Rabbi David Katz
Parashas Shoftim for all intents and purposes is the introduction to the Torah of Moshiach, in that it introduces with pristine detail the nature of the famed Four Craftsmen of Redemption [Messiahs sons of Joseph and David along with Elijah and Shem the Righteous Priest] through the King, Judge, Priest, and Prophet. Yet another angle, even deeper than the surface understanding, is to see that Moses is retelling the entire Torah in the negative and as a reassessment of Sinai through the repair of Adam, in the guise of guarding against stealing, all in the name of giving the proper counsel to the Gerim. Essentially, this is where we see that Moses is implementing the plan of Jethro’s court system, which is to be erected upon entrance into the Land; this would dually serve as the prophecy in the End of Days when the Seven Laws will come under microscope, and the World returns to its Sinai state of Israel and Ger Toshavim.
Moses upon his own volition brought out the Erev Rav, which tradition holds they were potential Gerim who converted to Judaism not for God’s sake, thus making them corrupt, and setting precedent of all who aspire to ascend on high not for the sake of true Holiness. Such unnatural growth deems one as Erev Rav, and this is precisely what happened at Sinai. Moses had hoped to make more Gerim, yet this was not a lost cause, for even though failure gave way to the Erev Rav, this sealed their fate of death by the same token. Their destiny is to be eradicated each time this pattern is reiterated, therefore Moses’ will was achieved, and Aaron was the agency to seal the trap. Along these lines, the Messiah will duplicate this victory from Mercy, as in the End of Days Pinchas, who descended from Aaron, will restore the Torah in the Messianic times which will terminate Torah corruption as it happened at Sinai. [Brisker Rav]
The basic sin of the Erev Rav [non-Ger] was to make the Golden Calf, a creation of Man by the work of his hands. They made “other gods” [gematria 345 = Moses] which is 101 – "to not have other gods"; they sought to decide matters in their own hands, recalling the same sin of Adam in context of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. The commentary “Mahram Shif” to Bava Kama states that both of these sins were truly in light of making a forgery of God, or stealing; thus in a Parasha that deals with it repairing this, it is equally understood that the Redemption for the World comes when stealing has been rectified [after nearly 6,000 years!] , just as those that stood at Sinai were charged with the task of truly understanding the nature of stealing.
With all things equal, one can point the finger and say that stealing is the essential negative that we all deal with, Jew and Ger. Based on this approach, we can now begin to see Jethro in better Light, and bigger yet, start to clearly see the inner workings of the Seven Laws of Noah, from the eyes of the only Man in history who we say can see – Jethro!
The Parasha opens with the court system of Jethro; keep in mind Jethro is [arguably] practically the hero of every Ger and Moses is the initial Scribe of the Torah, which the Zohar says is composed by the words of Gerim - Moses being the quintessence of this fact. Right away we see the clarity of their system [and its obvious Messianic relevance] and are bombarded with an eternal dictum: “Righteousness! Righteousness! You Shall Pursue!” – which as easily as this pertains to the Jew, it just as easily is a command to the Ger to find צדק / Tzedek to realize that he can be a Ger Tzedek!
Rebbe Nachman of Breslov [along with Sifrei Re’eh] explain that the most direct understanding of the Ger Tzedek is to be contrasted with a Baal Teshuva - a returnee to God, and perhaps onwards to Judaism. Just as a Returnee returns to God, and perhaps will or have chosen a religious lifestyle [it is impossible to know until you get there by subjective definition based on the confines of reality!] so too the Ger may have converted, or simply may be on a Righteous Path with God; this qualifies him to be called a Ger Tzedek – by definition that he is a Ger, on a path of God from a great distance [thus expectations fall under category of “Don’t taunt the Ger”] and he is a Ger Tzedek [and it should be understood we are not to compare between two Gerei Tzaddikim just like to not compare two Baalei Teshuva – one who is religious vs. one on the way, walking with God]. We can conclude that Jethro’s message through the Torah of Moses is one to say [to the Gerim] ‘Be Tzedek!” [Realize the Ger TZEDEK, Baal Teshuva, etc.]
The nature of Tzedek is to explore righteousness, and this becomes the predominant theme in the Parasha; one can see how this was missing at Sinai, yet repairs Adam, and is the domain for the End of Days. In the absence of Moses at Sinai, the task was to resolve this issue of stealing in context of Tzedek; so too in any “leaderless” generation or moment [such as today] we are burdened with the task of the ultimate repair. This is where the Gerim and Righteous Women play huge roles in redemption, as these souls are acutely sensitive to [not] stealing by nature, for women tend to lean towards Tzedek and the Gerim are drawn to an ultimate culmination as the essence of the Seven Laws of Noah from a Talmudic ordering of 1-7. [The first 4 would be those that are capital for Jews as well, followed by Courts of Law, Limb Eating, and ultimately settling the score with stealing.]
Under these terms, we can now consider how the Parsha, Sinai, and the entire Torah, is a guide against stealing, and even more so this puts emphasis on Jethro. Jethro was well aware of the End of Days scenario when theoretically the entire World would realize its Ger Toshav reality, and would seek the prophet of Israel [see Naaman!] to clarify the Seven Law Matters; namely that of what constitutes stealing, as it is the most practical and controversial of Torah Law. The controversy is in understanding the differences and subtleties of stealing for Jews and Gerim; this paves the way to properly understand the Torah for Jews and Gerim, as well as History, and as the genre goes with the Book of Devarim – it reveals an aspect of the Torah of Everything, as per the Torah’s natural fractal repetition in Devarim.
The issue of stealing is simple, and it explains why Jethro was adamant about the court system and burdens upon Moses [and brings the rest of the Parasha into proper context, in alignment with all of the Messianic (Four Craftsmen – representing Priest, Judge, King, Prophet) /Ger Tzedek (Sinai/Adam/Erev Rav Repair) properties as well – which are essentially hand in glove] – for one day you will realize the whole Torah came down to understanding stealing, and its opposite in Holiness – Tzedaka [charity, righteous acts].
Tzedaka is told to save you from death, and it is the teaching we have from Shem that he personally learned on the Ark. [the first letter of the last 4 words of the Parasha even spells “Ark” / “תיבה”] If we are to pursue Righteousness, then we are obligated to know the absolute Torah of [how to not] steal; this is where the Seven Laws of Noah become Universal, incumbent upon Jew and non-Jew, equally, and in some cases – “equally – non- equal.”
The Torah defines categorically stealing as the result of character traits. The realm of open theft goes without saying, nor does it intrinsically need a Court of Law. Jethro’s concerns are those grey areas, where the amount stolen is called “less than a Pruta’s worth.” [A Pruta is the Biblical penny, or better yet when gas prices were 89.9 cents a gallon, the .9 would be the less than the Pruta.] In the times before the Flood micro theft brought guilt on the Generation [much like today’s corporate world] by finding the leniencies to steal that proverbial .9; for this the Noahide laws and capital punishment serves to stand against degeneration in society, and to inspire the Fear of God in situations that the person would go free by technicality. Aside from the purely wicked [those who have not only rejected the Seven Laws, but the Three laws brought in Chullin 92 as well.], the rest of society needs to know what is the bottom line of stealing in Torah.
This is where for some the map [of social context] begins, and for others this is where the map [of imprisonment] falls into the wind; as traditionally, there is one distinction for the Gerim that is to ascertain the fate of one who perpetrates the 7th Noahide Law of stealing – the knowledge of self and ability to let go of things. In Hebrew this term is Mechila “מחילה” – and it is the defining line as to where one stands in the face of judgment, should the situation arise. The proverbial message is to the accused, “if someone took from you .9, do you have the power to realize it is best to let it go, and to judge mercifully, realizing that God exacts judgment on these matters, therefore only God is the true Judge. [By which this is the reason exile takes so long, as to rectify rampant stealing on minimal amounts, for none can bribe God.] If one can let it go, his judgment will be the same, while the inverse will bring severity upon himself.
The Seventh Noahide Law of stealing is the result of real life, real people, and real situations. Jethro saw this, and knew that one day there will be a time that the World will realize that they are Ger Toshav, even despite enactments built to govern the process. When that time comes, you [the Jews] should not forget that you are Gerim as well, and it is equally incumbent upon you to establish Courts of Law for Jews and Gerim, as the Seven Laws of Noah exist for both Gerim and Jews. This is the source for all outreach, and conquering the Land of Israel – along with every endeavor not only in the Parasha, but in Moses’ recollection of Sinai, Repair of Adam, and the basis of the entire Torah. In essence as much as last week we learned about the 6th Noahide Law – meat and its Tzeddaka to the Ger aspect [which realized the divine schism of Jew and Ger] this week is the negative, as we take issue with stealing, while repairing the schism through joint venture in Beis Din, the 5th Noahide Law.
Along these lines we have a rudimentary view of the Seven Laws, [re]defining Jew and Ger, the return to God for Jews and Gerim, under the pretense of pursuing Righteousness, and a clear view of history; that by the lens of Jethro, we can even see the Messianic Era in an above nature state where the Gerim will realize that they are Bnei Mechila – as prophesied by King David himself. Parashas Shoftim is the best view yet of the Torah of Moshiach, as it should be, for Pinchas, who returns the Torah in those days is invested with soul sparks of Joseph [of whom Moses took his essence “the Bones of Joseph, Moses took”] and Jethro, and we see for the first time what their shared vision yields according to Torah. In a tradition of Jews and Gerim that goes back to King David, He who’s era defined this Parasha, in Kings, Prophets, Priests, Temples, etc. – it’s all here, no one had a better handle matters as much as him. King David possessed the knowledge that went into establishing an infrastructure through the ages for these two people’s by the inspiration of God [which was the repair of Adam, for David obeyed where Adam deviated] from simply achieving in truth what this Parasha demands; yet on a totally separate issue one might take interest in trying to not taunt the Ger, but if one truly wishes to emulate what King David was after, which was the heart of God – then it is wise to Love the Ger.
From Loving the Ger, one can see the Messianic Light in context, and will make you a Bar- Mechila inherently. In short, a Bar-Mechila is praiseworthy, for the Jew, for the Ger, and is certain to be the prime agent in Loving the Ger, leading one to know Him and His One Torah. Jethro had one message that summarized all of this, in his Mechila moment with Moses at Sinai – Righteousness! Righteousness! You Shall Pursue! Whether finding the Ger Tzedek or the Baal Teshuva, they both will have found their way by Loving the Ger and being a Bar-Mechila, and Jethro knew this all too well, after all, the Parasha predicts what will befall you in the End of Days – and it will be Very Good says God.
- Theft and The Ger
- Four Craftsmen
- Jethro's Vision
- History and The Ger
- Real Noahide