Parshas Shoftim

Words in bold represent changes to the traditional translation based on the Aramaic translation/commentary attributed to Onkelos the Ger.

Parshas Shoftim


18. You shall appoint[1] for yourself judges and corrections officers[2] for your tribes in all your cities that Hashem your God gives you, and they shall judge the people (with) true[3] judgment.

19. You shall not pervert judgment; do not recognize faces[4] and do not accept[5] a bribe, because a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the righteous words.[6]

20. Truth, truth[7] you shall pursue, in order that you will live and you will inherit the land that Hashem your God gives to you.

21. Do not plant for yourself an asheira of any tree beside the altar of Hashem your God that you might make for yourself,

22. and do not erect a pillar for yourself that Hashem your God hates.

Chapter 17

1. Do not sacrifice before Hashem your God an ox or[8] a sheep that will have defect of any bad matter, because that is disgusting[9] to Hashem your God.

2. If there will be found among you, in one of your cities that Hashem your God gives to you, a man or a woman who has performed that which is evil[10] before[11] Hashem your God to violate the covenant,

3. and he will go and he will serve the errors of the nations and bow down to them, and to the sun or to the moon, or to any of the hosts of the heavens that I didn’t command,

4. and they will tell[12] you and you will hear, then you shall investigate well. And behold, (if) it is true, the matter is correct, (that) this abomination was done in Israel,

5. you shall take that man or that woman who did this evil thing to the gate of your court, and you shall stone that man or that woman with stones and he shall die.

6. By the word[13] of two witnesses or three witnesses the one convicted to death will die;[14] he shall not die on the word of one witness.

7. The hand of the witnesses shall be on him first to put him to death, and the hand of all the people afterwards. And you will remove the malefactor[15] from among you.

8. If a matter for judgment will be hidden from you, between blood and blood, between law and law, and between quarantine affliction and quarantine affliction,[16] matters of legal dispute in your cities, you shall arise and ascend to the place that Hashem your God will choose.

9. You shall come to the priests – the Levites – and to the judge who will be in those days. You shall inquire and they will tell you the matter of judgment.

10. You shall do according to the matter that they will tell you from that place that Hashem will choose, and you shall observe to do according to all that they will instruct you.

11. You shall act according to the law[17] that they will teach you, and on the judgment that they will say to you; do not deviate from the matter that they will tell you – right or[18] left.

12. And the man who will act evilly[19] in that he doesn’t accept from the priest who stands to minister there before Hashem your God, or from the judge, that man shall be executed and you will remove the malefactor from Israel.

13. And all the people will hear and be afraid and they will not act evilly further.


14. When you come to the land that Hashem your God has given you, and inherited it and settled in it, and you say, ‘I will appoint a king over me like all the nations that are around me,’

15. you shall surely appoint over yourself a king whom Hashem your God will choose. From among your people you shall appoint a king over you; you don’t have permission to appoint over you a foreign man who is not your brother.

16. Only, he may not increase horses to himself and not return the people to Egypt in order to increase horses for him, and Hashem has said to you, ‘You shall not continue to return that way further.’

17. And he shall not increase wives to himself, and his heart will not go astray; and silver and gold he shall not increase to himself excessively.

18. It shall be, when he sits on his royal throne, he shall write for himself a copy of this Torah[20] in a book from (the one that is) before the priests, the Levites.

19. It shall be with him and he shall read in it all the days of his life, in order that he will learn to revere before Hashem his God, to observe all the words of this Torah, and these statutes, to perform them.

20. In order that his heart not be high[21] toward[22] his brethren and in order that he not turn from the commandment right or left, in order that he will lengthen (the) days of[23] his reign – he and his descendants – in the midst of Israel.

Chapter 18


1. There shall not be to the priests – Levites – the whole tribe of Levi, a share and an inheritance with Israel. The offerings[24] of Hashem and His inheritance they shall eat.

2. And an inheritance it will not have among its brethren; the gifts that Hashem gave him, they are his inheritance,[25] as He told him.

3. This will be what is fit for the priests[26] from the people: from those who offer a sacrifice with an ox, (or) with a sheep, he shall give the shoulder, and the jaw,[27] and the stomach to the priest.

4. The first of your grain, and your wine and your oil, and the first shearing of your sheep, you shall separate for him.[28]

5. Because Hashem your God has chosen him from all your tribes to stand to minister in the name of Hashem – he and his sons – all the days.[29]


6. If a Levite[30] will come from one of your cities from all Israel that he resides there, and he comes in wherever his soul desires to the place that Hashem will choose,

7. he may minister in the name of Hashem his God like all his brethren the Levites who minister[31] there before Hashem.

8. Portion like portion[32] they shall eat, except for the duty rotation of that week, because such was established by the fathers.

9. When you come in to the land that Hashem your God gives you, you shall not learn to do like the abominations of these nations.

10. There shall not be found among you one who passes his son or[33] his daughter through fire, a diviner, a soothsayer, and a medium and a sorcerer,

11. and one who casts spells, and one who consults ghosts and spirits, and one who inquires of the dead.

12. Because everyone who does this is disgusting before Hashem, and because of these abominations Hashem your God is driving them out from before you.

13. You shall be whole(hearted) in reverence for Hashem your God,


14. because these nations whom you are inheriting hear from soothsayers and from diviners, and Hashem your God has not given you like this.

15. A prophet from among you, from your brethren like me, Hashem your God will establish for you; from him you shall accept.

16. Like all that you asked from before Hashem your God at Choreiv on the day of the assembly, saying, ‘Let me not continue to hear the sound of the word of Hashem[34] my God and let me not see this great fire further, and I won’t die.’

17. Hashem said to me, ‘They were correct[35] (in) what they spoke.

18. I will establish a prophet for them from among their brethren like you. I will put words of My prophecy in his mouth and he will speak with them all that I will command him.

19. It will be, the man who doesn’t accept My words that he will speak in My name, My word will demand (it) of him.

20. But the prophet who will be evil[36] to speak a matter in My name that I did not command him to speak, and who will speak in the name of the errors of the nations – that prophet shall be executed.’

21. And if you will say in your heart, ‘How will we know the matter that Hashem didn’t speak?’

22. That which the prophet will speak in the name of Hashem and the thing doesn’t happen and isn’t upheld,[37] that is the thing that wasn’t spoken by Hashem. The prophet has spoken it evilly; do not be afraid of him.

Chapter 19

1. When Hashem your God eradicates[38] the nations that Hashem your God gives their land to you and you have inherited them, and you have settled in their cities and in their houses,

2. you shall separate for yourself three cities in the land that Hashem your God gives you to inherit.

3. Prepare the way for yourself, and divide into three the border of your country that Hashem your God has bestowed to you; it will be (for) every manslaughterer to flee there.

4. This is the matter of the manslaughter who shall flee there and be kept alive: (one) who has killed[39] his fellow unintentionally, and he didn’t hate him yesterday or beforehand,[40]

5. and who will come to his fellow in a forest to cut wood. His hand will swing the axe to cut down the tree, and the iron[41] will slide from the wood[42] and find his fellow and he dies. He[43] shall flee to one of these cities and be kept alive,

6. lest the blood avenger will pursue after the manslaughterer, because his heart is hot, and overtake him because the road will be long, and kill a soul, and he doesn’t have a judgment of liability to death because he didn’t hate him yesterday or beforehand.

7. Therefore I command you: you shall separate three cities for yourself.

8. And when Hashem your God widens your border, as was sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that He spoke to give to your fathers,

9. if you observe all this commandment that I command you this day to perform it, to love Hashem your God and to walk in ways that are correct before Him all the days, you shall add for yourself another three cities on these three.

10. And innocent blood will not be shed in the midst of your land that Hashem your God gives to you (as) an inheritance, and it will be a judgment of liability to death upon you.[44]

11. And if there will be a man (who) hates his fellow and lies in wait for him, and arises upon him and kill a soul and he dies, and he flees to one of these cities,

12. the elders of his city shall send him, and they shall take him from there and deliver him in the hand of the blood avenger, and he shall die.

13. Your eye shall not take pity on him and you shall remove those who spill innocent blood from Israel, and it will be good for you.


14. Do not change your neighbor’s boundary that the first ones bordered in your inheritance that you will inherit in the land that Hashem your God gives you to inherit.

15. One witness shall not stand against a person for any transgressions or[45] for any sins[46] of any sin that he will sin; according to two witnesses or three witnesses shall the matter be established.

16. If a false[47] witness arises against a person to testify[48] against him corruptly,

17. two men[49] who have the dispute shall stand before Hashem, before the priests and before the judges who will be in those days.

18. The judges shall investigate properly[50] and behold, (if he is) a false witness who testified falsely against his brother,

19. you shall do to him as he thought[51] to do to his brother, and you will remove the malefactor from your midst.

20. Those who remain will hear and they will fear, and they will not continue to do like this evil thing further in your midst.

21. And your eye shall not take pity: a soul in place of a soul, an eye in place of an eye, a tooth in place of a tooth, a hand in place of a hand, a foot in place of a foot.

Chapter 20

1. When you go out to fight a war against your enemies, and you see horses and chariots[52] – a people more numerous than you – do not fear them because Hashem your God, Who brought up you from the land of Egypt, His word will assist you.

2. It shall be, in your approaching to fight the war, the priest shall come near and speak with the people.

3. He shall say to them, ‘Listen, Israel! You are approaching to fight a war against your enemies today. Let your heart not tremble.[53] Do not fear, and do not be terrified,[54] and do not be ‘come apart’ before them.

4. Because Hashem your God is the One Who leads before you to battle for you with your enemies, to save you.’

5. The officers shall speak before the people, saying, ‘Who is the man who has built a new house and not dedicated it? He shall go and return to his home, lest he will be killed in the war and another man will dedicate it.

6. And who is the man who has planted a vineyard and not redeemed it? He shall go and return to his home, lest he will be killed in the war and another man will redeem it.

7. And who is the man who has betrothed a woman and not taken her (as his wife)? He shall go and return to his home, lest he will be killed in the war and another man will take her (as his wife).’

8. The officers will continue to speak with the people and they shall say, ‘Who is the man who is afraid and broken-hearted?[55] He shall go and return to his home, and he will not break the heart of his brethren like his heart.’

9. It shall be, when the officers have finished speaking with the people, they shall appoint captains of the legions at the head of the people.


10. When you approach a city to attack it, you shall announce words of peace to it.

11. It shall be, if it answers you (in) peace and opens to you, all the people who will be found in it will be those who offer up tribute to you and serve you.

12. And if it doesn’t make peace with you, and it makes war with you, you shall lay siege upon it,

13. and when Hashem your God delivers it into your hand, you shall strike all its males by the word of the sword.

14. Only the women, and the children, and the animals, and all that will be in the city, all the spoils you shall plunder for yourself. You shall use[56] all the plunder of your enemies that Hashem your God gave you.

15. So shall you do to all cities that are very distant from you, that are not of the cities of these nations here.

16. Only from the cities of these peoples, which Hashem your God gives to you as an inheritance, you shall not let any soul endure.[57]

17. Because you shall surely ban them – the Hittites and the Amorites, the Canaanites and the Perizzites, the Chivites and the Jebusites – as Hashem your God commanded you,

18. in order that they not teach you to do like all their abominations that they performed for their gods and you sin before Hashem your God.

19. When you besiege a city many days, to battle it to conquer[58] it, do not destroy its tree(s), raising[59] an axe against it, because you may eat of it. And do not cut it down because a tree of the field is not like a man[60] to come before you in the siege.[61]

20. Only a tree that you know that is not a food tree – it you may destroy, and cut down and build siege engines[62] against the city that is making war with you, until you have conquered it.[63]

Chapter 21

1. If there will be found (someone) slain in the land that Hashem your God gives to you to inherit, thrown[64] in the field, (and) it is not known who killed him,

2. your elders and judges shall go out and measure to the cities that surround the slain.

3. It shall be, the city closest to the slain, and the elders of that city shall take a calf of cattle that has never been worked with, that has never pulled in a yoke.

4. The elders of that city shall bring the calf down to a desolate[65] valley that was not plowed and that was not planted. There, they shall break the calf’s neck, in the valley.

5. The priests, sons of Levi, shall draw near, because in them Hashem your God has chosen to minister and to bless in the name of Hashem, and by their word shall be every dispute and every quarantine affliction.[66]

6. And all the elders of that city, the closest to the slain, shall wash their hands over the calf that was decapitated in the valley.

7. They shall answer and say, ‘Our hands didn’t shed this blood, and our eyes didn’t see (it done).’

8. The priests shall say, ‘Atone for Your people Israel whom You redeemed, Hashem, and do not give the sin of innocent blood among Your people Israel.’ They will be atoned for the blood.[67]

9. And you will remove those who spill innocent blood from your midst, because you will do what is appropriate before Hashem.[68]

[1] Literally, “give.”

[2] More literally, “punishers.”

[3] Rather than “righteous.”

[4] i.e., show favoritism.

[5] Rather than “take.”

[6] i.e., of the Torah. Chumash: “the words of the righteous.”

[7] Chumash: “Righteousness, righteousness…” (though translations often render it “Justice, justice…”).

[8] Literally, “and.”

[9] Rather than “an abomination.”

[10] Chumash: “the evil.”

[11] As opposed to “in the eyes of.”

[12] Onkelos changes the passive “it will be told to you” to active voice.

[13] Chumash: “mouth.”

[14] Chumash: “the dead will die.”

[15] Rather than “the evil.”

[16] Referring to cases of tzaraas.

[17] Hebrew: Torah.

[18] Literally, “and.”

[19] Rather than “willfully.”

[20] Rashi, citing the gemara in Sanhedrin (21b), understands the Hebrew “mishnei haTorah” to mean two copies of the Torah. The implication of Onkelos’ Aramaic “pas’shegen” is not this way.

[21] i.e., haughty.

[22] Literally, “from.”

[23] Literally, “on.”

[24] Rather than “fire offerings.”

[25] Rather than “He (i.e., God) is their inheritance.”

[26] As opposed to “the judgment of the priests.”

[27] Rather than “the cheeks.”

[28] Rather than “give to him.”

[29] i.e., forever.

[30] Literally, “the Levite.”

[31] Rather than “stand.”

[32] i.e., equivalent shares.

[33] Literally, “and.”

[34] Rather than “the voice of Hashem.”

[35] Rather than “They have done well.”

[36] Again, rather than “willful.”

[37] Rather than “and doesn’t come (to pass).”

[38] Rather than “cuts down.”

[39] As opposed to “struck.”

[40] Chumash: “yesterday or the day before.”

[41] i.e., the axe head.

[42] i.e., the axe handle.

[43] i.e., the manslaughterer.

[44] Rather than “blood upon you.”

[45] Literally, “and.”

[46] Onkelos pluralizes these words.

[47] Rather than “unjust.”

[48] Rather than “answer.”

[49] Chumash: “the two men.”

[50] Rather than “well.”

[51] Rather then “plotted.”

[52] Onkelos pluralizes these words.

[53] Rather than “be faint.”

[54] Rather than “do not panic.”

[55] As opposed to “soft- (i.e., faint-)hearted.” Clearly, the idiom “broken-hearted” doesn’t mean the same thing in Aramaic as it does in English.

[56] Literally, “eat.”

[57] Rather than “keep any soul alive.”

[58] Rather than “capture.”

[59] Rather than “swinging.”

[60] Literally, “the man.”

[61] Onkelos changes this sentence from a rhetorical question to a statement.

[62] Rather than “fortification.” (The term “siege engine” has nothing to do with internal combustion; battering rams and catapults are both examples of siege engines. Our choice of the term may seen anachronistic, but it isn’t.)

[63] Onkelos changes the passive voice to active.

[64] Rather than “fallen.”

[65] Rather than “hard.” (See Mishna Sotah 9:5.)

[66] See note on 17:8.

[67] As opposed to “The blood will be atoned for them.”

[68] Rather than “upright in Hashem’s eyes.”

© Copyright 2022 Rabbi Jack Abramowitz