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Weekly D'rash and Parsha Shoftim

This week the Torah portion is about the organization of leadership in Israel. It is about the raising up of judges, magistrates, and kings. But it really is about everyone. It is a call to "righteous judgment" (Deut 16:18) or, in plain English, doing the right thing. The passage describes the due process of law and orderliness in Israelite society. It describes a way of life that values ethical and moral leadership and behavior among the people. Israel was called to live by different standards than those found in the world around them. This had to do with their way of worship as well as their interpersonal relationships. Their everyday way of life was designed to reflect the character of God. The primary takeaway for us is that since we are people in covenant relationship with God, and those who have been transferred from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of his beloved son (Col 1:13), we are empowered, motivated, and called to live this kind of life in all of our relationships. Doing the right thing is not always simple, easy, or popular. In all the arenas of life including our family, congregation, workplace, and the public domain, we should be known as people who do their best to do the right thing and make the right choices (righteous judgement). Notice that in the list of character traits for leaders found in 1 Timothy 3:2–12 and Titus 1:5–9, we find a basic ethical and moral life commensurate with what we read in the Torah portion. While the list is for leaders, it is the basic way of life for everyone. For our ancestors, the presupposition was that God is their ultimate king, judge, and warrior. Anyone holding a position of authority was subject to God, and their leadership was to be under the authority of God. As Messiah followers we know that we are all under the authority of God. He is our king, judge, and warrior. We are called to pursue righteousness and justice in all that we do. As we read throughout the Scriptures, our worship of God takes place both directly in our relationship with God and in our relationships with others. This is what the Shema means when we say, “You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your might. These words, which I am commanding you today, shall be on your heart” (Deut 6:5–6). If we love the LORD from the heart with every ounce of our being, it will translate into every area of life! During this journey to the High Holy Days, let us examine our hearts to make sure that we “incarnate” the character of God, the “righteous judgement”, so that the world sees the Good News of the Messiah in our midst. Shabbat Shalom, Rabbi Howard

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