We have entered into another detail-packed Parshah this week. The Torah reading deals with fundamentals of Jewish leadership, including the establishment of Jewish courts and a number of laws relating to judges.

It was the Great Sanhedrin’s responsibility to make sure that a Jewish court of law functions in every town of Eretz Yisrael, as well as in the large cities. The judges were aided by policemen (Shotrim), who enforced the Judges decisions (Devarim 16:18-20).

A potential candidate to be a judge was tested in three departments; Intelligence, Capacity to Judge and Torah knowledge, if he possessed all of these and passed a test, the Torah Sages would select the man as a judge (Menachot 65a).

The Torah warns a Judge not to accept a bribe, and that even when intending to judge truthfully, they are not allowed to act favorably toward one of the litigants. A judge is not allowed to listen to one of the litigants argument before the other has arrived, and has to devote enough thought to a case.

Judges or leaders are required to prevent wrongdoings in the community, they should seek truth and justice and reject falsehood, be G-d fearing, have a good reputation and be liked by their acquaintances for their pleasant conduct. It is also crucial for the people appointing the judges to only appoint qualified judges, the sages state that a person who appoints an unqualified judge is tantamount to one who plants a tree for idol worship (Avodah Zarah 52a), the passage about forbidden trees and alters is right next to the topic of Judges in this Parshah (Devarim 16:21-22).

Israel as a nation had three commandments to fulfill once it was established in its land. One of them was to request a king (Sanhedrin 20). The Torah reading deals with the appointment of a Jewish king (Devarim 17:14-20). A King is allowed up to 18 wives and this was seen done by King David as he had 18 wives.

The first ever Jewish king was Shaul, we learned about his appointment in the book of Samuel (Shmuel I:11:15). Unfortunately many of the Jewish Kings throughout Biblical history did not adhere to all the commandments, including, Achav, Menashe, Rechavim, Yeravim Ben Nabot and even King Solomon transgressed the three main commandments of a King, as he acquired too much wealth, horses and had 1000 wives (Sanhedrin 21)!!

The Parshah then stresses the importance of listening to a prophet and doing what a true prophet says (Devarim 18:14-22). There were many great Jewish prophets including, Yirmiyahu, Isaiah, Amos, Joel and many more.

We then once again learn about the mitzvah of separating the Cities of Refuge (Devarim 19:1-13), if an inadvertent murder takes place in a city, we learned about this also in Parshat Masei (Bamidbar 35:1-34). Three cities were to be separated when entering the land of Israel.

The Parshah then relates that we are not allowed to be superstitious (Devarim 18:14). For example, one can’t believe in lucky charms or specific dates, such as ‘Friday 13th’, and for sure one should not perform any witchcraft, which was in fact the practice of many of the gentile nations.

The Torah then discusses how the Jews are meant to react if a war was going to break out as an enemy was about to attack them. The Torah stresses how one should have total faith in G-d when going to war and mentions that if one is nervous due to his own transgressions, he should leave the army camp. In fact, there was a Kohen who was anointed for every battle, his job was to speak to the army before a battle started and he was to motivate the army and remind them not to lose heart when in battle and to remember that Hashem controls everything in the world (Sota 42a)!

The Torah reading concludes with the mitzvah of the ‘Egla Arufa’ (the calf whose neck is broken) (Devarim 21:1-9).

I would like to dedicate this week's Dvar Torah to the refuah shelaima of Ahuva Bat Chiryah Chaya.