OU Torah Insights Project
Parashat Devarim - Shabbat Chazon
The first chapter of the Book of Devarim contains Moshe's review of past events in the history of the Children of Israel. After their sojourn at Mount Sinai, G-d commands the Israelites, "Enough of your dwelling by this mountain. Turn yourselves around and journey.... See I have given the land before you. Come and possess the land that Hashem swore to your forefathers."
The land of Israel would have been theirs without opposition, without even a battle, Moshe reminds them. But, unfortunately, this did not happenbecause of the disastrous mission of the spies.
However, Moshes narrative seems a bit odd. After recounting the command to posses the land, but before talking of the spies, Moshe interjects with a passage mandating the appointment of the Shoftim, Judges, in the Holy Land, and the establishment of a judiciary system there.
We are left to ask why Moshe interrupted the logical sequence of historical events with this directive?
Nachmanides teaches that with the receiving of the Torah at Mount Sinai and the appointment of the judges "we were ready to enter the land." Moshe's interjection teaches us that the institution of courts of justice was a prerequisite to our possession of the land of Israel and the fulfillment of he promise given to Avraham, Yitzchak and Yaakov.
Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt"l, understood this concept as the connection between Parshas Devarim and the Haftorah of Shabbos Chazon.
In the time of the prophet Isaiah, the judicial system was corrupt and the Judges, the leaders of the nation at that time, had forsaken their Divine role as the guardians of "tzedakah umishpatrighteousness and justice."
The destruction of the Jewish State was therefore inevitable, as the Haftorah proclaims: "Zion shall be redeemed with justice and her returnees with righteousness."
This principle is also found in our daily prayers, the Rav points out. In the Amidah, we pray to G-d "to gather our exiles from the four corners of the earth" and return our people to their sovereign homeland, Eretz Yisrael. The next blessing should logically be, "And to Jerusalem, your city may you return in compassion May you rebuild it soon in our days and speedily establish the throne of David within it." But it is not.
Immediately following the prayer for the in gathering of the exiles we ask Hashem, "Return our judges as in earliest times.... Blessed are you Hashem the King who loves righteousness and justice."
The sequence of these blessings proclaims that the gathering of the exiles and the establishment of a sovereign Jewish State with Jerusalem as its eternal capital cannot have any permanence unless there is a judicial system within which justice and righteousness can flourish.
We are the generation that was blessed to see the establishment of the sovereign State of Israel. Medinat Yisrael is the fulfillment of our prayers and dreams.
But in order for our Jewish homeland to flourish as a Jewish State, justice and righteousness must dominate both the government and the lives of individual Jews. No man, religious or secular, is above the law, which stems from the ideal of tzedakah umishpat.
If we allow individuals, as well as government representatives, to be disloyal to the tenets of justice and righteousness, our future as a people in a sovereign state is jeopardized.
We all have the obligation to preach and practice tzedakah umishpat so that Zion may be redeemed speedily in our days.
Rabbi Bertram Leff
Rabbi Leff is editor of Torah Insights.