<I>Shoftim</I>: Between Man and the State

This week's parashah deals with laws that cannot be fulfilled by the individual. Rather, they are the collective obligations of society.

Aloh Naaleh,

Judaism aliyah-r.jpg
Arutz 7
We are accustomed to describing the mitzvot as either bein adam lechavero (between man and his fellow) or bein adam laMakom (between man and God). A third category sometimes suggested is bein adam le'atzmo (between man and himself). In this third category we find, for example, the mitzvah of Torah study, for we must study Torah to achieve personal growth.

This week's parashah deals with a fourth category, which is often overlooked due to our long exile. These mitzvot can be called bein adam lachevrah or bein adam lamedinah (between man and society or between man and the state). These are laws that cannot be fulfilled by the individual. Rather, they are the collective obligations of society.

Only a society can establish a government, courts, law enforcement agencies, an army and rules of combat. Without an independent state, these mitzvot are relegated to theoretical study without practical implementation. If a Jew does not live in an independent Jewish state, then he cannot fulfill these mizvot.

Our generation is blessed. In our time, in our country, these mitzvot are no longer merely theoretical. Being self-governing, we are challenged to bring this dormant area of Torah to life. Establishing a police force, an army, courts and government are mitzvot when they are done in Israel.

I once heard an interesting interpretation of the verse in Tehilim 147:19: "He declares His word to Ya'akov, His statutes and His judgments to Yisra'el." When we are Ya'akov, a name that represents Galut, many parts of the Torah are merely words. But when we become Yisrael, those parts of the Torah become living statutes and judgments.
Rabbi Yosef Wolicki made Aliyah in 1986 after twenty-five years in the rabbinate in North America. He retired two years ago, after fourteen years as the rabbi of the New Synagogue of Netanya. He lives in Bet Shemesh, and lectures at the Israel Center and at Yeshivat Yesodei HaTorah. He leads support groups for family members of memory-impaired elderly.

The foregoing commentary was distributed by the Aloh Naaleh organization.