Monday, 13 January 2014

שפטים ושטרים תתן לך בכל שעריך

Well, I haven't been to Sanhedrin shiur recently due to career-related sinks on my time, so instead I began reading this great series of shiurim on Sanhedrin by Rav Ohad Fiksler. So, hopefully this will be the first in a series of posts as I read through those.

So let's back it up and talk about the mitzva to create a Torah judicial system throughout the land.

שֹׁפְטִים וְשֹׁטְרִים תִּתֶּן לְךָ בְּכָל שְׁעָרֶיךָ אֲשֶׁר ה' אֱלֹקֶיךָ נֹתֵן לְךָ לִשְׁבָטֶיךָ וְשָׁפְטוּ אֶת הָעָם מִשְׁפַּט צֶדֶק" (דברים ט"ז,יח).

Does it Apply in Chutz La'Aretz?

The question is whether this mitzva applies only within Eretz Yisrael or also in communities in Chutz La'Aretz. And, in fact, there are two opinions...

According to the Ramban's understanding(על דברים ט"ז,יח) of the Rambam, the mitzva to appoint judges only applies within Eretz Yisrael. The Ramban himself feels that it also applies in chutz la'aretz, but not necessarily in every single city

 אתה מושיב בכל פלך ופלך ואי אתה מושיב בכל עיר ועיר

And note that Rav Fiksler makes a compelling argument that the Rambam may have actually held of the Ramaban's opinion himself.

But, in any case, we have too opinions and according to both there is a difference between our obligation to set-up halachic legal systems in Eretz Yisrael and Chutz La'Aretz. The the question, however, WHY? Why is the difference between different the different lands and why the difference between the two opinions?

Mitzvot in Eretz Yisrael

A more basic question is whether the difference in our obligation to create a Judicial system in Eretz Yisrael vs. Chutz La'Aretz is quantitative or qualitative. Is our obligation less in Chutz La'Aretz simply due to the assumption that fewer Jews reside there or is there some more essential difference between the two lands?

I'm reminded of the oft-quoted Ramban(ויקרא יח כה) on Eretz Yisrael's special status as Hashem's Domain and the resultant special status that Mitzva observance has there. According to this, we can certainly understand the Rambam's opinion(as understood by Ramban) that the mitzva only applies in Eretz Yisrael. Because of the increased importance of mitzva observance within the Land, there is a separate mitzva to create legal institutions to help enforce said observance.

Of course, the other opinion, that the mitzva of Shoftim Veshotrim also applies in Chutz La'Aretz, doesn't contradict this principal. Rather, a mitzva can exist for multiple reasons and so the mitzva in chutz La'Aretz exists generally to promote mitzva observance and to help settle disputes in a civil manner. It nevertheless has a lesser importance and therefore the obligation allows for a more sparse distribution of Batei Din in Chutz La'Aretz

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