Parshas Shoftim: Justice and Leadership

In Parshas Shoftim, we learn about the importance of justice. Moshe Rabbenu tells the people, “Justice, justice shall you pursue”. He warns against favouritism and corruption, but doesn’t stop there. Instead, he goes beyond moral guidelines and lays out the specifics for preventing the things which he condemns. Later on in the Parsha, we learn about the investigation of crime, the laws regarding witnesses, and the cities of refuge, among other topics.

Moshe Rabbenu’s leadership skills are made obvious in this week’s Parsha. As we have found out in other Parshiot, when he speaks to the Israelites, he doesn’t provide them with empty rhetoric. He doesn’t speak of grand gestures and rousing ideas, without also giving them the means to fulfil the commandments. In many ways, he is a very practical leader. Too many leaders- both today, and in the past, though it has become more common in recent years- make impressive speeches which actually contain very little meaning. It’s easy to talk of a brilliant future, or to scapegoat certain groups- but it’s actually very hard to provide a large group of people, such as the Israelites, with solid advice.

It’s hard being a leader. Since Moshe Rabbenu, standards have certainly slipped. Around the globe, there are many people attempting to run countries, and failing. Some of these people are misinformed- they genuinely believe that “it’s working”. And others feel entitled to their position. This doesn’t only apply to world leaders, but also to the presidents of companies, and even regional managers. In both cases, these people are lacking something which Moshe Rabbenu had plenty of: humility.

There’s not much in the Torah about Moshe Rabbenu’s personality. Most of what we know about his character we’ve gleaned from studying the episodes involving him. But there is one characteristic of his which the Torah praises openly: humility. It’s a very desirable trait, and it’s important that a leader like him is sufficiently humble. But sadly, in today’s world, humility is hard to come by. As Elul progresses, most of us are thinking about how to improve ourselves in the coming year. Perhaps we should think about practicing humility more often. After all, Moshe Rabbenu provides us with countless examples of how we can do this…

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