Thursday, August 24, 2006

Parashat Shoftim - Creating Justice

This week in Israel, we have been wallowing in an unpleasant series of scandals involving the highest officials of our country. One certainly wonders what is going on in government if so many politicians and public figures have so low a sense of moral conduct, such a lack of self control, an apparent total absence of responsibility towards the public, and frighteningly degenerate personal lives.

I firmly believe that there are deep connecting lines between the low ethical standards and warped priorities of our leadership on the one hand, and the dire national situation in which we currently find ourselves, on the other. From a Torah perspective, high ethical conduct and integrity are the most elementary condition for our leadership.

Our shiur this week deals with precisely this theme. The Parasha opens:

"(18) Appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice. (19)You shall not judge unfairly, you shall show no partiality, you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and falsify the word of the just. (20)Justice, justice, shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (16:18-20)

I recall some years ago when Israeli politician Aryeh Deri was convicted of bribery. One of his colleagues in the Shas party said on TV, "How could Aryeh Deri be convicted of bribery? He is a Tzaddik!" And my thoughts immediately turned to these lines in Sefer Devarim:

"Bribes blind the eyes of the wise, and falsify the words of the righteous (Tzadikim)"

Bribes effect even a Tzaddik!

Our Parsha is a study of four modes of leadership within the Jewish nation state. They are: the judge, the king, the prophet and the priest. For each of these public figures, the Torah would seem to be interested less in the RIGHTS and the powers of the authority figure, and concerned more with their LIMITATIONS AND RESTRICTIONS - what they may not do, their pitfalls and weaknesses!

Read the shiur here.

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