He Reports, You Decide: Shoftim 2018

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: How do you prefer to follow the news? Do you use the internet the most, or do you rely more on television, radio, or even print media? How do you determine which news sources you trust?

As he continues his farewell speech to the Israelites, Moses recalls when the people insist to hear God’s words through a prophet — not from the direct source:

The Pitch: “The LORD your God will raise up for you a prophet from among your own people, like myself; him you shall heed. This is just what you asked of the LORD your God at Horeb, on the day of the Assembly, saying, ‘Let me not hear the voice of the LORD my God any longer or see this wondrous fire any more, lest I die.’ Whereupon the LORD said to me, ‘They have done well in speaking thus.’” – Deuteronomy 18:15-17

Swing #1: “Once a person accustoms himself or herself to hearing the voice of God issuing from everything, the supernal meaning now comes that has eluded the person, and this spiritual wisdom. For certainly, concealed and hidden spiritual wisdom contains divine meaning. Moreover by means of getting in the habit of paying attention to the voice of God issuing from everything, the voice of God is revealed now [even] in spiritual wisdom. Until finally, in the spiritual wisdom itself, one finds the true appearance of God. And everyone who continues to search and philosophize increases the holiness of faith and cleaving [to God] and the light of the holy Spirit.” – Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook

Swing #2: “Given the already-observed tendency in Deuteronomy to look to the distant future while addressing the Moab generation, it is likely that what is envisioned here is a succession of prophets who will serve to mediate Yahweh’s word to the people, rather than a single individual.” – Peter T. Vogt, Deteronomonic Theology and the Significance of Torah: A Reappraisal

Swing #3: “The prophet whom God will raise up must be ‘from among your own people’ (Deuteronomy 18:15). This means also that he must arise in the Land of Israel.” – Sifrei Deuteronomy

Late-Inning Questions: What do our commentators believe are the  proper qualifications of a prophet? To what extent is a prophet expected to simply be a messenger for God’s words, not necessarily someone who predicts the future? How is this role similar to that of the modern media? How do we determine whether all, or parts, of today’s media are unbiased messengers of truth?

On-Deck at Emanu-El: Next Shabbat will be our second annual “Camp Shabbat”. That Saturday, August 25th, feel free to dress casually for services — ideally while wearing a t-shirt from a Jewish summer camp! We’ll be singing songs and doing other rituals to remind us of the best moments of the camp experience.

The Big Inning at the End: These days, talking about sports media and the way that sports news is reported is an industry unto itself. Should people who report and talk about sports be celebrities, or is it better for them to fade to the background and to make sure the games take center-stage?

Shabbat Shalom!