There are a number of reasons why I love this week’s parasha, Shofetim. Yes, it was my daughter’s parasha, so there’s that. It has a whole section on military ethics, (chapter 20) which I teach as part of a full Jewish studies curriculum at the Great Lakes Naval Recruit Training Center. I love teaching that text.
But today, some verses are just screaming at me.
The parasha says, for example, if you really want a King to rule over you, make sure he’s
- Not a foreigner
- Doesn’t have too many horses
- Doesn’t have too many wives
- Hasn’t amassed too much silver and gold to excess
- Doesn’t act haughtily.
The parasha goes on to say that “if a man appears against another to testify maliciously and gives false testimony against him, the two parties to the dispute shall appear before God, before the priests and magistrates in authority at the time, and the magistrate shall make a thorough investigation. If the man who testified is a false witness, if he has testified falsely against his fellow, you shall do to him as he schemed to do to his fellow. Thus you will sweep out evil from your midst.” (Deut 19:16-19)
Again, I sigh. Testifiy. Court. False testimony. False witness. Thorough investigation by the authorities. Sweep out evil.
Ha! And you thought Torah wasn’t relevant! It doesn’t take much to apply Shofetim to relevant news of our lives and leaders today.
The Torah portion pretty well speaks for itself. We haven’t been careful at all about who we’ve chosen to be our leader. And he has definitely created evil in our midst, which needs to be swept out…of office. Torah is telling us that we the people have a responsibility, not God, as to who our leaders are.
The midterm elections are less than 100 days away. Your responsibility is to vote. Your responsibility is to make sure your neighbors are registered and vote. No one…..no one….can legitimately sit this out. We don’t leave this to God; this is in our hands, on our heads, and on our feet, to act.