Shabbat Shoftim

Candles - Friday, August 17th @ 7:31pm
Havdalah - August 18th @ 8:25pm

“Do not move the boundary of your friend which earlier people had established in your inheritance.”
(Deut 19:14)

Amongst the laws of this week’s reading is the one about not moving another person’s boundaries. This is one of the best examples I can find of how an ancient Torah law has changed over the years to be just as relevant today as it was then.

Originally this was designed to protect tribal land and prevent people from surreptitiously or illegally moving tribal property lines in the Land of Israel. There was already a law against stealing. So this added an extra definition of stealing by using devious methods to claim something that was not theirs and thereby deprive someone.

The first stage in its development came when there were no tribal lands anymore (after the exiles). Then this law changed to apply to any property anywhere in the world. Then it was applied to taking a burial plot that someone else had reserved. By medieval times it was used to prevent someone depriving someone else of their livelihood and even to bringing in an outside expert when there were perfectly capable local ones. Nowadays halachic experts will apply it to intellectual property, copyright, and all the things that corrupt societies now take advantage of without fear of retribution. It is a shame that China doesn’t apply this biblical law to its industrial thieves.