The commandments mentioned in this parasha are based on the "six pillars of silver", i.e. the six pillars upon which the universe is built. These six pillars are: Torah, [Divine] Service, Acts of Kindness, Judgment, Truth, and Peace.

The pillar of Judgment is mentioned in the first part of this parasha, where the appointment of judges and a Supreme Court is legislated. The rules about an individual Torah scholar who refuses to submit to the majority decision of his colleagues and the law to appoint a king whose function it is to lead the people in the path of Torah, all belong to the pillar of judgment. A king is permitted to deviate in some ways from Torah norms concerning the movement of boundaries, whereas other people are not. The rules not to judge on the basis of a single witness, how to deal with untruthful witnesses, etc. are all part of the pillar of Judgment.

True peace can only come about when the wicked have been removed or have become penitents….

The pillar of Truth is represented by legislation dealing with sorcerers, a false prophet, etc. all of whom originate in the left side of the sefirot, the domain from where lies emanate. The legislation not to pay heed to a false prophet, not to be afraid of violating the demands he makes upon you, as well as the promise that G‑d will provide true prophets, all are part of the pillar of Truth.

The pillar of Peace is presented as part of the legislation dealing with warfare (provided the war is not against the seven nations who occupied Canaan at the time the Jewish people entered it) in order to show how the Torah stresses peace. The Torah nonetheless decrees the utter annihilation of all the inhabitants of the land of Canaan because true peace can only come about when the wicked have been removed or have become penitents.

We are even commanded to preserve ecological "peace" when the plants in question are of immediate and universal use to man, i.e. fruit-bearing trees. Such plants must not be destroyed even if by doing so the war would be shortened. The anointing of the priest who addresses the soldiers on their way to battle is designed to assure the soldiers that G‑d loves them and has their welfare in mind. When we love G‑d, there will be peace between G‑d and us, and war among our (His) enemies. This is why the Torah orders us not to fear our enemies.

The pillar of Torah is dealt with in the legislation denying the tribe of Levi a share in the land to be distributed amongst the other tribes. It is their task to study Torah and to teach it, as we know from the verse: "They shall teach Your laws to Jacob and Your instructions to Israel." (Deut. 33:10) If the Torah had allocated them farmland and orchards, they would be busy tending their land that they would not be able to fulfill their spiritual tasks. This is why the Torah instructs the Israelites to give certain gifts to the Levites, so that they should be free of the burden of earning a livelihood and thus be able to shoulder the burden of Torah study.

Once the priests had increased in number, their service in the Temple was restricted to a few days a year for each shift. On the festivals, however, when they were in Jerusalem anyway, they could then receive a share of the meat of the many offerings presented on the altar. They made their regular living from the portions of meat set aside for them from animals slaughtered for private consumption as well as from the firstborn male animals, the first shearings, the "teruma" (approx. 2% of the farmer's grain, oil and grape harvest). The Levite also contributed to the priest 10% of the tithes that he received.

The pillar called "Service" is represented in our parasha by the prohibition to plant a tree in the Temple precincts and the prohibition to erect stone-monuments. The law forbidding the sacrifice of a blemished animal also falls under that heading.

The pillar of Acts of Kindness concerns the true kindness shown to people after their death. In our parasha, this pillar is represented by the law concerning the cities of refuge, which provide partial restitution for unintentional murderers. So, too, the requirement to kill the "broken-necked calf" [if an unidentified body was found, the nearest city takes responsibility, for they may have been negligent in the mitzvah of hospitality and an indirect cause for the death] as a declaration that one has not been remiss in fulfilling this commandment also comes under this heading.

[Translation and commentary by Eliyahu Munk.]