(I am not using my own computer to write this and I don't have hebrew support, i.e., DavkaWriter, so I must improvise)
This parasha is really a diamond in the rough. It has everything. I am not going to go into the Snakes on a Plane (though I saw it yesterday and really enjoyed it; maybe too late for Philo's tastes, but at least I went to go see it) diatribe because I already went into for Parashat Vaetchanen. It features the job description and criteria for certain important professions. Judges, Kings, and Priests are defined here, the former two possibly for the first time in this detail (judges are mentioned in Parashat Yitro in context of Moses and the creation of the position). "Justice, Justice shalt thou pursue" it is said of the judge. Don't take bribes but on the other hand don't favor the poor (or anyone for that matter), be equitable and just, be unbiased. This is a great basis for the legal profession that I think needs to be refreshed in certain jurists, juror, and esquirial minds. Also, the possibility of capital punishment, even here in the Written Torah, kal vachomer in the Oral Law, is already fraught with limits, setting up the rarity of the action. The Torah, like the modern state of Israel, though capital punishment *technically* exists, the limits placed upon it make it nearly impossible. In the Talmud, a Sanhedrin (court of at least 23 people, the minimum amount of people to be able to adjudicate a capital case) that executes only one person in 70 years is considered a "bloody sanhedrin". Likewise, the Modern State of Israel has only executed one person, Adolf Eichmann, and that was because of his major role in the Holocaust and implementing the Final Solution. Likewise, as you will see next week (I think next week, the famous account of the ben sorer u'moreh, the rebellious child, the talmud says has never happened and never will. That is a pretty tall fence around the Torah...
The king is a fun position because he is not allowed to have too many horses or too many wives, in that order. The king has to have copies of the Torah on him at all times, and must be a native-born Jew (see Article II of the US Constitution if you think this is unfair to converts; this having been said, it seems that Jews-by-choice tend to have a closer connection to Judaism than most Jews-by-birth, as you can see on my synagogue's website of an excellent program that took place on Shavuot celebrating the most famous Jewish convert, Ruth. Indeed, she is actually the great-grandmother of the Davidic line, so there's obviously not an "all-Jewish pedigree" required for the Job.)
I would love to give a Harry Potter Dvar Torah this week, but it says that witches and sorcerers and those who cast spells shouldn't be allowed to live, so whoops, Harry goes down with Voldemort. Idolothyous offering of children is also forbidden, particularly the idolothytes to Molech (I love getting Erin's Weird and Wonderful Word of the Day from OED...)
To continue the story last week about the false prophet versus the true prophet, there is an issue of identifying the true prophet. If his supernatural signs come true then you can listen to him, and God will call him to account. The issue I brought up in the Talmud class regarding Elijah I discussed last week is that though Elijah had miraculous evidence to support his suspension of the rules, christians maintain that Jesus performed miracles and Muslims believe this a quality of Muhammad. This then becomes an issue. Judaism has seen false messiahs, Shabtai Tzvi is one of the most famous examples. His first act as so-called Messiah was to abolish the fast of Tisha B'Av, which has been fortold to be changed from mourning to a Yom Tov in the Messianic Age, therefore this is the first thing that went. And yet he, like Jesus and Muhammad, almost had a major religion after him, but then he wussed out and converted to Islam when threatened with death. Even after his death, Frankists remained who believe that this other guy, Jacob Frank, is the reincarnation of Tzvi and the messiah. So my answer is an ambiguous "you don't know". Even in something like this is demanded a leap of faith, which is what religion is.
Finally, a very important part of this Torah portion is regarding conscription and the regulation of the Army. It's extremely moral and you aren't penalized for backing out. The Kohen Gadol of War (believe me, there's one) would address the troops and bring up their spirits. You have to realize that in Pre-Temple Times and as seen in "Indiana Jones: Raiders of the Lost Ark" (one of my favorite movies and I taught a class on it) the Ark of the Covenant was brought in to battle, and was a symbol of God and His Heavenly Host fighting for us. The heads of the army then gave the option of anyone who had just built a new house (but hadn't yet moved in), or just planted a vineyard (but not yet harvested), anyone betrothed but not yet married, these and even people of cowardly complexion were allowed to back out of the army with no penalty. The Torah even demands that they are given an equal share of the booty.
And even more finally, we always seek the path of non-physical combat, always offering the enemy to surrender. Also we are never to cut down fruit trees when we conquer a city (with the exception of Jerusalem where there cannot be trees on the Temple Mount because pagans worship them. When the Temple is rebuilt (bimheira b'yameinu) the trees on there will have to go.) and "Bal Tashchit", the phrase given here, becomes applied to not wasting in a broader sense, establishing Judaism as the first ecological religion. Recycling is a very Jewish concept and many have used Bal Tashchit to advocate for Organ Donation and Stem-Cell Research, in conjunction of the mitzvot of Pikuach Nefesh (saving lives) and Rofeh Tirfeh (healing).
Oh and there's the fun little ending about breaking the neck of a cow in a non-irrigated wadi if there is an unsolved murder equidistant between two cities, but I'll allow you to read that part unassisted.
Shabbat Shalom, Ketivah V'Chatima Tova, Chodesh Tov*,
*(notice the order, tadir v'eino tadir)