From The Masters Of Kabbalah and Chumash (5 Books of
13th century - "RambaN" - Rabbi Moshe ben
14th century - "Bachya" - Rabbi Bachya ben
16th century - "Alsheich" - Rabbi Moshe
Alshech of Tsfat
17th century - "Shelah" - Rabbi Yeshaiya
18th century - "Ohr HaChayim" - Rabbi Chaim
"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
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
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]
"Judges and law enforces you shall appoint for yourself ..."
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
give your rain at its appropriate time."
"Do not bend the judgement; do not show favoritism; do not take
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,
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.
"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
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.
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.
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)
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
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.