Torah Commentary

What the Torah Teaches about the Use (and Abuse) of Political Power

August 17, 2020Rabbi Max Chaiken
“Justice, justice shall you pursue…” (Deut. 16:20) We find this famous biblical aspiration at the beginning of this week’s Torah portion, Parashat Shof’tim, which continues Moses’ elaboration of the extensive set of laws that the Israelites are to follow, if they are to create a holy and just society.

On Judges, Kings, Priests, and Prophets: Is the Jewish-Leadership Status Quo Sufficient?

August 18, 2018Rabbi Rachel Sabath Beit-Halachmi, Ph.D.

The dramas of political power and legal authority are mesmerizing. From the creation of the first civil society to today, there is no shortage of debate about how an ideal society should function. Parashat Shof'tim outlines a mulit-tiered system for the Israelites' political system that includes judges, kings, priests, and prophets. 

Set a King Over Yourself

August 26, 2017Rabbi Professor Marc Saperstein

In Parashat Shof'tim the people are told that they are free to set a king over themselves. But does the Torah command us to set over ourselves a king? And is a monarchy the best and most just form of government?

Listen to Your Prophets . . . But Don’t Be Deceived!

September 10, 2016Reuven Firestone

Our parashah this week raises a very interesting question about prophets and prophecy. It also raises an important issue about how to relate to other forms of monotheism. In Deuteronomy 18 God speaks to Moses about the people of Israel with these words: "I will raise up for them from among their own people a prophet like yourself, in whose mouth I will put My words and who will speak to them all that I command; and anybody who fails to heed the words [the prophet] speaks in My name, I Myself will call to account" (Deuteronomy 18:18-19).