Shoftim – Chamishi

Mandrake the Prophet?

By Rabbi Jack Abramowitz

The Canaanite nations were big into divination and sorcery, but God has given the Jews something much better: the ability to hear His words through a designated prophet.

Moshe told the people that God would establish other prophets after him and they were to listen to those messengers. He reminded them how, collectively, they were unable to bear the weight of the prophetic experience at Sinai, so God would send them individual messengers. The people are obligated to heed these prophets’ words. (Unless, of course, the prophet tells them to act counter to the Torah, as we saw in the third aliyah of parshas Re’eh, chapter 13.) If someone sets himself up as a false prophet, God will take care of that person Himself. A reasonable question is how one may know a real prophet from a false one. God will enable the real ones to foretell coming events. If a prophet can’t do this, you know he’s a fake.

Moshe reminded the people about the cities of refuge to be established in Israel so that those who killed by accident would have someplace to flee and be safe from the vengeance of family members. These cities were to be equidistantly located with clear signage indicating the routes. In Messianic times, the borders of Israel will be expanded, so additional cities will need to be added (though we’ll cross that bridge when we come to it – see Rambam, Hilchos Melachim 11:2).

The cities of refuge only work for those convicted of accidental manslaughter. A premeditated murder is a capital crime and if a murderer seeks refuge in one of these cities, he will be removed and executed. Giving up the accidental killer to the avenger is in itself an act of murder, but letting a real murderer get away with it is just as bad.

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