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 Summary of this week's Torah portion 

by the editors    
of Torah from Dixie    

Summary of this week's Torah portion:  Parshat Shoftim  (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9) deals primarily with the commandments regarding the establishment of a system of leadership in the land of Israel, beginning with the appointment of courts, judges, and officers in every city. After delineating the process of prosecuting an idolater, the Torah teaches that the death penalty shall be imposed upon any scholar who renders a decision against the Great Sanhedrin (High Court of 71 judges) in Jerusalem, no matter how important or great the disputing scholar may be. The Jewish people are commanded to request a king once they have settled in the land of Israel. Some of the special gifts which are to be given to the Kohanim (priests) are listed. After describing the nature of prophecy, the Torah repeats the laws of the Ir Hamiklat, city of refuge for accidental murderers, and describes the special judicial case of Edim Zomemim, conspiring witnesses. The Torah then deals with several aspects of the nation's conduct in war, telling them not to be afraid of the enemy, and listing those people who are exempt from army service. The enemy must first be given the opportunity to make peace, and the Jewish people must be careful not to destroy any fruit trees in battle. The Torah portion concludes with the case of the unresolved murder and the ritual of the eglah arufah, the axed heifer, which serves as an atonement for the people of the neighboring cities for not preventing the murder.

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