Shoftim – Torah Themes

Parshas Shoftim


A King’s True Quality


There is a mitzvah in the Torah of appointing a king (Devarim 17:15). Although we do not have a Jewish king today, this mitzvah still has great relevance. Yalkut Reuveni brings down a number of lessons to learn from this topic, which can be linked to one powerful lesson.


Anyone who learns Torah becomes like a king as it says (Devarim 33:5), “V’yehi bishurun melech, when the king reigns” and close by it says, “Torah tzivah lanu Moshe, Moshe taught us Torah (Tanchuma Ki Sisa).”


Why did Shaul merit to become king? Because of his humility, he considered other’s needs as important as his own (Yalkut Shimoni, Shmuel).


The Zohar asks: Why did Yosef merit to become king in Egypt? Because he conquered his desire and anyone who conquers his desire brings upon himself the yoke of malchus shamayim.


The Tikunim (25) says that there is a mitzvah to learn Torah day and night and there is also a mitzvah for a king to carry around his own sefer Torah and to read from it all the days of his life. This connects the king to Hashem and puts him on par with malchus and tiferes. Malchus is kingship and tiferes is Yaakov who is called the ‘ish tam.’ Tam means perfect and whole. Just as Yaakov was complete and whole, so too, the Torah must be complete, not missing any letters, or it is invalid.


What does this all mean?


The Gemara Bava Kama (60b) defines a king’s privilege as: A king can breech any fence to make himself a path and no one can protest.


Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that the reason a pauper and blind person are considered dead is because they lack full control of their lives. They are beholden to others to meet their needs and to get around. Life is about having freedom to pursue one’s mission. Thus, the king represents someone who has all the resources necessary to live life to its fullest. The king is instructed though that this freedom is not in order to fulfill his own selfish agendas, rather, it is to free his mind and spirit to focus on Hashem and spiritual ideals and to help others. The king’s freedom allows him the opportunity to dedicate his life to avodas Hashem and kindness.


First Time Lesson


Rav Tzadok taught, based on Chazal, that the first time a phenomenon is found in the Torah, its location has significance and is part of the lesson itself. Who was the first individual to ever apologize and admit his mistake in the Torah? It was none other than Yehuda who admitted (Bereishis 38:26), “tzadka mimeni, she (Tamar) is correct, she is pregnant from me.”


Yehuda was the king of the 12 tribes and he was the father of the royal line. He was malchus, royalty. His trait was that he was self-aware and self-sufficient and he was strong enough to admit when he did something wrong! That is the ultimate greatness of the king.


Chazal (Pirkei D’Rebbe Eliezer) teach that a chosson, groom, is compared to a king. We normally think of this lesson as a symbol of his royalty and greatness. But we can also tie it back to Yehuda. It is a lesson in humility. The chosson strives to be like the king, ready to admit and take responsibility for his mistakes. This is the key to a successful marriage, self-awareness and self-responsibility.


It comes a no surprise that the Yerushalmi teaches that a chosson on his wedding day and a king upon his coronation are both forgiven of all their sins. Rav Chaim Shmuelevitz explains that both have just accepted upon themselves the ultimate responsibility and so it is in that merit that they are forgiven. That is the trait of the king, to connect with Hashem with humility and to treat others with a sense of great responsibility, dedication and kindness.

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