Friday, August 25, 2017

Dvar Torah for Parshas Shoftim & Podcast (8th Anniversary Edition!)

This week marks the beginning of the 8th year of AIMeM. Thank you so much for your continued support and we look forward to sharing Divrei Torah for many years to come!

       Parshas Shoftim discusses the different sections of leadership the Bnei Yisrael will have upon entering Eretz Yisrael. The halachos of smaller and larger Batei Din, the Kohanim and Leviim, and our topic this week, the King, are all mentioned. The role of the king is perhaps the most interesting as his role is not strictly a halachic position, but political as well. At the same time, he has a strong role in insuring the nation keeps to the Torah. With his position as a role model, he has halachos that apply specifically to him.
       In our parsha, there are three restrictions placed on the king. He is not allowed to own too many horses, the reason being according to the pasuk, to prevent Bnei Yisrael from returning to Mitzrayim, the horse capital of the world. Additionally, he is not allowed too many wives or to have more money than is necessary to provide for him and his household with certain a level of prestige. The pasuk following this list of restrictions says, “וְהָיָ֣ה כְשִׁבְתּ֔וֹ עַ֖ל כִּסֵּ֣א מַמְלַכְתּ֑וֹ“And it will be, when he sits upon his royal throne…” (Devarim 17:18). Rashi explains that if he keeps to these restrictions, he will be worthy of sitting on the throne. But why these three things? What is special about them?
       The Kli Yakar explains that when the king sits on his throne, he really represents a different throne, the throne of Hashem. (See Divrei HaYamim I 29:23.) Therefore, he must stick close to the ways of Hashem and remove any potential matters which may deter him from this path. As we saw in Parshas Eikev (8:13-14), an abundance of money leads to ‘forgetting’ Hashem, meaning, not realizing that all things come from Him. Secondly, the prohibition of sending Jews down to Mitzrayim does not apply by all forms of business, just for buying horses. For all other items, there is no problem to go to Mitzrayim to buy them! Horses were used for the military and other shows of force and splendor; an overabundance of horses could lead the king to believe his military was strong enough to defeat any enemy, even without the help of Hashem. Since the best place to buy horses was in Mitzrayim, he was not allowed to send people there to purchase them.
       Lastly, as we saw with Shlomo HaMelech, having too many wives, i.e. too many competing outside influences, can easily lead to falling off the Torah way. With so many people clamoring for attention and influence, inevitably a few will attempt to stand out by suggesting something different, something that calls attention to them. While all of them will suggest things that follow the derech Hashem at first, eventually, the need for different ideas will lead them to suggest less moral activities, inevitably leading to the king falling off the path.
       While these laws were specifically set up for the king, the same principle applies to each and every Jew. We all have the obligation to be a role model and stay on the proper path. During the month of Elul, let us seek out the proper method that will allow us to safely navigate the road to remaining on a true course to avodas Hashem.

Shabbat Shalom!

Thank you to everyone who participated in this year's SOS program. The program has now ended for the Summer. Stay tuned for next year's!

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