Parshat Shoftim 5781: Malchut, Governance When Foreigners Wield Governing Power?

Shalom Friends;

Our Parshat HaShevua, Shoftim is being sponsored by Dov and Bracha Moses of Ramat Beit Shemesh dedicated Lilui Nishmas for Dov’s Father, Avraham ben Chaim Mordechai, z”l, and also for a refuah shleima for Rachel bat Chaya Perel and Shmuel ben Rivka. To the Moses family, many thanks for your sponsorship and your continued kindnesses.

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Moshe Burt
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Parshat Shoftim 5781: Malchut, Governance When Foreigners Wield Governing Power?

by Moshe Burt

As in previous vorts on our Parshat Shoftim, this author begins by focusing on the Torah requirement of appointment of judges, and officers of the court to enforce judicial decisions without prejudice or bribe, either for or against litigants, and with righteous judgement. (This Author’s summary of Sefer Devarim, Perek 16, posukim 18-19)

The third posuk of our parsha reads:

“Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof…” Righteousness, righteousness (also rendered Justice, Justice) you shall pursue that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord, your G’d gives you.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 16, posuk 20)

In short, this means the application of righteousness of judgement to police and law enforcement, as well as the judiciary. And the paradigm posuk of our Parshat: “Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof –(Justice, Justice) shall you pursue” would seem to apply to law enforcement to at least the same extent as to Judges and Judiciary.

Such righteousness regarding officers of the court, meaning law enforcement, and Judicial judgement must not be prejudiced by bribes, gifts, appearance of, or financial position of either litigant. Such righteousness, in a true Halachic state should/would be totally devoid of political agenda.

With this year’s vort, this author again focuses on the Malchut (Kingship), its role in a Torah Halachic State, but with an eye toward the current state of Israel’s governance.

Rabbi Shimshon Rafael Hirsch z”l, in the new Hirsch Chumash (English translation by Daniel Haberman) renders our parsha regarding Malchei Yisrael (kingship) (The new Hirsch Chumash on Sefer Devarim, Perek 17, posukim 14-15. pages 394-401):

“When you come to the land that Hashem… is giving you, and you have taken possession of it and will dwell in it, you will say: I will set a king over me, like all the nations… you will then set a king over yourself whom Hashem… will chose. From the midst of your brethren shall you set a king over yourself; you cannot set over yourself a foreigner who is not your brother.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 17, posukim 14-15)

Rabbi Shmuel Goldin writes context in a section on kingship in his sefer “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim (page 199):

The Talmudic scholars view the appointment of a king as an obligation, one of three positive commandments incumbent upon the B’nei Yisrael upon entry into the land. (Rabbi Goldin citing Talmud Bavli Sanhedrin 20b)

Rabbi Goldin continues ( “Unlocking The Torah Text,” Sefer Devarim page 199-200):

The existence of a direct commandment to appoint a king… seems to fly in the face of the historical narrative surrounding the selection of Shaul, the first king of Israel. Sefer Shmuel [in Tanach] clearly records the extreme displeasure with which the prophet [navi] Shmuel greated the nation’s request: “Place for us a king, to judge us like all the nations.” (Rabbi Goldin citing Tanach: Shmuel I, Perek 8, posuk 5) Even further, when Hashem commands Shmuel to accede to the nation’s request — but only after informing them of the laws that will govern a future king’s power over them — the prophet clearly uses the opportunity to dissuade the nation from their intended path. (Rabbi Goldin citing Tanach: Shmuel I, Perek 8, posukim 16-18)

Rabbi Goldin then points out three possible approaches found in a Tosefta, a source from the Mishnaic period regarding the disconnect between the biblical mitzvah to establish kingship and Shmuel’s reaction to the nation’s eventual request (ibid, page 200):

1/ An anonymous position postulates that the nation’s request was premature. The time had not yet arrived for establishment of the monarchy.

2/ Rabbi Nehorai [Rabbi Meir bar Yitzchak (Nehorai) of Orléans, who was a cantor (prayer leader) in Worms, Germany, (died ca. 1095).] Authored Akdamut [which] consists of praise for God, His Torah, and His people.] maintains that the mitzvah to appoint a king is only recorded in Torah in anticipation of the nation’s future murmurings. For this reason, the Torah hinges the mitzvah upon the nation’s expressed desire to “set over myself a king, like all the nations that surround me.”

3/ Rabbi Eliezer, son of Rabbi Yossi argues that the text in Sefer Shmuel [in Tanach] actually outlines two separate requests that are made of the navi, one of which is appropriate and which was not…. The fitting request “Place for us a king, to judge us.” Then the people inappropriately added: “[That we may be also] like all the other nations.” Shmuel was not displeased with the… desire to fulfill the mitzvah of establishing a monarchy. His upset developed only in response to the people’s improper addendum [“like all the nations.”] (Rabbi Goldin citing Tosefta Sanhedrin 4:3)

R’ Hirsch provides commentary on what the role of malchut is, and is not (R’ Hirsch commentary in the new Hirsch Chumash on Sefer Devarim, Perek 17, posukim 14-15. pages 394-401 on — “When you come to the land that Hashem… is giving you, and you have taken possession of it and will dwell in it”:

…These words… state unequivocally at the very outset that it is not the role of Melech Yisrael to conquer the land and secure Israel’s possession of it; it is not his role to build up power to be used externally. For it is Hashem Who gives the Land to Israel, and with Hashem’s help Israel will conquer the land and dwell safely under His protection…. For these purposes Israel does not need a king: all Israel needs to do — so that Hashem’s promises may be fulfilled — is to be “Israel”; to prove that it is indeed the people loyal to Hashem’s Torah: to win a moral victory over itself from within so as to be sure of victory also against all enemies from without.

…This need [kingship] can arise for only one reason: … to assure the sole factor on which Hashem’s protection and blessing depend; … the nation be “Israel”, the people loyal to Hashem’s Torah.

You, too, [Israel] will feel the need for national unity in order to obtain the greatest good for yourself… for this purpose, you, too, will seek to establish national unity by means of subordination to one head of state. But… your head of state will… stand out… first among all Jews loyal to Torah…

Imbued with the spirit of your [referring to Am Yisrael] mission, he [the king] will seek to win over all hearts and minds to this spirit, in thought, word and deed. With the power of his word, his personal example, and his personal prestige, he will combat anything that will violate this spirit. You are to place all of your resources at his command, so that he may fight for and defend your national mission internally.

Thus Hashem has granted Am Yisrael exclusive possession of, monarchy in and sovereignty over Eretz Yisrael provided that we remain loyal to Hashem, Torah and our mission — unity and loyalty to Hashem’s Torah.

Rav Hirsch then makes this jaw-dropping observation, perhaps a prophesy about our times:

Indeed, this is the true vocation of the king in Israel, for… the nation was faced with a threat; the alienation of its individual segments from their one common moral task as a nation. The appointment of a king is meant to combat this danger. (ibid., R’ Hirsch commentary)

R’ Hirsch seems to have outlined the paradigm L’Chatchila (the way things oughta be) mission of Malchei Yisrael, as mentioned above, which seems to be maintenance of a national spirit of unity and loyalty to Hashem and Torah. This author’s understanding of a king’s mandate is the pursuit of Torah righteousness by all segments of Am Yisrael in all aspects of national life, rather than creating a divisive nation, an Am divided and conquered by equivocating, vacillating, power-hungry at ALL Costs, anti-Torah politicians who lack, or have lost a handle on the spiritual ability to truly know why they are here and why a modern-day Israel exists.

The second part of Perek 17, posuk 15 of our Parshat delivers an important message to be heeded in today’s Israel:

“You cannot set over yourself a foreigner who is not your brother.”

Of course, the B’nei Yisrael cannot set over itself any type of foreigner. But, by extension, one could understand that any foreigner, any non-Jew ought NOT, CANNOT wield governing power, be it executive, legislative, judicial or de-facto over a true Jewish sovereignty. For WE ARE a sovereignty, a nation of Jews and not under the dominion of any foreign entity — not the Obamanator, not “Sippy-Cup” Biden, not ba’al kerry, not Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and her three hateful friends, not even President Trump who was the friendliest president ever toward Israel and the Jews, or any other foreign personage or entity.

But Israel’s current governance seems hamstrung and handcuffed by it’s “king-maker” Moslem Brotherhood contingent known as Ra’am and it’s leader. Mansour Abbas. The government de-facto has ceded much of the Negev, turned a blind eye and deaf ear to terrorism by Israeli Arabs and much more due to Ra’am’s threats to wreck the current short-sighted, power-hungry divisive governing coalition if it doesn’t get its way.

Torah tells that those foreigners willing to live in Israel — under a Jewish sovereignty are welcome provided they live by and obey the rules of a Jewish sovereignty. But they ought not, cannot, MUST NOT have legislative governmental power over Am Yisrael.

But the terrible error of Am Yisrael which soo bothered Shmuel: “Place for us a king, …like all the nations.” seems to re-play out, in different forms, in our times — via the desire to model Israel after foreign modes of “democracy”, so-called “political correctness,” seeking “a nation of all its peoples” and more.

May we soon see, in our time, that Hashem will “Place for us a king,” as R’ Hirsch writes; “first among all Jews loyal to Torah.”

May we, the B’nei Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole — be totally restituted for all that was stolen from them and that the thrice expelled families of Amona be restored to their rebuilt homes, at government expense; both due to alt-leftist-agendized, supreme court legalized Yassamnik gunpoint. Baruch Hashem that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard is now free of his parole and restrictions and that he and his ill wife Esther Yocheved bat Rayzl Bracha are finally home in Eretz Yisrael. May the MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem — as with the return in April, 2019, via Russia, of the remains of Zachariah Baumel, as should the remains of the two chayalim from the Gaza War of seven years ago. May we have the courage and strength to stand up and physically prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and prevent Chas V’Challila the handing of Jewish land over to anyone, let alone to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. And may we soon and finally see the total end to the Communist Chinese corona virus pandemic and all like viruses. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nei Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem Al’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bimhayrah b’yamainu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Chodesh ElulTov and Good Shabbos!
Moshe Burt, an Oleh, is a commentator on news and events in Israel and Founder and Director of The Sefer Torah Recycling Network. He lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.