Parashat Shoftim: Shem: The Fourth Craftsman of Redemption
Rabbi David Katz
Parashat Shoftim is an extremely unique Parsha and becomes ultra dynamic when one applies to it the themes of Noahides, Redemption, and Shem, to name just a few of the enlightening topics laced within the Parsha. [*Note: In Torah definition, “Redemption” is the time before, after, or during the advent of the Moshiach/Messiah in Israel, upon which the exiles will gather into the Land. The World would then come under Torah Law and Peace would reign upon the World in its redeemed state.]
There are Four Craftsmen of the Redemption spoken of in the Talmudic Tractate of Sukkah [52b]: The Messiah son of David, Messiah Son of Joseph, Elijah, and The Righteous Priest, who is identified by Shem due to his efforts with Noah his father and the Ark of the Flood. It can be said that each of these four men represent a bigger and more defined Torah concept. For this matter, “David” would be the King, Joseph the Judge, Elijah the Prophet, and the Priest is Shem. The rationale for such attribution is that each of the Four have direct ties in the Torah with its associate. If one takes a simple notice and glance at the Parsha, he will see that the nature of most of the stanzas deal with exactly these Four issues of King, Judge, Prophet, and Priest; this also sets out this Parsha from the rest, by its exclusive nature here. It should also be noted that there are several Noahide issues brought up as well, such as the enactment against idolatry and Israel’s “optional war” Torah Laws, one which directly comes into contact with Noahides around the World, being that the conquered people must accept the Seven Laws of Noah in the war’s outcome. And finally, when dealing with the command to elect a King, we come into focus with Shem and his association within the Kingship and his part as a Craftsman. From here we understand that Shem and Noahides have a role in the Redemption, and with the help of Tradition [in writing] these roles have become defined, to which is of major import to the Noahides of today.
The two most essential Noahide/Shem topics that should come into a clearer focus are the concepts of The Optional War scenario and Shem and his relationship to Kingship.
When Israel goes out to [an optional] war, they must shout out to it in “Peace” with hopes of avoiding a war. It should be noted that the nature of War is for the good of Israel and the objective is to make Peace. Yet if the nation seeks not peace, but war, then Israel will wage a war when peace is to no avail. The Torah promises victory for Israel, and the nation must now adhere to the Seven Laws of Noah. The major question that arises from this scenario [as per the laws described in the writings of the Rambam] is what happens to the Noahides of this Nation? Are they subject to subjugation? The answer to this question is found in the writings of the Rambam and the commentaries around his words – to which they conclude: no, the Noahide is not subject. One must ask, “what is the fate of the Noahide, etc?”
As this conquered nation is now taking on the Seven Laws, he is being elevated to a status that is equivalent of the Ger Toshav [Noahide in the Land that has many levels of distinction that we clarify]. This Ger Toshav has taken upon himself the bare minimum of rejecting idolatry and his continuation of eating non-kosher meat. Once this level is achieved by the inhabitants, they will be encouraged to elevate themselves spiritually, towards the acceptance of the Seven Laws of Noah, and beyond with their relationship with Hashem. This nation is penalized if it is a “good nation” but just does not believe in the Seven Laws of Noah; the nations of the World must officially take on the Seven Laws, and ideally not by an outcome of war. The Talmud says the method of which people should accept the Seven Laws as an official elevation in soul is to form a mini court of 3 men and declare his observance, and all are witness to this. Jethro and Ruth went even as far as to change their names, which seems that the “Ger Tzedek” undertakes. [Ger Tzedek is the Noahide who is observant of Torah in a way that goes beyond the Seven Laws of Noah fulfillment out of his Love for Hashem. The Torah seeks out the Ger Tzedek to rise from the Ger Toshav. As was stated the Ger Toshav has simply done the bare minimum of rejecting idolatry, while the Ger Toshav who is also called Ger Tzedek is achieving a higher resonance with Hashem. It is known, Hashem desires the service of Man, the Noahide especially, for Hashem is known to have a special Love for the Noahide.] Thus while the conquered nation has missed out on its declaration status and is now subjugated, the known Noahides of the Land will have gained the ability to live in the Land of Israel, thus they will not know of subjugation. The Torah shows its view on the importance of the spectrum of the idolater all the way to the Ger Toshav/Tzedek; the goal is the pursuit of the highest relationship one can have with Hashem. As always, this relationship is the choice of Man, and Man can only do what is in his soul’s capacity to achieve.
The mechanism of War is the rejection of Peace, and it is this Peace that Shem stands for! Jerusalem is called “Jerusalem” as a mash-up of the concepts Fear and Peace in Hebrew, as stated by Abraham and Shem respectively in their meeting on the Temple Mount. Thus when the World comes to light under “peace” is to say that the Redemption has come, war will eventually be no longer, and the father of Peace, Shem, will take his place as one of the Four Craftsmen in the rectified World.
The Holy Book titled, “Avot D’ Rabbi Natan” delves into discussion of Shem as both a King and a Priest, for he is a “Priest to Hashem Above” as well as a Righteous King “Malki Tzedek” [my King of Righteousness]. The author asks which one is more imperative to Shem, king or priest? The answer is derived that he is a more essential king – which brings us back to our Four Craftsmen which consists of a king, and the Parsha as well, which states that the people will want a king. But can Shem fulfill this?
The Four Craftsmen has several locations scattered through the writings of the Torah, and can be defined in several ways, as per the characters involved in our pre-requisite four functions that we related from this Parsha. [For example: instead of Righteous Priest, another location says “High Priest”] These characters with their initial letters spells “[that of] Messiah”: דמשיחא – David, Moses, Shem, Joseph, Enoch, and Abraham. These six souls make up what is called the “King Messiah” – to which Shem is a big part of! Yet our Parsha says the King must be a Brother to you!
When we say the Shema along with its silent utterance, the same way Jacob did with his sons, [The Shema in that sense was a declaration of the Brothers to Israel their Father, and Jacob’s Response “Blessed is…” was his accreditation to his teacher in Torah, and that this fractal should be iterated for the rest of time in the transmission of Torah. This is the human Shema, whereas when recited today, we recite to Hashem stating his Unity. Jacob and his sons conveyed the Shema together to state the Human transmission of Gods Unity, thereby achieving both connotations.] The essence of Torah transmission is expressed in Jacob’s words, as the Holy Zohar credits this attribution.
Jacob answered his sons’ Listen Israel, Hashem our God, Hashem is One with Blessed is The Name/ Shem of honor, his Kingship is to last forever and ever. As the obvious connotation is to Hashem and his Kingdom, Jacob was also implying hints of the source of Torah, and in particular how it will be in the End of Days, to which Shem is involved as a Craftsman and as the Father of Torah of the New World.
The Zohar shows that Shem is indeed a Brother to Israel as the first and last words of Shema spell “Brother Shem is a witness.” [שמע . אחד – notice the first two letters of each word spell “Shem” and “Brother” while the last letter of each word spells “witness”. It should also be noted that it was mentioned Enoch as a contributor to the Craftsmen above, and he is considered a Witness of God in the works of Kabalah. Shem was influenced by Enoch in an angelic sense, in association with the angel Michael with his meeting Abraham on the Temple Mount, as Michael is infused with the angelic nature of Enoch, as it said by Enoch, “God took him.”]
Thus there is an answer to the Torah’s demand of a Jewish King must be of your brethren. The King Messiah is due to be a special soul that is composed of these six characters mentioned above, with David in the front. But as is seen in several places, Shem is fit for the kingship, to which Jacob hinted at in his response to his sons: “Blessed is Shem, of honor, may his Kingdom reign for eternity. One thing that we know about Shem is that he is totally nullified to Hashem, thus any Kingdom of Shem IS the Kingdom of Hashem, as Shem came to express the Kingdom of Hashem is the only Kingdom. This is the task of the King Messiah: to proclaim Hashem is was and always will be King – forever and ever. David, the King Messiah will cement this issue, but not without the spiritual aid of Shem who began this mission from his inception to the World.
The conclusion of Shem as a Craftsman is that he is a true Brother of Israel, and Kingship is partially maintained through his elevated soul. This is especially dear to Jews and Noahides, for the King Messiah brings this evasive Peace to the World and brings the Noahides back through Torah, as reported by the Midrash. One must assume that the soul of Shem as the Fourth Craftsman is directly involved in this process, as Torah and Noahides originate from Shem. Thus we see in the Parsha of Shoftim, Noahides are sought by Hashem to be a part of the Redemption and Peace, and join with Shem their most direct forefather [as the original ben-Noah]. Just as the sky is the limit for Shem, in his many duties as the Righteous Priest and Malki Tzedek, so too the Noahide – the sky is the limit, for he Loves Hashem and Hashem loves him. Contrary to the war with a nation, the Noahides and Shem stand for Peace upon society and Redemption to the Land of Israel [signaled by the building of the Third Temple].
One can ponder, if Shem is a Priest and a King, and his duties towards the Kingdom are his first priority, then what will be of the Righteous Priest? Perhaps just as we say, Toldos Noah [Offspring of Noah], there are also “Toldos Shem” – as it says in Genesis 10:1 : “and these are the Toldos [offspring] of Bnei [sons of] Noah: Shem!” The Torah says that Noahides that learn Torah are likened to the Priest, and are encouraged to pursue righteousness in their learning. For the Ger Toshav who seeks to be the Ger Tzedek [Toshav] may have a proactive portion of the Redemption, in the association with Shem, the Fourth Craftsman, the Righteous Priest, something we all can [literally] strive to be, and help usher in the Redemption [and eliminate war] speedily in our days.
In The Meantime: