Borderline: Shoftim 2022

by Adam J. Rosenbaum

Pre-Game Chatter: What physical landmarks are unique to the place where you live? What would our local places be like if we removed them? If someone else removed them?

As the Israelites prepare to conquer the Promised Land, God reminds them to be cautious about the people who lived there beforehand:

The Pitch: “You shall not move your countryman’s landmarks, set up by previous generations, in the property that will be allotted to you in the land that the Lord your God is giving you to possess.” – Deuteronomy 19:14

Swing #1: “The law follows the warning [in the previous verse] to purge the land of innocent blood. Moving a landmark defiles the land like spilled blood.” – David Hoffmann, Das Buch Deuteronomium

Swing #2: “We need landmarks. We, too, require boundaries and borders to help us draw the lines between being good neighbors, sociable colleagues and losing our own traditions. Otherwise, we become the same as everyone else on the block or at work.” – Rabbi Yossy Goldman, From Where I Stand: Life Messages From the Weekly Torah Reading

Swing #3: “Most serious disagreements resulting in bloodshed have their origin in disputes over borders. This is why [soon] afterward we also have the line: ‘an eye for an eye, a life for a life.’ We also have the warning not to convict anyone on the basis of the testimony of only a single witness.” – Chizkuni

Late-Inning Questions: Does placing a landmark constitute a form of “marking one’s territory”? If we are instructed to be careful with landmarks placed prior to our presence, how can we be sure those who come after us won’t be equally careful with our landmarks? What kinds of boundaries are the most sacrosanct?

On-Deck at TBT: The start of the High Holiday season is marked most prominently by Selihot. Temple Beth Tzedek invites everyone to come to the synagogue Saturday, September 17th, for Havdallah at 8:30pm, followed by a learning session at 9:00 pm and the Selihot service at 10:00 pm.

The Big Inning at the End: Speaking of landmarks, Wrigley Field was designated a National Historical Landmark in 2020. More cities should do this for their stadiums – maybe that way, team owners won’t be so eager to threaten to move their teams to different cities.

Shabbat Shalom!