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R' Feldman's Derasha - Parashat Shoftim (September 7, 2019)

09/10/2019 11:26:13 AM

Sep10

The Sforno points out that this is the Parasha of leadership.  Four different figures of leadership come up: the judge, the king, the Kohen and the prophet.  They each have a different role to play in Klal Yisrael but these sections describing them do more than introduce them.  They lay out limits. In all four instances, the point is to set down limits on the leader.  

The judge has the power to adjudicate, but the verses makes sure we know that he must be beyond reproach and reject anything that might distort his judgement.  Even if the case is simple, and a judge would choose a certain side anyway, any bribe from that side is considered a corruption of the process.

The kings of Israel, alone among the monarchs of the ancient world, were limited in terms of their wealth, their possessions and their households.  They had to have two Torah scrolls, one which stayed at home and one which went with the King on every excursion. The Torah’s restrictions on him were always present with him.  

The Kohanim are granted all kinds of privileges in the sanctuary of holiness.  But they are reminded as well that Hashem has chosen them to serve. They represent Him and they represent us, and do the faithful bidding of both.  Sure, they are granted land, and are supported. But it’s in the service of others and nothing else.  

Finally, the prophets are privileged mouth pieces.  The language of “Nevua” refers to produce -- the fruit of their lips.  This fruit is supposed to be divine. They speak for Hashem. But they must only speak what they’ve been signalled to share.  If they speak for themselves, it’s considered an intolerable abuse.

Whenever we carry out the functions of these four in our own small ways, we carry the same restrictions: To be objective in judgement, modest, mindful in what it means to serve the holy, and privileged to say over Hashem’s Torah and not our own.  

The verse in last week’s Parasha tells us that Hashem has His eyes on Eretz Yisrael from Reishit Hashana Ad Acharit Shana, from the beginning of the year until the end.  If Rosh Hashana is the beginning, than Elul is of course the end.  This is the part of the year furthest from the beginning, and most vulnerable to fatigue.  People want to go to sleep at the end of the day. The great framework of Elul is designed to maintain the alertness of the beginning even when furthest away. 

The Rambam says that we blow the Shofar because the Torah tells us to do so.  It does not say why. But he adds that we have a hint as to why when the prophet tells us that a Shofar has the power to wake people up.  Late in the year, the challenge is to stay alert to our functions, to be examining them in a way that allows for meaningful improvement.

Wed, November 20 2019 22 Cheshvan 5780