Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9
In this Portion, Shof’tim (“Judges”), Moses instructs Israel to appoint judges and law enforcement officers in every city to administer Torah without corruption or favoritism. Crimes must be carefully investigated and evidence thoroughly examined. No less than two credible witnesses are required for conviction and punishment. Cases that are too difficult for them are to be sent to the Priests for their decision … with no appeals.
God knows that Israel will desire a king “like all the nations around” them … even though God is their King! The King is prohibited to have standing armies, multiple wives & accumulation of gold & silver. It is required that the new king write a copy of Torah for his personal use. The Portion also includes prohibitions against idolatry and sorcery.
Moses announces another “Prophet like me” to lead Israel. The Rabbis interpret this to mean that God will provide Israel with a leader in every generation. This Prophet Like Moses clearly identifies the Messiah … who came almost 2,000 years ago and is coming again soon!
Also listed are exemptions from battle for any soldier who has just built a home, planted a vineyard, married, or is “afraid and soft-hearted”; it is better that those who are so preoccupied with their personal situations stay out of warfare. The procedures for warfare include offering terms of surrender before attacking a city; and the prohibition of needlessly destroying something of value. .
The Portion concludes with the procedure to be followed when a person is killed by an unknown murderer and his body is found in a field—which underscores the responsibility of the community and its leaders not only for what they do, but also for what they might have prevented from being done.