8/23/2012

Shabbat Shoftim

Begins Friday August 24th at 7:20pm
Ends August 25th at 8:15 pm

The Torah reading this week includes a great deal about forms of government and leadership. It ends with the law of what happens when you find a corpse and no one can find any evidence to convict the killer or killers. In our world that is the end of the story, no evidence, no case and no conviction.

But The Torah does not just consider the legal issue. It goes further to examine the idea of community responsibility beyond the law.

The elders of the cities around the area of the crime measure which one is nearest. Then the elders of that city accept ‘token responsibility’ for the crime.

In Temple times they offered a sacrifice of penance on behalf of the wider community. And they had to declare both their innocence and their obligation to do more to prevent crime.

What this meant was that whenever something goes wrong it is not just the responsibility of the perpetrators. The community shares a responsibility for the collapse of in law and order.

It should have been more aware of the breakdown in relationship, between families, friends, co-workers and citizens in general. It should have done more to protect the innocent as well as search out for wrongdoers.

A caring community gets involved before a crime is committed.