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Shoftim (Judges)

You shall appoint judges and officers in all your gates, which the Lord your God gives you, according to your tribes, and they shall judge the people with just judgment. ~Deuteronomy 16:18

In this Torah portion, Moses commands Israel to place judges within their gates. It can also be a personal command since the Hebrew construct is singular as in place judges within “your”-(Brianna’s) gates. The Sages say that our body is like a temple with gates- exits and entrances- to our hearts and mind. What we allow in or release affects our internal state. 

“The human body is a city with seven gates—seven portals to the outside world: the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and the mouth. Here, too, it is incumbent upon us to place internal “judges” to discriminate and regulate what should be admitted and what should be kept out, and “officers” to enforce the judges’ decisions.”

(Siftei Kohen)

The Eyeballs~There is no actual Scripture that lists the things we should not look at. It is my understanding that if we know we shouldn’t do something, we should not put it in front of our faces. This judge placed at the gate would be a call to guard the eyes. In the Garden, one command was not to eat from the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. What happened? How did Adam and Chavah (Eve) end up at that tree? They should have avoided that entire neighborhood. Once it is in front of the eyeballs, it is all over but the crying. 

The Ears~Words are seeds, according to the Parable of the Sower and our hearts are gardens. Word seeds will eventually grow fruit. If we place a judge at the gate of our ears, we will guard what we allow into our ears, whether gossip, slander, negativity, mistruths, complaints, etc.

Nostrils~The nose symbolizes the environment we breathe in. Genesis 2:7 states, “And the LORD God formed man of the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and man became a living being.” The breath of life is the Ruach Hakodesh or Holy Spirit. We should be on guard as to the environment we are breathing in. We know there are contra spirits described in the Scriptures including evil spirits, a spirit of confusion, a spirit of fear, a jealous spirit, a proud spirit, and a lying spirit. Watch those fumes, urrybody.

Mouth~The Rabbis say God gave us two gates on our mouth because this part of our body can do the most damage. The two gates are the teeth and lips. Even with these natural gates, David prays for extra help in Psalm 141: 3, “Set a guard over my mouth, O Lord; keep watch over the door of my lips.” The Scriptures connect the mouth and heart. We hide words in our hearts, and what is in the heart comes out of the mouth (Mt 15.18 & Ps 119.11). For this reason, we place a guard on our hearts. 

Proverbs 4:23: Keep (guard) your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life. 

Many people take 1 Corinthians 6 as an encouragement to place personal judgments on one another. The commandment to place judges within our gates can apply to Israel as a whole and also to individuals. Here is another example of how studying the shadow can help us understand the Apostolic Writings. 

The judges placed at the gates of Israel were not emissaries sent out to the surrounding nations. In 1 Corinthians 5:12, Paul even states that what people do in the world around us, those who live by a different moral code than we do is none of our beeswax.  

The judges were not self-appointed. The tribes would nominate them and submit themselves to their rulings. Placing a wicked judge in a place of authority was frowned upon, and Paul also touches on this in 1 Corinthians 6. 

Reish Lakish says in his commentary on Deuteronomy 16:18:  Anyone who places over the community a judge who is unfit for the position, due to his lack of knowledge or wickedness, is considered as though he plants an ashera (idol) among the Jewish people, as it is stated: “Judges and officers you shall make for yourself in all of your gates.” 

So, let’s try to understand what Paul is talking about in the first-century community of believers. 

~This community lacks wisdom and understanding. These are two manifestations of the Ruach HaKodesh and should be in a community of believers. The shoftim or judges were at the gates of Israel for times when conflict and disputes arose. They would give rulings in righteousness and justice to keep a peaceful environment. 

~Due to a lack of wisdom and understanding. This particular community was handing over disputes to those unfit to make judgments. 

~Lastly, the conflicts went to the secular courts outside the Israeli community due to an inability to bring reconciliation within the gates. 

1 Corinthians 6:1-4: Does any one of you, when he has a matter against his neighbor, dare to go to court before the unrighteous and not before the kedoshim (holy ones)? Don’t you know that the kedoshim will judge the world? And if the world is to be judged by you, are you incompetent to judge trivial matters? Don’t you know that we will judge angels? How much more the matters of this life! So if you have courts for matters of this life, why do you appoint as judges those who have no standing in the community? 

To go down a quick rabbit trail, verse three says we will judge angels, and I have mentioned before that this could refer to celestial messengers or earthly ones. It would be so helpful if the writers of the Scriptures would have clearly said celestial messengers or earthly ones, right? In order to reconcile this verse, seeing as how I do not believe in rebellious celestial beings, I would first ask myself, who does God judge? 

God judges the earth, the nations, the people (Ps 98.9), the living and the dead (Mt 7.1-2/Lk 6.37;12.14/Acts 10.42/2 Tm 4.1), Egypt (Gn 15.14), and the world (Acts 17.31).

Yeshua, the righteous Judge, will judge the secrets of men. 

Romans 2:17: On the day when God judges the secrets of men according to my Good News through Messiah Yeshua.

1 Corinthians 4:5: Therefore do not judge anything before the time—wait until the Lord comes. He will bring to light the things hidden in darkness and also make clear the motives of the hearts. Then the praise for each one will come from God.

It would be interesting if humans did something the Scriptures do not describe God and Yeshua doing. If Yeshua hands down the authority to make judgments internally and externally amongst those within our community, it is because we see Moses doing this in Exodus 18. God gave Moses authority to administer justice, then Moses appointed seventy judges to help him carry this burden within Israel, which is our shadow. Long story short, I believe Paul is saying we will judge human messengers as in prophets or those who speak on God’s behalf. Judging messengers is far more involved because the Word of God is not a trivial matter, it is eternal. Paul’s question is why can you not handle conflicts between each other when we are going to handle more important things one day.

In conclusion, it is my focus to be a good internal judge. To place judges at my gates and to leave the judgy mcjudgerton life to others. I hope to have the wisdom and understanding to make judgment calls in my home with my children when needed. It is also critical to have those knowledgeable in the Scriptures inside a community for when there is conflict so that we have an ordered and peaceful environment. 

Judge 4:11: Do not speak evil against one another, brethren. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the Torah and judges the Torah. But if you judge the Torah, you are not a doer of the Torah, but a judge.

Brianna Lehmann

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