: Shoftim (Judges) D’Varim (Deut.) 16:18-21:9
Haftorah Readings: Isaiah (Yesh’yahu) 51:12-53:12
This Torah portion is always read on the first Shabbat of the Hebrew month of Elul. This year, this month of Elul began last evening. Today is the first day of a forty day period of repentance and soul searching leading up to Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah marks the beginning of the High Holy Days. These days of repentance should give all of us the push to look back over our life and deal with those sins that have been forgotten or just swept under the rug. It is a time to be completely honest with ourselves and with G-d. It is a time to set our spiritual house in order. I would urge you to spend time during these days to ask the Heavenly Father to shed His light on anything that needs to be dealt with.
Now to our Torah portion for this Shabbat One of the main motifs of the book of Deuteronomy is how the Israelites prepared to enter the Land. Up until this point Moshe, as G-d’s representative, had been the only leader they had ever known. Here they were about to go over the river and enter Israel. Up until now they had been a collection of tribes. Now, they were to be a nation. A nation requires a different kind of leadership. Our portion sets out some of the practical positions that would have to be set up to govern the nation.
One I want us to look at closely is that of a king for Israel. The Torah sets out the guidelines for any future king. In D’Varim/Deut. 17:14-20 we read the steps a king of Israel must follow. 1. He shall not have many horses. In other words his faith must be in G-d, not in his military might. Psalms 20:7, “Some trust in chariots some in horse but we trust in the name of the L-rd our G-d.”
2. He shall not have many wives. The number of wives a person had could reflect on his perceived importance. It also was used to make women seem more like a possession and not as a partner in the marriage.
3. He shall also not amass a fortune (silver). It is more difficult for someone to keep their balance when they have great riches. It is also easy to become arrogant and self-absorbed.
4. The king must be Jewish and not a foreigner.
5. He must also write his own Torah scroll and read it every day so he would not forget G-d’s word. He shall learn to fear G-d.
In D’Varim/Deut. 17:19-20 we read the result of following these steps. In verse 20 we read “That his heart be not lifted up above his brothers.” So these verses are saying, if the king follows these steps the results will be that he will not succumb to the thought that he is higher than his brothers. In other words, he will maintain a humble spirit rather than see himself better than his subjects. When we as believers look at Yeshua’s life we can see how He completely fulfilled these qualifications as King of Israel and King of the Jews. It is interesting that the Romans put that as title when He was crucified. Many Christians today see no connection with Yeshua and his Jewishness. Some Christians believe He was a Jew until he was crucified and then He became a Christian. This a false teaching that needs to be brought to the light. Yeshua was, is, and will always be Jewish.
When we look throughout history it is easy to see that pride and vanity were the common traits of many or maybe all earthly kings. To be seen as humble never entered into the picture. In fact, it was looked at as a weakness. The commandment that a king must be humble ran contrary to all other thoughts on who a king was to be. So what made this such a revolutionary concept? It meant that kings and all of us must begin to see ourselves as not being the center of the universe. It is the belief that there is a G-d in whose presence we stand and He, not us, is the center of the universe. Avraham said in Genesis 18:27, “behold I am but dust and ashes.” He uttered these words just before he went to G-d to plead for the citizens of Sodom and the cities of the plains. Avraham was in no way hampered or felt useless, but he did recognize that G-d was the final word.
Now humbleness is not self-abasement, thinking you are dirt. There is a fundamental difference in the two Hebrew words, Anivut – humility and shiflut which means the feeling of having no worth. Humility is not low self-regard. That is shiflut. Humility means we are secure enough to not need to be constantly reassured by others. We are secure because we live in G-d’s love and have a grasp of who He has created us to be. He has faith in us. He has a task for each of us. Our goal is only to follow His will, His call that is enough.
Our world today is filled with people trying to fit in, to be accepted, to be part of a group, to be praised. Things like Facebook profiles, selfies and other forms of trying to stand out have left many people feeling insecure and having low self-esteem.
G-d has a better way. He loves us and has a plan for our lives. That is what should be our concern. Pride is concerned with who is right, who is better. Humility is concerned with what is right. My prayer for us all is that our faith remain strong, that our days are spent doing His Will.