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Shoftim Question 2

Weekly Parsha Questions

Shoftim Question 2

Yechiel Shaffer

In the last section of Shoftim we are introduced to the Mitzvah of Eglah Arufah, the broken Heifer.

When an anonymous, deceased person is discovered near the vicinities of a city, the elders of the city have to perform the obscure Eglah Arufah ritual and make the following declaration:

דברים פרשת שופטים – כי תצא פרק כא

ז) וענו ואמרו ידינו לא שפכה שפכו את־הדם הזה ועינינו לא ראו

7. And they shall announce and say, “Our hands did not shed this blood, nor did our eyes see [this crime].”

ח) כפר לעמך ישראל אשר־פדית יקוק ואל־תתן דם נקי בקרב עמך ישראל ונכפר להם הדם

8. “Atone for Your people Israel, whom You have redeemed, O Lord, and lay not [the guilt of] innocent blood among your people Israel.” And [so] the blood shall be atoned for them.

ט) ואתה תבער הדם הנקי מקרבך כי־תעשה הישר בעיני יקוק

9. And you shall abolish the [shedding of] innocent blood from among you, for you shall do what is proper in the eyes of the Lord.

Why do the elders of the city, who are clearly not guilty of murder, have to take responsibility for this deceased person?

Why is this death a moment for repentance for the entire community?

Why is this command surrounded on either side with stories and instructions of war? What commentary can one add to our attitude towards war after reading of the Eglah Arufah?

What scenarios can the idea of Eglah Arufah be applied to? Does it offer any insight on a communities attitude towards its destitute? What comments can one add on approaching behaviors such as bullying?