When you think of the great leaders of ancient Israel, the list would surely include at least a few kings: David, Solomon, Hezekiah, among others. Of course, there are no Israelite kings in the Torah, and the only mention of a future Israelite king appears this week, in Parshat Shoftim. It’s the passage where the Torah lays out the instructions “If, after you have entered the land that the LORD your God has assigned to you, and taken possession of it and settled in it, you decide, ‘I will set a king over me, as do all the nations about me…'” (Deuteronomy 17:14).
This passage, known as Mishpat Hamelekh, has been interpreted for centuries in light of the prevailing political system of the day. Someone living in Spain in 1492 or in Russia in the 19th century might have a different attitude toward the concept of monarchy, based on their lived experience under a king. Could it be that our political attitudes might be the product of the system in which we live?
I had the privilege to study this passage and some of its commentaries with Dr. Orit Avnery at Hartman this summer, and since the material is so rich, we will take some extended time to learn it at our kiddush luncheon on Shabbat morning. I look forward to learning with you!
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,