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Beit Midrash Torah Portion and Tanach Shoftim

Zaken Mamreh

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One of the many halachot taught in this week’s parasha is that of zaken mamreh, the scholar who rebelled against the majority opinion of the Sanhedrin. In practical terms, only in very specific cases does one actually receive the punishment (see Rambam, Mamrim 3:5). The purpose of the halacha is to strengthen the stature of the Great Sanhedrin, which all of Israel was supposed to listen to.
The Rambam (ibid. 1:1) delineates the matter in very clear terms. "The great beit din in Jerusalem is the basis of the Oral Law. They are the pillars of rulings and from them go out laws and justice to all of Israel. About them the Torah promises: ‘based on the Torah they shall teach you’- this is a positive commandment. Whoever believes in Moshe and his Torah must rely in the matters of religion on them."
A closer look at the parasha uncovers that the role of the Great Sanhedrin was even greater than meets the eye for national welfare and, as a result, for religious welfare. The Sanhedrin which was to be located in the "place that Hashem will choose," in the Beit Hamikdash’s lishkat hagazit, became the general spiritual capital of the world. This center of Torah and halacha was the central location of Israel and in fact of the world. According to the Yerushalmi, the Sanhedrin was even the authority regarding matters of philosophy in addition to that of halacha (Sanhedrin 11:3).
This Torah portion has a parallel in Yeshaya (2), in the famous prophecy about the End of Days. The two sections share the following words: davar (thing), aloh (go up), yaroh (teach) and mishpat (judgment). In general there are many indications that the first chapters of Yeshaya correspond to the parshiyot of Shoftim and Ki Teitzei.
According to this approach, we can see a special element to Yeshaya’s prophecy. From the Torah, as explained by the Rabbis, we see that Jerusalem is the center of the Jewish world. Yeshaya teaches that in the time of world peace, the nations will recognize Jerusalem as the center of world spirituality. How fascinating it is that at a time when the nations were so entrenched in idol worship in the lowliest manner, Yeshaya prophesied that all of humanity would experience a massive transformation. Again, the center of this change would be Jerusalem, the place that Hashem chose.
Let us pray that this realization will grow in the hearts of Israel and all of humanity.
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