Parashas Shoftim

The Torah exhorts (Devarim 16:20): “Justice, justice, shall you pursue, so that you shall live and possess the land that Hashem, your God, is giving you.” The Maggid, expounding on this verse, links it to a verse about unjust gains (Yirmiyah 17:11): “Like a partridge chirping to summon chicks it did not bear, so is one who amasses wealth unjustly; in the middle of his life it will leave him, and at his end he will turn into a spoiled man.” The Maggid asks why Yirmiyahu chose to speak about the unsoundness and fragility of unjust gains using the analogy about the partridge, as opposed to other possible analogies, such as to a stillborn or a spider web. He asks further why Yirmiyahu notes only the partridge’s chirping to summon the chicks, without mentioning its other efforts in caring for them: sitting on them to warm and protect them, feeding them, and so on. He answers as follows. Chirping is the partridge’s most prominent activity; indeed, the Hebrew word for partridge is korei – a “caller.” A typical bird, such as a hen, which raises chicks that are its own, need not chirp so much to summon its brood. The chicks are naturally drawn toward their mother. The partridge, however, which raises chicks it did not bear, must chirp persistently to get them to come. The chicks regard the partridge as a stranger, to which they have no ties, and they therefore tend to stray from it. Similarly, if a person gains assets unjustly, so that they are not truly his, he has to struggle constantly to keep hold of them – and ultimately they will leave him. But if a person gains assets justly, he need not put forth exaggerated effort to keep hold of them; since they are truly his, they will naturally remain with him.
In general, misfortunes that cause a loss of money or other assets affect only those assets that a person gained by unjust means. Justly gained assets are immune. Thus, Shlomo HaMelech writes (Mishlei 10:22): “Hashem’s blessing is what brings riches; it adds no grief with it.” Assets that are gained justly, so that they may be called “Hashem’s blessing,” bring only satisfaction, without a trace of grief. The Gemara in Berachos 20a brings out the same idea, describing Yosef as demonstrating the principle that “one whose eye does not generate a desire to feed on what is not his, the evil eye has no power over him.”
Speaking of the end of days, Yeshayah states that people “will build houses and inhabit them, plant vineyards and eat their fruit” (verse 65:21). He then continues (verses 65:22-23): “They will not build and have another inhabit; they will not plant and have another eat. For the lifetime of My people will be as the lifetime of the tree, and My chosen ones will wear out their handiwork. They will not toil in vain or produce to reap confoundedness. For they are progeny that are blessed by Hashem, and their descendants will be with them.” The Maggid explains that there two reasons that a house which a person builds may be inhabited by someone else: either the house outlives its builder, or it is stolen from him. Yeshayah is ruling out both of these possibilities, saying that the builder’s lifetime will match his house’s, and that the builder will not be confounded by having his house wrested from him. Yeshayah then explains why: The people will be “blessed by Hashem” – with hands clean of theft – and therefore their assets will be immune to loss.
In this vein, the Torah tells us that if we pursue justice, we will live and possess the land that Hashem, our God, gave us. As the Torah puts it elsewhere (Shemos 34:24), no one will covet our land – our hold on it will be firm.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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