The Torah portion, or parasha, this week is Shoftim and is found in Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9. In this parasha, Moses reminds the people of God’s admonition to appoint judges and officers in the all their communities to insure the administration of justice. “Justice, Justice, shall you pursue that you may thrive and occupy the land the Lord, your God, is giving you” (Deut.16:20). The people are again reminded not to copy pagan forms of worship or use pagan shrines even if they dedicate them to God. If and when Israel establishes a monarchy, the king must make a copy of the Torah and keep it with him at all times, for the king also is subject to God’s laws. The king is not allowed to send people back to Egypt to bring back items to add to the king’s wealth (i.e., horses) because “you must not go back that way again”. Since the priests and Levites have no territory of their own they must be supported by the agricultural dues paid by the members of the other tribes. Sorcery in all its forms is forbidden. True prophets are to be obeyed but false prophets must be put to death. After the Israelites have conquered the land and settled in it, they are to designate three cities of refuge to which a person who commits accidental manslaughter may flee and be safe from the relatives of the person he killed.
There are two main points I would like to bring out in this passage. First, God puts a lot of weight on the importance of justice. It also appears to be difficult to achieve because it takes a commitment to continue to pursue it, regardless of what happens around us. Second, going back to Egypt (traditionally looked at as any form of narrowness or constriction) is not an option. There are times when we need to close the door to unhealthy past experiences or people and move into the future, accepting new paths, new identities, and new ways of doing things that are healthy.