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

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. 

D'var Torah By: 
Not Blind, But Fair
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Matt Dreffin

People who search for the origins of Lady Justice might investigate 16th-century depictions of a blindfolded woman holding scales. Perhaps they might recognize an allusion to this figure in Parashat Shof’tim when the Bible commands us to dispense and uphold justice: “You shall not twist judgment. You shall not recognize any face or take any bribery, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous” (Deut.16:19). 

Set a King Over Yourself

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?

D'var Torah By: 
Rabbi Denise L. Eger
Davar Acher By: 
A Call to Do the Right Thing

Parashat Shof'tim gives the people the right to set a king over themselves. But their responsibility is to set up a just and righteous government, whether it is a monarchy or not. 

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

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).

D'var Torah By: 
Taking Messages of Justice to the Public Square
Davar Acher By: 
Mona Alfi

Rabbi Firestone speaks of the important role of the prophetic voice, then and now. However, American Jews often cringe when someone in the political arena claims to speak the word of God. We often have a visceral reaction against the mixing of religion and politics because we know the potential danger when there is no wall between the two.

But neither our ancient ancestors or our founding fathers (and mothers) envisioned a concrete wall between "church" and "state." For both, the understanding was that this "separation" is more of a permeable membrane. While the American government does not have the right to dictate what our religious practices should be, Judaism teaches us that our religious values should inform our political actions.

It Takes Two, Me and You

In many Jewish weddings I have officiated at over the years, the bride and groom have chosen to add to the traditional vows these words from the prophet Hosea: V’eirastich Li b’tzedek uv’mishpa

D'var Torah By: 
When Justice Trumps Mercy
Davar Acher By: 
Sarah Bassin

Rabbi Korotkin offers a perspective on Shof’tim in which God’s mercy compensates for the human need for justice—a need that can morph into an unholy vengeance.

Shof’tim: Breathing New Life into Ancient Teaching

One of the joys of Jewish life in the Land of Israel is the way ancient texts can be used in ordinary moments of daily life.

D'var Torah By: 
Another Ancient Bizarre Jewish Ritual
Davar Acher By: 
Amy L. Memis-Foler

The breaking of a heifer's neck in an ever-flowing wadi, followed by the priests' pronouncing a blessing of the Eternal God, and the elders washing their hands over the heifer and making a declarat

Cities of Refuge

Several years ago I read an article by Jared Diamond in The New Yorker Magazineabout the experiences of a young man in the New Guinea Highlands in trying to fulfill the obliga

D'var Torah By: 
Pursue Justice and Peace
Davar Acher By: 
Rabbi Daniel R. Allen

How is one to behave if one accepts that the burden of moral responsibility can, and should, exist even where there is no legal responsibility?  In the beginning of the parashah we learn;

"You Must Not Go Back That Way Again"

"You must not go back that way again" (Deuteronomy 17:16). This statement in Shof'tim is far more central to our religious worldview than we might realize.

D'var Torah By: 
Advice for Rulers and Politicians
Davar Acher By: 
Roberta Louis Goodman

"When he [the king] is seated on his royal throne, he shall have a copy of this Teaching [mishneh hatorah] written for him on a scroll by the levitical priests.

“Fear Not”

Moses prepares his people for the battle awaiting them on the other side of the Jordan River, saying: "When you [an Israelite warrior] take the field against your enemies, and see horses and chario

D'var Torah By: 
Feeling Fear, Transforming Awe
Davar Acher By: 
Karen R. Perolman

Rabbi Splansky does a beautiful job of illuminating these verses (Deuteronomy 20:1-3), which begin to lay out the rules for war within the Land of Israel.

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