Weekly Portion

Parshat Shoftim – Deuteronomy 16:18 — 21:9

Topics in this week’s portion include: Judges and Justice, “Sacred Trees and Pillars,” Blemished Sacrifice, Penalties for Idolatry, The Supreme Court, The King, Levitical Priests, Priestly Portions, Special Service, Divination and Prophecy, Cities of Refuge, Murder, Preserving Boundaries, Conspiring Witnesses, Preparing for War, Taking Captives, Conducting a Siege and the Case of the Unsolved Murder.

This week we have the famous admonition: “Righteousness, Righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that the Almighty your God, gives you” (Deut. 16:20).

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Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

“You shall (trust) wholeheartedly in the Almighty, your God” (Deuteronomy 18:13).

We are enjoined to trust in God, but to what degree do we have an obligation to make a normal human effort and what is considered a lack of trust in God?

The question arises regarding testing people before marriage for being carriers of Tay-Sachs disease. Some people wonder whether such testing is not contrary to the trust we are required to have in Divine Providence — why search for problems when in all probability none exist?

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory, (who was one of the foremost authorities on Jewish law) clarified this point: “Although the percentage of infants born with this disease is small and one might be apt to apply the verse: ‘You shall trust wholeheartedly in the Almighty,’ (which Rashi interprets as meaning that one should not delve into the future) in light of the fact that a simple test has been developed for this, one who does not make use of it is like one who shuts his eyes to what can clearly be seen … and since the birth of such a child, God forbid, causes great anguish … it is prudent for all who are considering marriage to undergo this test.” (cited in The Jewish Observer, May, 1986)

Having trust in the Almighty will give a person peace of mind and serenity. However, one should never use a claim of trust in the Almighty to condone laziness or rash behavior. There is a thin line between the virtue of trusting in God and the fault of carelessness and lack of taking responsibility.

The story is told of a man who lived by a river. A policeman warns him to evacuate because of a flood warning. The man rejects the offer and says, “I have perfect trust in the Almighty to save me.” As the water rises, a person in a boat offers to take him to safety. The man again replies with his proclamation of trust and refuses the ride. Finally, as the man is sitting on his roof, a helicopter comes to rescue him; again the man proclaims his trust and refuses the rescue. The water rises, the man drowns and is finally standing in judgment before the Almighty. “God, I had perfect trust in you — how could you let me down?” The Almighty replies, “But, my son, I sent the policeman, the boat and the helicopter!”