5772 Shoftim

Parshas Shoftim seems to deviate from the heavy mussar of the past three parshios, as it focuses on the “nuts and bolts” of halacha. But if one examines the presentation of these halachos he discovers that they too revolve around incorporating G-d into one’s life. One of the most commonly discussed topics in the Talmud and Mishna is that of the witnesses who testify falsely and are refuted by others who declare them totally removed from the scene of the crime and therefore without knowledge of the event. As we know, the Torah imposes the punishment of the accused upon the false witnesses. The commentaries explain that false witnesses are dealt with so harshly because they acted as if G-d was not present in the courtroom. Not only did they try to condemn an innocent man, they faked incorporating Hashem into their lie. Moreover, they violated the general prohibition of bearing false witness, which was one of the principles of Sinai, where we experienced the greatest closeness to G-d. The false witness in the capital case is the most dramatic example, but the fact is that whenever we lie we are denying G-d, who is standing right over us at that moment and knows the truth. FROM THIS WE LEARN THAT as we progress through the month of Elul when we hear a great deal about teshuva and fear of G-d, at the top of our list of improvements should be the need to be honest and truthful. Indeed, honesty and truthfulness are the vehicles by which we can measure just how G-d fearing a person really is.