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    Justice & the altar – Shof’tim

    Two sidrot have names deriving from shafat, to judge.

    One sidra is Mishpatim; the other is this week’s portion, Shof’tim. Mishpatim deals with justice; Shoftim deals with judges.

    Every society needs a system of law. It also needs judges to administer the law. In both cases the aim is the same – to create social harmony in which every individual or group is respected and has a voice.

    One of the institutions that the legal system requires is an altar. From one point of view it is there as a reminder that all we do is seen by God. Humans don’t always notice what others are doing, but God sees it all and no-one gets off scot free if they are guilty of a wrong.

    A second reason why the altar is part of the rules of justice is that altars are places of sacrifice, and if there is to be justice in a community everyone has to be prepared to take a step back and forgo some of their pride.

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