Shoftim: Beware The False Prophets

David's Star (Patrick Lentz photo via, Creative Commons license.)
David's Star (Patrick Lentz photo via, Creative Commons license.)

This Torah portion is replete with social and legal discussions as Moses continues his discourses on how to administer the land that the Israelites were poised to enter. The portion covers a variety of issues including warnings against idolatry, going after diviners and soothsayers, the establishment of judges and magistrates and the distribution of justice which included another mention of cities of refuge and the repeat (Deut.19:21) of an “eye for an eye”. Perhaps the most famous passage of the portion appears in 16:20 when the text discusses the judicial life of the people when Moses stated “tzedek tzedek tirdof” (Justice Justice shall you pursue).With this Moses reminds us that a society must be based on the concept of justice, blind justice, equality for all under the law.
There is another passage, however, which struck me as I was looking at the text. It reminded me of our own life experiences as we get older. We have heard so much and experienced so much that this life experience can help us determine when people speak truth or when people speak to influence us for ulterior motives. In 18:15-22 there are verses that speak to the challenge of false prophets. Prophecy,as you know, was a major feature of the Biblical period. Then, as now, we are often confused as to who is telling truth and who is speaking just to be heard. In the “Eta Hayim” commentary there is this very meaningful comment: “A prophet is someone who tells the truth. The prophet does not tell us what we want to know but rather tells us what God wants us to know, reminding us of our covenantal obligations.”
We hope, as we look at our life experience, that we can better distinguish truths from falsity and the people who speak. We are inundated with information in our society. Indeed, we suffer from, as we have noted before, a promiscuity of information and a paucity of truth. In working with the next generation, we hope that this experience can help those who after us learn how to distinguish truth from falsity.
Shabbat shalom
Rabbi Richard F Address

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