The end of the Parshah deals with the עגלה ערופה. The Pasuk says ויצאו זקניך ושפטיך. Rashi says the זקניך are the סנהדרין גדולה. Every time a dead body was found, the entire Sanhedrin would have to get up from Jerusalem and travel to wherever the body was found.
The question is who the beheaded heifer is coming to represent. One could have thought that it represents the murderer as the Pasuk says in the end of Parshas Masei ולארץ לא יכפר לדם אשר שפך בה כי אם בדם שפכו. Meaning that we spill the blood of the עגלה ערופה symbolically in the place of the murderer whose blood needs to be spilled in order to receive כפרה. However, Rashi saysאמר הקדוש ברוך הוא תבא עגלה בת שנתה שלא עשתה פירות ותערף במקום שאינו עושה פירות לכפר על הריגתו של זה שלא הניחוהו לעשות פירות. This would indicate that the heifer was being brought to represent the murdered. But it’s not entirely clear if atonement is required or not. On the one hand, it says וענו ואמרו ידינו לא שפכו את הדם הזה which indicates that they are not responsible, yet the next Pasuk says כפר לעמך ישראל, indicating that they are need for כפרה. So the question is which one is it, do they require atonement or do they not?
The Psukim begin with ויצאו זקניך ושפטיך who are the Sanhedrin, as mentioned above. Then a few Psukim later, the Pasuk says ונגשו הכהנים בני לוי, but then switches back to talking about the Sanhedrin when the Pasuk says וענו ואמרו ידינו לא שפכה שפכו את הדם הזה. It is clear the role of the Sanhedrin in this episode, but what role to the Kohanim play? The Targum and Rashi say that the Kohanim are the ones that say to the people כפר לעמך ישראל. It can be explained that there are two levels of responsibility. There is legal guilt and a broader sense of moral responsibility. The Sanhedrin deal with whether or not the people are guilty to which they say they are not guilty being that לא ראינוהו ופטרנוהו בלא מזונות ובלא לויה. But even though the people didn’t do anything wrong and can’t be found guilty in any which way, Jews believe that if such a tragedy like this occurred, it must be we are not on the level we are supposed to be on. For had we been on the level we ought to be, such a thing like this wouldn’t have happened. Therefore, in this sense, the people are in need of כפרה. The Kohanim are in charge and responsible for the service in the Beis Hamikdash, they represent this higher level of moral responsibility which goes beyond the responsibility of the Sanhedrin.
שופטים and שוטרים
The Parshah begins with שפטים ושטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך אשר יקוק אלהיך נתן לך לשבטיך ושפטו את העם משפט צדק. It interesting that there is a mention of the שוטרים, the law enforcers who are שמכין וכופתין במקל וברצועה עד שיקבל עליו את דין השופט, while the Psukim are still dealing with the role of the Judges. The next Pasuk saysלא תטה משפט לא תכיר פנים וכו' which are all things that the Judges have to know. Even more so, the first Pasuk end with ושפטו את העם משפט צדק which is seemingly addressing the judges, and yet the law enforcement is also mentioned in that Pasuk indicating that they play a role in the ושפטו את העם. Therefore, why are the שוטרים mentioned at this point?
The Sifri says אם יש שוטרים יש שופטים אם אין שוטרים אין שופטים. The Ohr Hachaim struggles with understanding the Sifri how it makes sense that if there are no שוטרים, then there are no שופטים and ends off that the explanation of the Sifri must not be the simple understanding based on how it sounds. Reb Yerucham Fishel Perlow in his commentary on the רס"ג has a long discussion proving that the statement of the Sifri is true that when you don’t have the ability to appoint שוטרים, then you don’t appoint שופטים. The question is why is that so?
Logically, the Sifri is difficult to understand because it is true that without law enforcement it is difficult to enforce the law in every ruling by the judges but it doesn’t mean nobody will listen to the judges. Therefore how it could it say אם אין שוטרים אין שופטים? It must be that the שוטרים are an integral part not only in the enforcing of the law but in the judging of the law. The idea is when the שופטים don’t have the ability to force the law, they lose their ability to judge correctly. If the judges can’t completely control thee people because there is no law enforcement, then the people will control the judges. Therefore the שוטרים play an integral role in ושפטו את העם משפט צדק. Many מנין המצוות count the Mitzvah of appointing שופטים ושוטרים as one מצוה the reason is because הא בהא תליא and without שוטרים then there are no שופטים because if they can’t enforce the law, the law will eventually become twisted and crooked.
The Shlah says that in the Pasuk שפטים ושטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך, the word לך is seemingly extra. He explains that this Pasuk, in addition, is addressing every individual. Every individual is obligated to appoint שופטים בכל שעריו. The gates are the entry and exit points in a person like his eyes and ears. He must decide what he will let his eyes see and what he will not let them see. He will decide what he’ll let his ears hear and what he will not let them hear. But with the addition of שוטרים, it’s clear that a person can only rely on his intellect, שופטים, but must also have שוטרים which is mussar. The mussar is the מקל והרצועה הרודים that will keep a person in check. It’s the self-discipline that will keep him from doing the wrong things.
Based on the idea from the Sifri that אם אין שוטרים אין שופטים, the same thing applies for the individual. If a person doesn’t have the ability and means to control himself and he lacks self-discipline to implement and carry out that which his intellect has decided, then eventually even his intellect will become crooked and skewed. This idea is brought out by Reb Yisrael Salanter in the Iggeres Hamusar. He writes האדם חפשי בדמיונו ואסור במשכלו וכו' ומה נעשה הדמיון נחל שוטף והשכל יטבע אם לא נוליכנו באני'. The imagination is a raging river and the intellect and conscious drowns if we don’t have a boat. The idea is that if a person doesn’t have the self-discipline to implement his intellect, than it’s not that he will drown knowing he is making mistakes, but he will think he is doing the right thing because his שכל will become warped and his שכל will drown.
The אבן האזל writes in the end of הל' מעילה that he heard from a Gaon that a person had a lot of questions. The Gaon responded that if you had questions I would be able to give you answers, but the problem is that you don’t have questions because by you they are answers, not questions. Meaning you already have the excuses and justifications to do what you want and therefore they aren’t really questions, but answers.
והיה כשבתו על כסא ממלכתו
The Pasuk says והיה כשבתו על כסא ממלכתו וכתב לו את משנה התורה הזאת על ספר (יז,יח). Rashi says אם עשה כן כדאי הוא שתתקיים מלכותו. The Sifsei Chachamim explains that the beginning of the Pasuk is seemingly extra because beforehand, his obligation was no different than any other individual. Therefore, Rashi explains it must mean אם עשה כן כדאי הוא שתתקיים מלכותו. However, the אבן עזרא disagrees and says בתחילת מלכותו. According to the אבן עזרא, the Pasuk is saying that immediately when he becomes the king, he must write a sefer torah. The question is that the אבן עזרא is seemingly the simplest explanation of the Pasuk and therefore it’s difficult to understand why Rashi explained the Pasuk differently.
An explanation for Rashi could be based on the Pasuk in מגילת אסתר that says בימים ההם כשבת המלך אחשורוש על כסא מלכותו (א,ב). Rashi explains that כשבת means כשנתקיים המלכות בידו. Based on this, it would make sense why Rashi explained כשבתו referring to קיום מלכות and not תחילת מלכות. But even the אבן עזרא explains the Pasuk in Megilah like Rashi that כשבת refers to קיום מלכות. Even more so, the Psukim indicate that the explanation is such being that it says היה בשנת שלוש למלכו, so obviously when it says כשבת, it’s not תחילת מלכות because he was already in this third year of being king.
It must be the reason why the אבן עזרא explains differently in the Parshah is because in the Parshah, כשבתו is going on any citizen as opposed to in the Megilah, its going on someone who is already a king. In our Parshah, the כשבתו is referring to someone who is just becoming king and therefore he explains it as תחילת מלכותו as opposed to in the Megilah where he was already king, it must be referring to קיום מלכותו.
But according to the אבן העזרא, the Pasuk still needs an explanation as to what the novel idea is that the king must write this torah immediately at the beginning of his מלכות. Because being that aa Jewish king is obligated to write a sefer torah, then it is obvious that when he becomes king, that obligation sets in. Therefore why was it necessary for the Pasuk to say it, according to the אבן העזרא?
The explanation must be that even without the Pasuk, immediately there would be an obligation for the king to write the sefer torah. However, now that the Pasuk says והיה כשבתו which means בתחילת מכלותו, that means this aspect becomes an integral part of the makeup of the mitzvah. Meaning if the king is delayed in writing this torah, it’s not just that he delayed the mitzvah and was מבטל the מצות עשה at that moment, but rather he is missing an integral part of the makeup of the mitzvah being that it wasn’t done בתחילת מלכותו.
כי יפלא ממך דבר למשפט בין דם לדם בין דין לדין ובין נגע לנגע דברי ריבת בשעריך וקמת ועלית אל המקום אשר יבחר יקוק אלהיך בו (יז, ח)
The Chasam Sofer explains this Pasuk as follows. There are somethings that a person finds difficult to understand and because of the difficulty, he locks it out of his brain and he says he is not going to think about it, but that is the wrong thing to do and a person will be punished for doing such a thing. Rather Hashem gives a person these thoughts in order for him to think about it because through thinking about it, he will come to an answer and it will get him to a higher level.
(The Rav added that the Hebrew language may be the language with the must words to express a question קשיא, תיובתא, תימה, מיתביה, פריך וכו' but has very few words for answer.)
This is the meaning of the Pasuk when it says כי יפלא ממך דבר למשפט, that when you will be surprised and exclaim where is the justice, למשפט meaning justice. The world appears unjust and you’ll be bothered by things that seem to be unjustified. But it’s not about ignoring it, rather one should allow himself to think about it because the fact that a person feels this way is in order to bring himself to a higher level of understanding and a deeper level of connection with Hashem. This that it will bring him to a higher level of understanding is expressed in the end of the Pasuk when it says וקמת ועלית that through the פליאה you will be מתבונן and come to a higher level.
Disgrace to Eretz Yisrael
In the Parshah, there are the Psukim that deal with those who are excused from going to war. The Psukim bring those that are excused in a specific order having בנה בית חדש precede אשר נטע כרם, but the Rambam switches the order and puts כרם before בית. Within this context, the Chasam Sofer asks how רבי נהוראי in the end of Kidushin could sayמניח אני כל האומנות שבעולם ואיני מלמד בני אלא תורה if the Pasuk says ואספת דגניך? He explains that when the Jews are on their own land, then they should be involved in working and different professions, but not for פרנסה because the רבי נהוראי and the Rashi are right. Rather the reason is for מצות ישוב א"י that it’s a כבוד for Eretz Yisrael to contain people of all professions and doesn’t need to look elsewhere for people to do certain jobs. If Eretz Yisrael lacks people with certain professions, than it’s disgraceful to Eretz Yisrael for someone to say there is no one in Eretz Yisrael that does such and such profession and we must bring someone in from another place. But when the Jews are not on their own land, and there are already many doctors and lawyers, then there is no need for us to go into these professions and we should only learn torah.