Divrei Torah

PARSHAS SHOFTIM 5779

This week’s Parsha mentions several laws related to the court system. A minimum of two witnesses is necessary to prove guilt – both in monetary and in capital cases. Three or more witnesses is no more powerful than two witnesses. The laws of manslaughter and the cities of refuge are discussed as are the laws related to false witnesses.

When discussing the litigants, the Torah states, “and the two men who have the argument will stand before G-d, before the Kohanim and judges who will be in those days.” There are two phrases this sentence that seem to be unnecessary. The first is that the litigants stand “before G-d, before the kohanim and the judges.” They are standing before the judges. What is the phrase “before G-d” doing in the verse? The other phrase is the judges “who will be in those days.” Before what other judges are they going to appear? They cannot appear before judges who don’t live at that time? 

Rashi comments upon both phrases. This D’var Torah will concentrate on the first point – “before G-d”. Rashi comments, “it should appear to the witnesses as though they are standing before G-d.” The litigants must understand that G-d is the ultimate witness, prosecutor, defense and judge. G-d knows what happened. He sees everything, hears everything and remembers everything. Both sides must be honest with themselves. Does the prosecuting litigant believe that he has a valid claim or is he trying to win a settlement that he knows is not rightfully his, but he has an opportunity to gain an advantage? Does the defense really believe that he is innocent or is he trying to find a loophole in the law to avoid payment or punishment?

We read in Pirkei Avos, “pay attention to three matters and you will not sin. Know what is above you, a seeing eye, a listening ear and all your words are inscribed in a book.” If a person is constantly cognizant of the fact that G-d is watching everything that we do, it would be impossible to intentionally do anything wrong or intentionally say any forbidden speech. One could not say “Nobody will know that I ate that non-kosher food”. “Did you hear about so and so?” G-d is watching and listening to everything that we do and say. 

The Torah is telling us that we must keep G-d in mind. We read in the Book of Ruth that Boaz greeted his workers using the name of G-d – “G-d is with you.” The Talmud explains that Boaz instituted that idea in order for people to keep G-d in mind. We must keep G-d in mind at all times – whether we are eating, studying, or playing ball. Even when davening we must keep G-d in mind.

As we approach Rosh Hashana and pray for a good year, the Parsha reminds us to remember G-d wherever we are – whether in court, on the street, in the grocery store or in shul. As King Solomon states, “Know Him in all your ways.” Through always keeping G-d in mind, may He bless us with a year of health and happiness.