known as "dina malchuta dina" (literally, "the judgments of the kingdom are the judgments"), that the judgments pronounced in this world represent the divine name Ado-nai, i.e. the letters in the word "dina" rearranged. The justice in the Celestial Regions is anchored in the sefira of bina from which din/judgment, gevura emanates.

The justice in our world is the mystical dimension of the earth. The justice in the Celestial Regions is the mystical dimension of the World to Come. The promise of inheriting terrestrial Eretz Yisrael is tied to the pursuit of justice in this world…

Both Eretz Yisrael and the World to Come are gifts G-d gave Israel but through suffering. All such suffering originates in the sefira of gevura. Whenever the Sanhedrin bases its judgments on din Torah [strict legal interpretation of Torah Law], these result in sufferings, because Torah too is one of the three gifts we received from G-d which we acquire only by some suffering.


Ohr HaChayim

"When you approach a city to fight against it, and you call out to it 'peace'." [20:10]

Perhaps this paragraph alludes to something that Rabbi Shimon bar Yochai said in Zohar volume 2 page 62 that G-d sends man an additional soul to guide him on the right path and to save him from committing sins against Him. We may perceive G-d as addressing this additional soul telling it: "when you approach a city," i.e. the body of the human being whom you will inhabit which is known as ir [city].

We know from Zohar Chadash Ruth page 97 on the verse in Kohelet 9:14 "there is a small city with few inhabitants," that the city Solomon speaks of is the human body. This additional soul may be the "miracle" needed to protect the Jewish soldier at the time he goes into battle as it helps stop him from committing sins which could result in this violent death in war.

The Torah was careful to write 'aleyha' [against it, but lit. her] which here needs to be translated as "on her account." The idea is that this soul is intended to save the body from the evil urge; it is in line with the verse in Kohelet 9:14 which continues "against which [the small city] a great king comes and lays siege to it. An insignificant looking wise man saves that small city form the onslaught of the great king using his wisdom" [compare Nedarim 32].

"..and you call out to her 'peace.'" The meaning is that you do not immediately wade into the den of iniquity [your evil urge] and try to conquer it in one single frontal assault; rather you first suggest that it also give heaven its due, as a result of which it will experience great benefits. As a result the evil urge will allow that man has a duty also vis-a-vis heaven. After all, secular activities such as eating and drinking in this life also enable man to perform his spiritual tasks better. As a result of this accommodation with the evil urge one assures oneself of not losing one's hereafter altogether.

"It will be if they an answer of peace, etc.,…and they shall serve you." [20:11]

The word vayehi - 'it will be if' as usual, refers to something joyful; here too, if you approach to the evil urge is in the manner we have just described so that you have opened the door a crack to spiritually positive values, G-d in His turn will open this door wide, i.e. the 248 bones and 365 sinews which man's body is constructed of and they will all become subservient to the soul [instead of to the evil urge]. The body will then perform both the positive commandments and refrain from violating the negative commandments.

"..and they shall serve you," i.e. like a slave who is afraid of his master and will neither deviate to the left not to the right.



Ramban - credits
Adapted from the 13th century classic by the illustrious scholar, philosopher and defender of the faith, Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman-known as 'RAMBAN' or 'Nachmanides', a master kabbalist in his own right and a major link in the transmission of Jewish mysticism-based on the excellent annotated English translation, Nachmanides on the Torah, by Rabbi Dr. Charles B. Chavel

Bachya - credits
Selected with permission from the seven-volume English edition of The Torah Commentary of Rabbeinu Bachya, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk. Rabbi Bachya ben Asher [1255-1340] of Saragosa, Spain, was the outstanding pupil of Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (the "Rashba"), a main disciple of Rabbi Moshe ben Nachman (the "Ramban"). Several books have been written about the Kabballah-based portions of R. Bachya's commentary.

Alsheich - credits
Adapted from Torat Moshe - the 16th commentary of Rabbi Moshe Alshech, the "Preacher of Zefat" on the Torah, as translated and condensed in the English version of Eliyahu Munk)

Shelah - credits
Rabbi Isaiah Horowitz was born in Prague around the year 1565. He served as Rabbi of Cracow and other congregations before he was appointed as the Rabbi of the community of Frankfurt on Main in the year 1610. In 1916, Rabbi Horowitz moved to Prague where he became the Chief Rabbi of the city. He moved to Eretz Yisrael about 1621. He was rabbi in Jerusalem and in Tiberias, where he died in or about 1630. In addition to his magnus opus, Shenei Luchot HaBrit, he also compiled an edition of the prayer-book with a comprehensive commentary. Many of his innovations, including his formulation of the Kol Nidrei prayer, have become part and parcel of the Ashkenazi Siddur.

Ohr HaChayim - credits
Selected with permission from the five-volume English edition of Ohr HaChaim: the Torah Commentary of Rabbi Chaim Ben Attar, as translated and annotated by Eliyahu Munk.
The holy Rabbi Chayim ben Moses Attar was born in Sale, Western Morocco, on the Atlantic in 1696. His immortal commentary on the Five Books Of Moses, Or Hachayim, was printed in Venice in 1741, while the author was on his way to the Holy Land. He acquired a reputation as a miracle worker, hence his title "the holy," although some apply this title only to his Torah commentary.

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