Thursday, August 28, 2003

Dvar Torah for Shoftim #3: Yiftach BeDoro KiShmuel BeDoro

Within parshat Shoftim, Devarim 17:8-9 states

כִּי יִפָּלֵא מִמְּךָ דָבָר לַמִּשְׁפָּט, בֵּין-דָּם לְדָם בֵּין-דִּין לְדִין וּבֵין נֶגַע לָנֶגַע--דִּבְרֵי רִיבֹת, בִּשְׁעָרֶיךָ: וְקַמְתָּ וְעָלִיתָ--אֶל-הַמָּקוֹם, אֲשֶׁר יִבְחַר ה אֱלֹקֶיךָ בּוֹ
וּבָאתָ, אֶל-הַכֹּהֲנִים הַלְוִיִּם, וְאֶל-הַשֹּׁפֵט, אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם; וְדָרַשְׁתָּ וְהִגִּידוּ לְךָ, אֵת דְּבַר הַמִּשְׁפָּט.

"If there arise a matter too hard for thee in judgment, between blood and blood, between plea and plea, and between stroke and stroke, even matters of controversy within thy gates; then shalt thou arise, and get thee up unto the place which the LORD thy God shall choose.

And thou shall come unto the priests the Levites, and unto the judge that shall be in those days; and thou shalt inquire; and they shall declare unto thee the sentence of judgment."

The gemara, Rosh Hashana 25b picks up on the words וְאֶל-הַשֹּׁפֵט, אֲשֶׁר יִהְיֶה בַּיָּמִים הָהֵם, "and to the judge that shall be in those days," and asks rhetorically, "would it arise in your mind that a man would go to the judge who is not in his days?" Rather we see that you should only go to the judge that is in your days. As it says in Kohelet 7 אַל-תֹּאמַר, מֶה הָיָה--שֶׁהַיָּמִים הָרִאשֹׁנִים, הָיוּ טוֹבִים מֵאֵלֶּה."

That is, each generation has its leaders on that generation's level, and those leaders should be listened to. The gemara associates this with another statement, "Yiftach BeDoro KiShmuel BeDoro."

Rav Schachter noted (a few years ago) in shiur that this is only true if the leader is not an am haaretz (=ignoramus). He has to have some modicum of knowledge in Torah. The Torah hints at this when it states, in Shmot 21:33, "Vechi Yiftach Ish Bor?!"

:) :) :)

Part of the joke relies on the fact that "ki" can mean meany things, including beginning a rhetorical question. For an example of this, look no farther than our parsha! For in Devarim 20:19, it states, כִּי הָאָדָם עֵץ הַשָּׂדֶה, לָבֹא מִפָּנֶיךָ בַּמָּצוֹר?

That is, "for is the tree of the field man, that it should be besieged of thee?"

Update: Some people seem not to get the joke. Look up the pasuk "Vechi Yiftach Ish Bor." (Click on the link.) It means "When a man opens a pit" and is followed by the law of the man's obligations for damages. Yiftach in this sense means open, and is not a reference to the Biblical character, who was not around for Shmos.

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