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[Dvar Torah] Shaftim

This week’s parsha, Shoftim, follows Moses' speech to the people of Israel as he discusses the foundations of a healthy society: laws. Moses discusses the requirement of placing law enforcement officers throughout the different sectors of Israelite society in order to keep everyone lawful in the eyes of G-d. Thus, Moses transforms what could be described as a tribal society into a structured society by establishing a system of laws which are then enforced by judges within a court of law. 

You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements (...) and they shall govern the people with due justice. You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, (...). Justice, justice shall you pursue (...) 
Dvarim 16; 18-20

Moses emphasizes the importance of leadership and the roles leaders play within society, such as kings. We can learn many important lessons from these specific laws as they are targeted to influence our behaviors as leaders. 

Firstly, kings  are instructed to not have too many horses, wives or gold: 

(The king…) shall not keep many horses (…) And he shall not have many wives, lest his heart go astray; nor shall he amass silver and gold to excess.
Devarim 17, 16-17

This way, the king will not gain too much power over his subjects. It will also constantly remind him not to exploit his subjects for his own self-benefit: that he serves the people and not the other way round.  The Jewish king is  also instructed to create his own written copy of the Torah and carry it on his person at all times. He must become familiar with it completely and whenever he comes upon a situation in which he is unsure of how to act, he must review the Torah to act correctly.

When he is seated on his royal throne, he shall have a copy of this Teaching written for him on a scroll (…) Let it remain with him and let him read in it all his life (...) Thus he will not act haughtily toward his fellows or deviate from the Instruction to the right or to the left, to the end that he and his descendants may reign long in the midst of Israel.
Devarim 17, 19-20

As a king is a man with power, he might think he is above the law. This potential arrogance may cause him to act wrongly towards his people and therefore towards G-d. 

It is part of the human condition that we, as people, often come upon situations in which we may be unsure of how to act, and from this parsha, we learn that keeping our set of values close to us, and referring to them in times of doubt - will enable us to make the right choices. As leaders of our own selves and as ones who might be leaders of others, it is important to stay true to the ideals that we value and act accordingly. 

Shabbat Shalom! 

Bradley, Grade 12