Shabbat shalom, chodesh Elul tov, and see you at 7 PM.
The name of this week’s parshah is Shoftim, or in English, “Judges”. While the parshah deals with a few topics, the main focus is on courts of law that are to be established once the People of Israel settle in the Land. Of particular interest is the rule that no one may be sentenced to death-or indeed for any other offense-on the testimony of one witness. Two witnesses are needed to obtain a conviction in a criminal case. The Sages expanded upon this-they taught that the two witnesses had to be persons of unimpeachable moral character, that they had to witness the actual commission of the crime, and moreover had to warn the perpetrator in advance that he was about to commit a capital offense. Under these conditions, of course, a death sentence would be practically impossible. The Rabbis were of the opinion that the death penalty, while prescribed in the Torah, was so repugnant that it was to be avoided at almost all cost. Our Tradition holds that there is only One Judge who has the power over life and death. As we enter the month of Elul, the month of preparation for Yom Hadin, the Day of Judgement, let us remember who the True Judge really is. Let us not judge our fellow humans harshly. And while this is a time of reflection and self-assessment, let us not judge ourselves harshly, either. Rather, let us trust in the judgement of God, who is as Moshe said, “a compassionate and merciful God, patient and abounding in loving kindness and truth”. Shabbat Shalom and Hodesh Tov.Hazzan Yitzhak Ben-Moshe