Torah Tidbits

2 September 2014 / 7 Elul 5774
Issue 1056
Shabbat Parshat Shoftim
August 08, 2013

Divrei Menachem

Divrei Menachem


Parshat Shoftim reminds us of the responsibilities of those who exercise power and authority in society. Of particular interest are the instructions given to a king appointed to rule over the people. One of these directives reads as follows: “And it shall be that when [the king] sits on the throne of his kingdom, he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah in a book”... (D’varim 17:18).
In the narrative, the Hebrew term to describe the book is “Mishneh Torah”. Why, we might ask, was the simpler term, “Torah”, not employed in the text? What does the additional word, “Mishneh” add to our understanding of the task presented to the Jewish king? On the surface, we understand that “Mishneh” has as its root the Hebrew numeral “Shenayim” (= 2), hence the two books to be written. Indeed, one copy of the Torah was to be kept in the royal treasury (so that the king’s wealth should not go to his head); the other was to be kept by the King to study, to remind him of his duties and his true place as a servant of Hashem.
For the “Yalkut Margalit” the term “Mishneh” has a two-fold meaning alluding to opposing attributes the king should display: Practical assertiveness and personal humility; fearful ruling and merciful leniency; social distance and fatherly concern. The goal, of course, is to find the harmonious balance between these polarities - Yes, in imitation of Hashem, blessed be He, “Who loves righteousness and judgment” (Daily Amida prayer).

Shabbat Shalom, Menachem Persoff

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