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Shabbat Commentary

25/26 Aug: Shabbat Shoftim comes in 7:48 pm, goes out 8:50 pm

In parshat Shoftim we are warned what to do about false leaders and prophets.  Suppose one comes and says, ‘Do so-and-so,” and “I say this by the command of the Holy One blessed be He.”  How, then, can we know whether God has spoken this or not?  The reply is,  “As regards such a case, they have already been commanded that if one comes to lead away from one of the divine commandments, ‘then you shalt not hearken unto him.’ ” (13:12)

This seems clear.   But the rabbis add a wrinkle.  They say, “except when it had been experienced by you that he is a perfectly righteous man, as, for instance, Elijah at the incident on Mount Carmel, who offered sacrifices on Bamah (an improvised altar) at a time when offering on Bamoth was forbidden, but who did so in order to fence Israel in against idolatry. “

In other words, don’t listen to a leader or a prophet if they are trying to lead you away from God — BUT, if they are trustworthy and acting for a good reason, then in extreme cases we can follow them when they say “do so and so.”   It is not an invitation to wanton change but the rabbis do recognize that sometimes, the needs of the time and the necessity of preserving larger values can necessitate change.

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Paul Arberman

August 24, 2017