Parashat Shoftim / פרשת שופטים

Between Social Contract and Covenant
Source Sheet by Tzvi Sinensky
א.1.דברים י״ז:י״ד-כ׳
(יד) כִּֽי־תָבֹ֣א אֶל־הָאָ֗רֶץ אֲשֶׁ֨ר יְהוָ֤ה אֱלֹהֶ֙יךָ֙ נֹתֵ֣ן לָ֔ךְ וִֽירִשְׁתָּ֖הּ וְיָשַׁ֣בְתָּה בָּ֑הּ וְאָמַרְתָּ֗ אָשִׂ֤ימָה עָלַי֙ מֶ֔לֶךְ כְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִ֖ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר סְבִיבֹתָֽי׃ (טו) שׂ֣וֹם תָּשִׂ֤ים עָלֶ֙יךָ֙ מֶ֔לֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִבְחַ֛ר יְהוָ֥ה אֱלֹהֶ֖יךָ בּ֑וֹ מִקֶּ֣רֶב אַחֶ֗יךָ תָּשִׂ֤ים עָלֶ֙יךָ֙ מֶ֔לֶךְ לֹ֣א תוּכַ֗ל לָתֵ֤ת עָלֶ֙יךָ֙ אִ֣ישׁ נָכְרִ֔י אֲשֶׁ֥ר לֹֽא־אָחִ֖יךָ הֽוּא׃ (טז) רַק֮ לֹא־יַרְבֶּה־לּ֣וֹ סוּסִים֒ וְלֹֽא־יָשִׁ֤יב אֶת־הָעָם֙ מִצְרַ֔יְמָה לְמַ֖עַן הַרְבּ֣וֹת ס֑וּס וַֽיהוָה֙ אָמַ֣ר לָכֶ֔ם לֹ֣א תֹסִפ֗וּן לָשׁ֛וּב בַּדֶּ֥רֶךְ הַזֶּ֖ה עֽוֹד׃ (יז) וְלֹ֤א יַרְבֶּה־לּוֹ֙ נָשִׁ֔ים וְלֹ֥א יָס֖וּר לְבָב֑וֹ וְכֶ֣סֶף וְזָהָ֔ב לֹ֥א יַרְבֶּה־לּ֖וֹ מְאֹֽד׃ (יח) וְהָיָ֣ה כְשִׁבְתּ֔וֹ עַ֖ל כִּסֵּ֣א מַמְלַכְתּ֑וֹ וְכָ֨תַב ל֜וֹ אֶת־מִשְׁנֵ֨ה הַתּוֹרָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙ עַל־סֵ֔פֶר מִלִּפְנֵ֥י הַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים הַלְוִיִּֽם׃ (יט) וְהָיְתָ֣ה עִמּ֔וֹ וְקָ֥רָא ב֖וֹ כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑יו לְמַ֣עַן יִלְמַ֗ד לְיִרְאָה֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהָ֔יו לִ֠שְׁמֹר אֶֽת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֞י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּ֛את וְאֶת־הַחֻקִּ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה לַעֲשֹׂתָֽם׃ (כ) לְבִלְתִּ֤י רוּם־לְבָבוֹ֙ מֵֽאֶחָ֔יו וּלְבִלְתִּ֛י ס֥וּר מִן־הַמִּצְוָ֖ה יָמִ֣ין וּשְׂמֹ֑אול לְמַעַן֩ יַאֲרִ֨יךְ יָמִ֧ים עַל־מַמְלַכְתּ֛וֹ ה֥וּא וּבָנָ֖יו בְּקֶ֥רֶב יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (ס)
Deuteronomy 17:14-20
(14) When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein; and shalt say: ‘I will set a king over me, like all the nations that are round about me’; (15) thou shalt in any wise set him king over thee, whom the LORD thy God shall choose; one from among thy brethren shalt thou set king over thee; thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, who is not thy brother. (16) Only he shall not multiply horses to himself, nor cause the people to return to Egypt, to the end that he should multiply horses; forasmuch as the LORD hath said unto you: ‘Ye shall henceforth return no more that way.’ (17) Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away; neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. (18) And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book, out of that which is before the priests the Levites. (19) And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life; that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them; (20) that his heart be not lifted up above his brethren, and that he turn not aside from the commandment, to the right hand, or to the left; to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom, he and his children, in the midst of Israel.
ב.2.שמואל א ח׳:א׳-כ״ב
(א) וַיְהִ֕י כַּאֲשֶׁ֥ר זָקֵ֖ן שְׁמוּאֵ֑ל וַיָּ֧שֶׂם אֶת־בָּנָ֛יו שֹׁפְטִ֖ים לְיִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (ב) וַיְהִ֞י שֶׁם־בְּנ֤וֹ הַבְּכוֹר֙ יוֹאֵ֔ל וְשֵׁ֥ם מִשְׁנֵ֖הוּ אֲבִיָּ֑ה שֹׁפְטִ֖ים בִּבְאֵ֥ר שָֽׁבַע׃ (ג) וְלֹֽא־הָלְכ֤וּ בָנָיו֙ בדרכו [בִּדְרָכָ֔יו] וַיִּטּ֖וּ אַחֲרֵ֣י הַבָּ֑צַע וַיִּ֨קְחוּ־שֹׁ֔חַד וַיַּטּ֖וּ מִשְׁפָּֽט׃ (פ) (ד) וַיִּֽתְקַבְּצ֔וּ כֹּ֖ל זִקְנֵ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֑ל וַיָּבֹ֥אוּ אֶל־שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל הָרָמָֽתָה׃ (ה) וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ אֵלָ֗יו הִנֵּה֙ אַתָּ֣ה זָקַ֔נְתָּ וּבָנֶ֕יךָ לֹ֥א הָלְכ֖וּ בִּדְרָכֶ֑יךָ עַתָּ֗ה שִֽׂימָה־לָּ֥נוּ מֶ֛לֶךְ לְשָׁפְטֵ֖נוּ כְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִֽם׃ (ו) וַיֵּ֤רַע הַדָּבָר֙ בְּעֵינֵ֣י שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל כַּאֲשֶׁ֣ר אָמְר֔וּ תְּנָה־לָּ֥נוּ מֶ֖לֶךְ לְשָׁפְטֵ֑נוּ וַיִּתְפַּלֵּ֥ל שְׁמוּאֵ֖ל אֶל־יְהוָֽה׃ (פ) (ז) וַיֹּ֤אמֶר יְהוָה֙ אֶל־שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל שְׁמַע֙ בְּק֣וֹל הָעָ֔ם לְכֹ֥ל אֲשֶׁר־יֹאמְר֖וּ אֵלֶ֑יךָ כִּ֣י לֹ֤א אֹֽתְךָ֙ מָאָ֔סוּ כִּֽי־אֹתִ֥י מָאֲס֖וּ מִמְּלֹ֥ךְ עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ (ח) כְּכָֽל־הַמַּעֲשִׂ֣ים אֲשֶׁר־עָשׂ֗וּ מִיּוֹם֩ הַעֲלֹתִ֨י אֹתָ֤ם מִמִּצְרַ֙יִם֙ וְעַד־הַיּ֣וֹם הַזֶּ֔ה וַיַּ֣עַזְבֻ֔נִי וַיַּעַבְד֖וּ אֱלֹהִ֣ים אֲחֵרִ֑ים כֵּ֛ן הֵ֥מָּה עֹשִׂ֖ים גַּם־לָֽךְ׃ (ט) וְעַתָּ֖ה שְׁמַ֣ע בְּקוֹלָ֑ם אַ֗ךְ כִּֽי־הָעֵ֤ד תָּעִיד֙ בָּהֶ֔ם וְהִגַּדְתָּ֣ לָהֶ֔ם מִשְׁפַּ֣ט הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִמְלֹ֖ךְ עֲלֵיהֶֽם׃ (ס) (י) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל אֵ֖ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י יְהוָ֑ה אֶל־הָעָ֕ם הַשֹּׁאֲלִ֥ים מֵאִתּ֖וֹ מֶֽלֶךְ׃ (ס) (יא) וַיֹּ֕אמֶר זֶ֗ה יִֽהְיֶה֙ מִשְׁפַּ֣ט הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִמְלֹ֖ךְ עֲלֵיכֶ֑ם אֶת־בְּנֵיכֶ֣ם יִקָּ֗ח וְשָׂ֥ם לוֹ֙ בְּמֶרְכַּבְתּ֣וֹ וּבְפָרָשָׁ֔יו וְרָצ֖וּ לִפְנֵ֥י מֶרְכַּבְתּֽוֹ׃ (יב) וְלָשׂ֣וּם ל֔וֹ שָׂרֵ֥י אֲלָפִ֖ים וְשָׂרֵ֣י חֲמִשִּׁ֑ים וְלַחֲרֹ֤שׁ חֲרִישׁוֹ֙ וְלִקְצֹ֣ר קְצִיר֔וֹ וְלַעֲשׂ֥וֹת כְּלֵֽי־מִלְחַמְתּ֖וֹ וּכְלֵ֥י רִכְבּֽוֹ׃ (יג) וְאֶת־בְּנוֹתֵיכֶ֖ם יִקָּ֑ח לְרַקָּח֥וֹת וּלְטַבָּח֖וֹת וּלְאֹפֽוֹת׃ (יד) וְאֶת־שְׂ֠דֽוֹתֵיכֶם וְאֶת־כַּרְמֵיכֶ֧ם וְזֵיתֵיכֶ֛ם הַטּוֹבִ֖ים יִקָּ֑ח וְנָתַ֖ן לַעֲבָדָֽיו׃ (טו) וְזַרְעֵיכֶ֥ם וְכַרְמֵיכֶ֖ם יַעְשֹׂ֑ר וְנָתַ֥ן לְסָרִיסָ֖יו וְלַעֲבָדָֽיו׃ (טז) וְאֶת־עַבְדֵיכֶם֩ וְֽאֶת־שִׁפְח֨וֹתֵיכֶ֜ם וְאֶת־בַּחוּרֵיכֶ֧ם הַטּוֹבִ֛ים וְאֶת־חֲמוֹרֵיכֶ֖ם יִקָּ֑ח וְעָשָׂ֖ה לִמְלַאכְתּֽוֹ׃ (יז) צֹאנְכֶ֖ם יַעְשֹׂ֑ר וְאַתֶּ֖ם תִּֽהְיוּ־ל֥וֹ לַעֲבָדִֽים׃ (יח) וּזְעַקְתֶּם֙ בַּיּ֣וֹם הַה֔וּא מִלִּפְנֵ֣י מַלְכְּכֶ֔ם אֲשֶׁ֥ר בְּחַרְתֶּ֖ם לָכֶ֑ם וְלֹֽא־יַעֲנֶ֧ה יְהוָ֛ה אֶתְכֶ֖ם בַּיּ֥וֹם הַהֽוּא׃ (יט) וַיְמָאֲנ֣וּ הָעָ֔ם לִשְׁמֹ֖עַ בְּק֣וֹל שְׁמוּאֵ֑ל וַיֹּאמְר֣וּ לֹּ֔א כִּ֥י אִם־מֶ֖לֶךְ יִֽהְיֶ֥ה עָלֵֽינוּ׃ (כ) וְהָיִ֥ינוּ גַם־אֲנַ֖חְנוּ כְּכָל־הַגּוֹיִ֑ם וּשְׁפָטָ֤נוּ מַלְכֵּ֙נוּ֙ וְיָצָ֣א לְפָנֵ֔ינוּ וְנִלְחַ֖ם אֶת־מִלְחֲמֹתֵֽנוּ׃ (כא) וַיִּשְׁמַ֣ע שְׁמוּאֵ֔ל אֵ֖ת כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֣י הָעָ֑ם וַֽיְדַבְּרֵ֖ם בְּאָזְנֵ֥י יְהוָֽה׃ (פ) (כב) וַיֹּ֨אמֶר יְהוָ֤ה אֶל־שְׁמוּאֵל֙ שְׁמַ֣ע בְּקוֹלָ֔ם וְהִמְלַכְתָּ֥ לָהֶ֖ם מֶ֑לֶךְ וַיֹּ֤אמֶר שְׁמוּאֵל֙ אֶל־אַנְשֵׁ֣י יִשְׂרָאֵ֔ל לְכ֖וּ אִ֥ישׁ לְעִירֽוֹ׃ (פ)
I Samuel 8:1-22
(1) And it came to pass, when Samuel was old, that he made his sons judges over Israel. (2) Now the name of his first-born was Joel; and the name of his second, Abijah; they were judges in Beer-sheba. (3) And his sons walked not in his ways, but turned aside after lucre, and took bribes, and perverted justice. (4) Then all the elders of Israel gathered themselves together, and came to Samuel unto Ramah. (5) And they said unto him: ‘Behold, thou art old, and thy sons walk not in thy ways; now make us a king to judge us like all the nations.’ (6) But the thing displeased Samuel, when they said: ‘Give us a king to judge us.’ And Samuel prayed unto the LORD. (7) And the LORD said unto Samuel: ‘Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee; for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected Me, that I should not be king over them. (8) According to all the works which they have done since the day that I brought them up out of Egypt even unto this day, in that they have forsaken Me, and served other gods, so do they also unto thee. (9) Now therefore hearken unto their voice; howbeit thou shalt earnestly forewarn them, and shalt declare unto them the manner of the king that shall reign over them.’ (10) And Samuel told all the words of the LORD unto the people that asked of him a king. (11) And he said: ‘This will be the manner of the king that shall reign over you: he will take your sons, and appoint them unto him, for his chariots, and to be his horsemen; and they shall run before his chariots. (12) And he will appoint them unto him for captains of thousands, and captains of fifties; and to plow his ground, and to reap his harvest, and to make his instruments of war, and the instruments of his chariots. (13) And he will take your daughters to be perfumers, and to be cooks, and to be bakers. (14) And he will take your fields, and your vineyards, and your oliveyards, even the best of them, and give them to his servants. (15) And he will take the tenth of your seed, and of your vineyards, and give to his officers, and to his servants. (16) And he will take your men-servants, and your maid-servants, and your goodliest young men, and your asses, and put them to his work. (17) He will take the tenth of your flocks; and ye shall be his servants. (18) And ye shall cry out in that day because of your king whom ye shall have chosen you; and the LORD will not answer you in that day.’ (19) But the people refused to hearken unto the voice of Samuel; and they said: ‘Nay; but there shall be a king over us; (20) that we also may be like all the nations; and that our king may judge us, and go out before us, and fight our battles.’ (21) And Samuel heard all the words of the people, and he spoke them in the ears of the LORD. (22) And the LORD said to Samuel: ‘Hearken unto their voice, and make them a king.’ And Samuel said unto the men of Israel: ‘Go ye every man unto his city.’
ג.3.שמות י״ט:ה׳-ו׳
(ה) וְעַתָּ֗ה אִם־שָׁמ֤וֹעַ תִּשְׁמְעוּ֙ בְּקֹלִ֔י וּשְׁמַרְתֶּ֖ם אֶת־בְּרִיתִ֑י וִהְיִ֨יתֶם לִ֤י סְגֻלָּה֙ מִכָּל־הָ֣עַמִּ֔ים כִּי־לִ֖י כָּל־הָאָֽרֶץ׃ (ו) וְאַתֶּ֧ם תִּהְיוּ־לִ֛י מַמְלֶ֥כֶת כֹּהֲנִ֖ים וְג֣וֹי קָד֑וֹשׁ אֵ֚לֶּה הַדְּבָרִ֔ים אֲשֶׁ֥ר תְּדַבֵּ֖ר אֶל־בְּנֵ֥י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃
Exodus 19:5-6
(5) Now therefore, if ye will hearken unto My voice indeed, and keep My covenant, then ye shall be Mine own treasure from among all peoples; for all the earth is Mine; (6) and ye shall be unto Me a kingdom of priests, and a holy nation. These are the words which thou shalt speak unto the children of Israel.’
ד.4.דברים ל״א:ט׳-י״ג
(ט) וַיִּכְתֹּ֣ב מֹשֶׁה֮ אֶת־הַתּוֹרָ֣ה הַזֹּאת֒ וַֽיִּתְּנָ֗הּ אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים֙ בְּנֵ֣י לֵוִ֔י הַנֹּ֣שְׂאִ֔ים אֶת־אֲר֖וֹן בְּרִ֣ית יְהוָ֑ה וְאֶל־כָּל־זִקְנֵ֖י יִשְׂרָאֵֽל׃ (י) וַיְצַ֥ו מֹשֶׁ֖ה אוֹתָ֣ם לֵאמֹ֑ר מִקֵּ֣ץ ׀ שֶׁ֣בַע שָׁנִ֗ים בְּמֹעֵ֛ד שְׁנַ֥ת הַשְּׁמִטָּ֖ה בְּחַ֥ג הַסֻּכּֽוֹת׃ (יא) בְּב֣וֹא כָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל לֵרָאוֹת֙ אֶת־פְּנֵי֙ יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֶ֔יךָ בַּמָּק֖וֹם אֲשֶׁ֣ר יִבְחָ֑ר תִּקְרָ֞א אֶת־הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּ֛את נֶ֥גֶד כָּל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֖ל בְּאָזְנֵיהֶֽם׃ (יב) הַקְהֵ֣ל אֶת־הָעָ֗ם הָֽאֲנָשִׁ֤ים וְהַנָּשִׁים֙ וְהַטַּ֔ף וְגֵרְךָ֖ אֲשֶׁ֣ר בִּשְׁעָרֶ֑יךָ לְמַ֨עַן יִשְׁמְע֜וּ וּלְמַ֣עַן יִלְמְד֗וּ וְיָֽרְאוּ֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹֽהֵיכֶ֔ם וְשָֽׁמְר֣וּ לַעֲשׂ֔וֹת אֶת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֖י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה הַזֹּֽאת׃ (יג) וּבְנֵיהֶ֞ם אֲשֶׁ֣ר לֹֽא־יָדְע֗וּ יִשְׁמְעוּ֙ וְלָ֣מְד֔וּ לְיִרְאָ֖ה אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהֵיכֶ֑ם כָּל־הַיָּמִ֗ים אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתֶּ֤ם חַיִּים֙ עַל־הָ֣אֲדָמָ֔ה אֲשֶׁ֨ר אַתֶּ֜ם עֹבְרִ֧ים אֶת־הַיַּרְדֵּ֛ן שָׁ֖מָּה לְרִשְׁתָּֽהּ׃ (פ)
Deuteronomy 31:9-13
(9) And Moses wrote this law, and delivered it unto the priests the sons of Levi, that bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, and unto all the elders of Israel. (10) And Moses commanded them, saying: ‘At the end of every seven years, in the set time of the year of release, in the feast of tabernacles, (11) when all Israel is come to appear before the LORD thy God in the place which He shall choose, thou shalt read this law before all Israel in their hearing. (12) Assemble the people, the men and the women and the little ones, and thy stranger that is within thy gates, that they may hear, and that they may learn, and fear the LORD your God, and observe to do all the words of this law; (13) and that their children, who have not known, may hear, and learn to fear the LORD your God, as long as ye live in the land whither ye go over the Jordan to possess it.’
ה.5.משנה תורה, הלכות חגיגה ג׳:ו׳
(ו) וגרים שאינן מכירין חייבין להכין לבם ולהקשיב אזנם לשמוע באימה ויראה וגילה ברעדה כיום שניתנה בו בסיני אפילו חכמים גדולים שיודעים כל התורה כולה חייבין לשמוע בכוונה גדולה יתרה ומי שאינו יכול לשמוע מכוין לבו לקריאה זו שלא קבעה הכתוב אלא לחזק דת האמת ויראה עצמו כאילו עתה נצטוה בה ומפי הגבורה שומעה שהמלך שליח הוא להשמיע דברי האל:
Mishneh Torah, Festival Offering 3:6

ו.6.משנה תורה, הלכות חמץ ומצה ז׳:ו׳-ז׳
(ו) בכל דור ודור חייב אדם להראות את עצמו כאילו הוא בעצמו יצא עתה משעבוד מצרים שנאמר ואותנו הוציא משם וגו’. ועל דבר זה צוה הקב”ה בתורה וזכרת כי עבד היית כלומר כאילו אתה בעצמך היית עבד ויצאת לחירות ונפדית. (ז) לפיכך כשסועד אדם בלילה הזה צריך לאכול ולשתות והוא מיסב דרך חירות. וכל אחד ואחד בין אנשים בין נשים חייב לשתות בלילה הזה ארבעה כוסות של יין. אין פוחתין לו מהם. ואפילו עני המתפרנס מן הצדקה לא יפחתו לו מארבעה כוסות. שיעור כל כוס מהן רביעית.
Mishneh Torah, Leavened and Unleavened Bread 7:6-7

ז.7.
JFK’s Inaugural, 1/20/1961
Vice President Johnson, Mr. Speaker, Mr. Chief Justice, President Eisenhower, Vice president Nixon, President Truman, Reverend Clergy, fellow citizens:

We observe today not a victory of party but a celebration of freedom–symbolizing an end as well as a beginning–signifying renewal as well as change. For I have sworn before you and Almighty God the same solemn oath our forebears prescribed nearly a century and three quarters ago.

The world is very different now. For man holds in his mortal hands the power to abolish all forms of human poverty and all forms of human life. And yet the same revolutionary beliefs for which our forebears fought are still at issue around the globe–the belief that the rights of man come not from the generosity of the state but from the hand of God.

We dare not forget today that we are the heirs of that first revolution. Let the word go forth from this time and place, to friend and foe alike, that the torch has been passed to a new generation of Americans–born in this century, tempered by war, disciplined by a hard and bitter peace, proud of our ancient heritage–and unwilling to witness or permit the slow undoing of those human rights to which this nation has always been committed, and to which we are committed today at home and around the world.
Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty…

In your hands, my fellow citizens, more than mine, will rest the final success or failure of our course. Since this country was founded, each generation of Americans has been summoned to give testimony to its national loyalty. The graves of young Americans who answered the call to service surround the globe.

Now the trumpet summons us again-not as a call to bear arms, though arms we need–not as a call to battle, though embattled we are–but a call to bear the burden of a long twilight struggle, year in and year out, “rejoicing in hope, patient in tribulation”–a struggle against the common enemies of man: tyranny, poverty, disease and war itself.
Can we forge against these enemies a grand and global alliance, North and South, East and West, that can assure a more fruitful life for all mankind? Will you join in that historic effort?

In the long history of the world, only a few generations have been granted the role of defending freedom in its hour of maximum danger. I do not shrink from this responsibility–I welcome it. I do not believe that any of us would exchange places with any other people or any other generation. The energy, the faith, the devotion which we bring to this endeavor will light our country and all who serve it–and the glow from that fire can truly light the world.

And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you–ask what you can do for your country.

My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.

Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us here the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God’s work must truly be our own.
ח.8.
The Stories That Bind Us
The New York Times, March 15, 2013
Bruce Feiler

…Around that time, Dr. Duke’s wife, Sara, a psychologist who works with children with learning disabilities, noticed something about her students.
“The ones who know a lot about their families tend to do better when they face challenges,” she said.

Her husband was intrigued, and along with a colleague, Robyn Fivush, set out to test her hypothesis. They developed a measure called the “Do You Know?” scale that asked children to answer 20 questions.

Examples included: Do you know where your grandparents grew up? Do you know where your mom and dad went to high school? Do you know where your parents met? Do you know an illness or something really terrible that happened in your family? Do you know the story of your birth?

Dr. Duke and Dr. Fivush asked those questions of four dozen families in the summer of 2001, and taped several of their dinner table conversations. They then compared the children’s results to a battery of psychological tests the children had taken, and reached an overwhelming conclusion. The more children knew about their family’s history, the stronger their sense of control over their lives, the higher their self-esteem and the more successfully they believed their families functioned. The “Do You Know?” scale turned out to be the best single predictor of children’s emotional health and happiness…

Psychologists have found that every family has a unifying narrative, he explained, and those narratives take one of three shapes.

First, the ascending family narrative: “Son, when we came to this country, we had nothing. Our family worked. We opened a store. Your grandfather went to high school. Your father went to college. And now you. …”

Second is the descending narrative: “Sweetheart, we used to have it all. Then we lost everything.”

“The most healthful narrative,” Dr. Duke continued, “is the third one. It’s called the oscillating family narrative: ‘Dear, let me tell you, we’ve had ups and downs in our family. We built a family business. Your grandfather was a pillar of the community. Your mother was on the board of the hospital. But we also had setbacks. You had an uncle who was once arrested. We had a house burn down. Your father lost a job. But no matter what happened, we always stuck together as a family.’ ”
Dr. Duke said that children who have the most self-confidence have what he and Dr. Fivush call a strong “intergenerational self.” They know they belong to something bigger than themselves.

Leaders in other fields have found similar results. Many groups use what sociologists call sense-making, the building of a narrative that explains what the group is about.

Jim Collins, a management expert and author of “Good to Great,” told me that successful human enterprises of any kind, from companies to countries, go out of their way to capture their core identity. In Mr. Collins’s terms, they “preserve core, while stimulating progress.” The same applies to families, he said.
Mr. Collins recommended that families create a mission statement similar to the ones companies and other organizations use to identify their core values.

The military has also found that teaching recruits about the history of their service increases their camaraderie and ability to bond more closely with their unit.
Cmdr. David G. Smith is the chairman of the department of leadership, ethics and law at the Naval Academy and an expert in unit cohesion, the Pentagon’s term for group morale. Until recently, the military taught unit cohesion by “dehumanizing” individuals, Commander Smith said. Think of the bullying drill sergeants in “Full Metal Jacket” or “An Officer and a Gentleman.”

But these days the military spends more time building up identity through communal activities. At the Naval Academy, Commander Smith advises graduating seniors to take incoming freshmen (or plebes) on history-building exercises, like going to the cemetery to pay tribute to the first naval aviator or visiting the original B-1 aircraft on display on campus.

Dr. Duke recommended that parents pursue similar activities with their children. Any number of occasions work to convey this sense of history: holidays, vacations, big family get-togethers, even a ride to the mall. The hokier the family’s tradition, he said, the more likely it is to be passed down. He mentioned his family’s custom of hiding frozen turkeys and canned pumpkin in the bushes during Thanksgiving so grandchildren would have to “hunt for their supper,” like the Pilgrims.
“These traditions become part of your family,” Dr. Duke said.
ט.9.
Rabbi Sacks, The Home We Build Together, Parshat Terumah 5764
The building of the Tabernacle was the first great project the Israelites undertook together. It involved their generosity and skill. It gave them the chance to give back to God a little of what He had given them. It conferred on them the dignity of labour and creative endeavour. It brought to closure their birth as a nation and it symbolised the challenge of the future. The society they were summoned to create in the land of Israel would be one in which everyone would play their part. It was to become – in the phrase I used as the title of one of my books – “the home we build together.”

From this we see that one of the greatest challenges of leadership is to give people the chance to give, to contribute, to participate. That requires self-restraint, tzimtzum, on the part of the leader, creating the space for others to lead. As the saying goes: “When there is a good leader, the people say: The leader did it. When there is a great leader, the people say: We did it ourselves.”

This brings us to the fundamental distinction in politics between State and Society. The state represents what is done for us by the machinery of government, through the instrumentality of laws, courts, taxation and public spending. Society is what we do for one another through communities, voluntary associations, charities and welfare organisations. Judaism, I believe, has a marked preference for society rather than state, precisely because it recognises – it is the central theme of the book of Exodus – that it is what we do for others, not what others or God does for us, that transforms us. The Jewish formula, I believe, is: small state, big society.

The person who had the deepest insight into the nature of democratic society was Alexis de Tocqueville. Visiting America in the 1830s he saw that its strength lay in what he called the “art of association,” the tendency of Americans to come together in communities and voluntary groups to help one another, rather than leaving the task to a centralised government. Were it ever to be otherwise, were individuals to depend wholly on the state, then democratic freedom would be at risk.

In one of the most haunting passages of his masterwork, Democracy in America, he says that democracies are at risk of a completely new form of oppression for which there is no precedent in the past. It will happen, he says, when people exist solely in and for themselves, leaving the pursuit of the common good to the government. This would then be what life would be like:

Above this race of men stands an immense and tutelary power, which takes upon itself alone to secure their gratifications and to watch over their fate. That power is absolute, minute, regular, provident and mild. It would be like the authority of a parent if, like that authority, its object was to prepare men for manhood; but it seeks, on the contrary, to keep them in perpetual childhood: it is well content that the people should rejoice, provided they think of nothing but rejoicing. For their happiness such a government willingly labours, but it chooses to be the sole agent and the only arbiter of that happiness; it provides for their security, foresees and supplies their necessities, facilitates their pleasures, manages their principal concerns, directs their industry, regulates the descent of property, and subdivides their inheritances: what remains, but to spare them all the care of thinking and all the trouble of living?

Tocqueville wrote these words in the 1830s, and there is a risk that this is what some European societies are becoming like today: all state, no society; all government, little or no community. Tocqueville was not a religious writer. He makes no reference to the Hebrew Bible. But the fear he has is precisely what the book of Exodus documents. When a central power – even when this is God Himself – does everything on behalf of the people, they remain in a state of arrested development. They complain instead of acting. They give way easily to despair. When the leader, in this case Moses, is missing, they do foolish things, none more so than making a golden calf.

There is only one solution: to make the people co-architects of their own destiny, to get them to build something together, to shape them into a team and show them that they are not helpless, that they are responsible and capable of collaborative action. Genesis begins with God creating the universe as a home for human beings. Exodus ends with human beings creating the Mishkan, as a ‘home’ for God.

Hence the basic principle of Judaism, that we are called on to become co-creators with God. And hence too the corollary: that leaders do not do the work on behalf of the people. They teach people how to do the work themselves. It is not what God does for us but what we do for God that allows us to reach dignity and responsibility.

Source Sheet created on Sefaria by Tzvi Sinensky