"Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your
G-d is giving you." Perhaps this line explains why there are so many Jewish lawyers in the world. Or is it just that these words resonate for Shabbat Mom since she is the daughter, sister, and sister-in-law of lawyers (and dreams that one day she could be known as the mother of RBG 2.0)? The mobile legal system originally suggested in the desert by Yitro, the father-in-law of Moses, will soon take root in the Promised Land. Shof'tim is Moses' last chance to ensure that the new structured civil society be guided by those who are committed to morality and equality.
"You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes...". If a man or woman is accused of worshipping "other gods and bowing down to them" they may be put to death--but only "on the testimony of two or more witnesses; (the person) must not be put to death on the testimony of a single witness". In fact, at least two witnesses are necessary for any "case (to be) valid". Someone who bears false witness against another will be punished for the offense of which the innocent was accused. If the Israelites choose to "set a king over (themselves)" they may do so, as long as he is "one chosen by the Lord your G-d' and "one of your own people". Most importantly, the ruler must keep a copy of the Torah with him "so that he may learn to revere the Lord his G-d, to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching as well as these laws. Thus he will not act haughtily toward his fellows...". Moses also outlines the three refugee cities (later with three more to be added) where a murderer may find safety as long as the killing was done "unwittingly", not deliberately. And he lays out the very specific warfare rules. The following men may return home before battle: those who have built a new house but not yet lived there; those who have planted a vineyard that has not yet been harvested; and those who are engaged but not yet married. Once all that's cleared up, the priest will deliver his emotional charge to the soldiers that remain: "He shall say to (the troops), 'Hear, O Israel! You are about to join battle with your enemy. Let not your courage falter. Do not be in fear, or in panic, or in dread of them. For it is the Lord your G-d who marches with you...'"
Shabbat Mom is no Shakespearean scholar, but she can't read those words without recalling the legendary St. Crispin's Day Speech at the Battle of Agincourt in "Henry V". (Full disclosure: Shabbat mom doesn't mean the play, but the 1989 Kenneth Branagh film version,
check it out after Havdalah!)