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Fights, Fields, and Family (Shoftim)

Preview: Is there any organizing principle for the apparently random series of laws that makes up the bulk of sefer Devarim? Well, there sure seem to be a lot of laws about war; and a lot of laws about fields; and a lot of laws about family—and when you pay close attention, you notice that they tend to cluster together in recurring patterns.

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Lost and Found (Nitzavim/Rosh Hashana)

Preview: What do the wayward city (עיר הנדחת), the accidental murderer (רוצח בשוגג), the return of lost objects (השבת אבדה), and the ingathering of exiles (קבוץ גלויות) all have in common? About ten things, actually—including the theme of “going astray” (נדח); “losing and finding” (אבד/מצא); “seeking” or “searching” (מבקש/דרש); “closeness,” “distance,” and the “edge of the hearth/heavens” (קרב/רחק/קצה הארץ והשמים); and “returning” (שוב). More on the remarkable relationship between these passages in the following quick write up…

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Urban Planning (Shoftim)

Preview: Twice in two weeks, the Torah focuses upon b’nei Yisrael’s ease of access to a given city: the “sacred city” and the “sanctuary city.” The way the Torah address the problem of access differs by case, offering us, perhaps, an important window into the Torah’s axiological priorities.

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Higher Desires (Shoftim)

Preview: The phrase “with all the cravings of your soul” appears only three times in the Torah. How are these three passages connected?

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Separation of Powers (Shoftim)

Preview: The Torah carefully divides the roles of “judge” vs. “king.” The people, in Shmuel’s day, conflate the two – which is why he opposes their political petition. Indeed, the conflation of these two offices is a long-running theme in sefer Shoftim – a work which, Chazal tell us, was authored by none other than Shmuel himself.

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