Drash on Parashat Shoftim
Rabbi Kim Ettlinger
Temple David, Perth, WA
One for me and one for you
In this week’s parshah, Shoftim, there is a discussion of some of the laws that apply to a king. I Particularly want to focus on this one:
וְהָיָ֣ה כְשִׁבְתּ֔וֹ עַ֖ל כִּסֵּ֣א מַמְלַכְתּ֑וֹ וְכָ֨תַב ל֜וֹ אֶת־מִשְׁנֵ֨ה הַתּוֹרָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙ עַל־סֵ֔פֶר מִלִּפְנֵ֖י הַכֹּהֲנִ֥ים הַלְוִיִּֽם׃
“It shall be that when he sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself two copies of the Torah” (Deut. 17:18).
As we read, It seems that a Jewish king must have two Torahs. One that he places with his treasures and one that accompanies him wherever he goes. Maimonides believes that even if he inherited Torah scrolls from his father or one as a family heirloom, he must nevertheless write 2 new ones for himself (Maimonides Melachim 3:1). Regardless, it is open for interpretation.
This begs the question for us today; while we are not kings or queens, or nobility, and we have no Jewish monarchy in the 21st century, how do we interpret this verse?
Rabbi Eliot Pearlson asks a different question, “Can another person eat for you and yet you receive the nutrients? Can another person drink water on your behalf and you are hydrated?”
We all know the answer. Simply put, No.
We need to take responsibility for our own Torah, for our own Jewish actions and learning.
If I don’t say the Shma with my daughter before bed, then who will? If I don’t do acts of Tikkun Olam then who will…? It is incumbent on me to write my own Torah. But what kind of Torah do I write.would
I believe it is not necessarily the actual Torah made up of the Five Books of Moses, but perhaps it has a different 5 books. A more personal version that reflects life. My Torah; My Law. Perhaps the books could be titled not Genesis, Exodus, but God, Israel, Tikkun Olam, Tzedakah, Family to name a few.
This Torah will be passed from generation to generation and this is the legacy we receive, add to and pass on. This becomes our Torah legacy.
Shoftim also serves to remind us that the Yamim Noraim are just around the corner and that we should take the time to not only consider that we will be written and sealed into the book of life, but that we too have our own book to consider along with THE Book. Torah is us and we are Torah,
Wishing all a meaningful Elul.