Shoftim- A land of justice, a land for Jews

Justice, Justice, You Shall Pursue art by Laya Crust

This week I was fortunate to attend a shiur, a lecture, by Rabbi Ari Kahn on the parsha of the week. Rabbi Kahn pointed out that sefer d’varim is a very Zionist book, and this parsha also carries that message. The laws discussed have to do with the way leaders in the land of Israel should behave and laws pertaining to the carriage of justice.

The parsha begins by mentioning that the Israelites will have to appoint judges and policemen. Interesting – not only judges (which we might expect after Jethro helped Moses organize a series of courts back in the Book of Exodus) but also policemen. Rabbi Kahn pointed out that this directive followed the descriptions of holiday celebrations. In these celebrations there would have been wine, food, and singing, and entire communities would be celebrating together. It was reasonable to expect that the revelry might get a little out of hand, so policemen would help to keep things under control.

The point is that Moses and Gd were preparing the children of Israel to have their own land. They were reminding the nation of the responsibilities and freedoms that would be open to them. No more slavery. Social programs to feed the poor, the orphan and the widow would have to be established. The land would have to be respected and cared for. There would be legal and personal disputes so judges and courts with their own safeguards ensuring justice would have to be set up. Referring back to the situation at Mount Sinai when the Israelites were too afraid to hear Gd’s voice and accept His words, Gd and Moses reminded them that they would ask for a king to lead them, and they would get a king to lead them. The text of “Shoftim” outlines pitfalls that would face kings and judges.

The parsha was preparing the Jews for their own land. They had their own land under Joshua. Leadership continued through other prophets and judges and many kings. The kings quickly became corrupt and we ultimately lost our country. The good news is that we have it back again after almost 2,000 years of persecution and exile.

There is an election coming up in Israel in less than two weeks. Rather than wring our hands at the difficulties and corruption taking place in this incredible jewel of a Jewish land, we must look at the positive and build on it.

The front runners in the upcoming election are Zionists. They want a strong, safe, peaceful, vibrant Jewish country. We are not suffering an inquisition, anarchy, yellow stars or judenhats. We live in a democracy beside Arabs, religious and non- religious Jews, and people of other religions who are also allowed freedoms and voices. We must treasure this land and work to make it better.

So- be happy. Be positive. Vote for the best person and then work to make the country strong, fair, and caring. And have a Shabbat Shalom. Laya

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