Friday, August 13, 2010

Parshat Shoftim - פרשת שופטים

...ואמר אלהם שמע ישראל אתם קרבים היום למלחמה על-איביכם

דברים, כ: ג

One of the many things set out in Parshat Shoftim are the rules of war. Famously later we learn that a Jewish army is not permitted to destroy trees, although this is normal military behaviour, and we also learn that a man who desires a captive woman must adhere to a strict set of rules before he may take her as a partner.

Here, at the beginning of this particluar chapter, we learn that Am Yisrael are instructed to gather and listen to the words of the Kohen Gadol, who served to act as the Army's Chief of Staff and prepared the warrior for battle. In "Ma'ayanah shel HaTorah" a small paragraph attributed to "Sefarim" points out that the word Sh'ma, (hear,) is crucial. As I have mentioned in my Divrei Torah a number of times, when the Hebrew word for hearing is used, it also means something that is accepted. Another aspect of hearing is that it is intriniscally linked to collecting. You might ask yourself at this point what do listening and collecting have to do with one another, so I'll try to pass over something I've learned about the faculty of hearing.

When a person sees something, he sees the entire entity at once, and there can be no doubt as to what it is that the person is perceiving. But when that person hears something, they only hear that thing in stages; a piece at a time. If we take music for an example, one never hears a song, but rather hears a note at a time. If you ask someone to pick their favourite song and then ask them whether they like an individual note, they'll look at you as if you're mad - a person likes the song as an entity - not for it's constituent parts! Similarly, when one listens to another person talking, one only hears one word at a time, and by the time one hears one word, the previous word is only a memory. Hearing, by its very definition, is a process of memory, collection, and most importantly, unification.

It is no coincidence that "Sh'ma" is the opening word used in the most famous sentence in Judaism, for when we talk of oneness, of achdut, we talk of listening and bring back together that which is seemingly separate. And here too, when the nation of Israel enters into a war, all the constituent parts must come together, else failure beckons (God forbid).

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom!


  1. Emanuel,

    Nice to meet you this shabbat. Thanks for coming to our simcha, sharing your dvar torah and helping out afterwords.

    Do you have an email address?



  2. Hi Josh :)

    Nice to meet you, too. I trust that you had a wonderful time at the simcha.

    My email address is elanmiller {at}