The weekly Parsha – Parshas Shoftim

Our Torah portion, Shoftim, opens with the command, “Judges and officers you shall place at all your gates.”

The wording is reminiscent of, but differs from, the one that we say three times daily in the silent Amida prayer, taken from the prophet of Redemption, Isaiah, “Return your judges as of old and your advisors as in the beginning.”

We can well understand why the word “officers” is not part of the promise of the Redemption, for officers enforce the law and will therefore not be necessary at a time when the very existence of evil will be banished from the earth.

Here we see the difference between the times of exile and the times of Redemption.

In our portion, the Torah links the judges to officers indicating that their rulership is by decree and dependent on enforcement.

In the Redemption, soon to come, the judges will be seen more as advisors since the people will be convinced more of the personal benefit that is derived from compliance.

This feeling develops the closeness between judge and judged which is implied in the wording of Isaiah, “your judges” in the second person.

The way this concept is worded in the Torah is associated with the nature of the Torah itself, it being a direct revelation of the will and wisdom of the Almighty, a decree from Above, as it were.

On the other hand the words of the Prophets, though also emanating from G-d, are more clearly associated with the human mind which transmits them and thus are more similar to the judge as advisor mentioned before.

Indeed part of the role assumed by the prophets of each generation has been to care for the spiritual and even material needs of the people.

Our current portion is also the source of Maimonides ruling that the belief in human prophets is a fundamental of Judaism.

In his epistle to Yemen, Maimonides describes “Prophecy returns to Israel” as a preparation to the Redemption particularly in the personage of Moshiach who is to be “close in prophecy to Moshe.”

It is therefore essential to convey to the world that there are human beings in our times who have been endowed with prophecy, that we have a positive commandment to obey them once established as such.

Particularly in the major prophecy that all required conditions for the coming of Moshiach have been met and that we should prepare to greet the Redemption which is immediately to unfold. Moshiach NOW!!!