Can we Change the World?
In 1789 France, the conflict between the French Revolution and the Catholic Church resulted in the separation of church and state and the supremacy of the state prevailed. In 1863 USA, democracy was described by President Abraham Lincoln as a “Government of the people, by the people and for the people“. Many claim that Democracy is the best form of government, but is this what God wants for us? Every nation has its own ideas on how to rule its people, but what does the Torah say? In this week’s parashah, Shoftim (Judges) we find four roles of leadership: judge (shofet), priest (cohen), king (melech) and prophet (navi), all of whom would work together to form a just government for the people.
It begins with Devarim 16:18-20 which states: “You shall appoint magistrates and officials, shoftim v’shotrim שֹׁפְטִ֣ים וְשֹֽׁטְרִ֗ים for your tribes… and they shall govern the people with due justice. You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous. צֶ֥דֶק צֶ֖דֶק תִּרְדֹּ֑ף Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof… “Justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you may thrive and occupy the land that your God יהוה is giving you.” How many elected or appointed leaders today truly care about justice and whether or not their people thrive?
Devarim 17:8 – 11 says, “If a case is too difficult for you to decide …you shall promptly return to the place that your God יהוה will have chosen, and appear before the Levitical priests (cohanim), or the magistrate in charge at the time, and present your case.” Here, the cohanim, who serve as a link between the Creator and the people would be called upon to rule justly in complex cases.
Here there is no separation between physical matters and spiritual ones. Last week, we heard an excellent message about how these two cannot be separated in our personal lives and here it is expanded to the life of the community. The judges together with the cohanim would have to be righteous men, tzaddikim, whose hearts were bent on serving God and the people with justice. That is the ideal; but history reveals that due to the heart of man, without God it is impossible. However, with God all things are possible.
In verses 14 – 18, we read about the next of the four roles, the king. The Creator gave us the freedom to choose a king, but did He want this for His people? No, but He allowed it. He set Israel apart from the other nations who had their gods, but He would be their King. However, they preferred to be like the other nations and still do. He wanted His people to follow Him and obey His principles but again we are dealing with the flawed heart of man. Only God is perfect. The king was warned not to return to Egypt because he desired too many horses, nor to have too many wives lest his heart go astray (like King Solomon did), nor desire too much wealth nor be so proud as to lord his position over the people.
In this portion, we were told to never return to Egypt, yet I know many Egyptian Jews who lived and prospered there until they were expelled when Nasser took over and dethroned King Farouk. They had been so wealthy but this time, most left with nothing. Perhaps if their parents had read and believed God’s words, they would have never returned there. But when we don’t learn from history, we are bound to repeat it which is why it is so important for us to do what the cohen was told to do next: “…to write a Torah scroll for the king to study every day; then he could lead the people in righteousness.” Herein lies the formula for righteous living, even if it is a struggle.
The king would rely on the next role in this parashah – the prophet. Devarim 18:15 –“From among your own people, your God יהוה will raise up for you a prophet like myself; to him, you shall listen.” And what would we hear from him? In the next verse 16, Moses is reminding them about their experience at Mt. Sinai, alluding to the voice of God speaking the Words that He Himself would subsequently inscribe upon the two tablets of stone.
In Verse 18 we read: “I will raise up for them from among their own people a prophet like yourself, (meaning Moses) in whose mouth I will put My words and who will speak to them all that I command….” This prophecy has been used in religious circles to point to Jesus as its fulfilment. If that is indeed the case, it repeats that he would be like Moses. What does that infer? Moses was a mortal man, beloved of the Creator, and who spoke face-to-face with Him. Neither Moses nor Yeshua, as we know him, ever said that they were the Creator. They were God’s messengers – Moses who first handed us the Commandments and Yeshua who worked to bring us back to them. Always the focus was on God and His Commandments, not on the messengers. We can kill God’s messengers as we did most of the prophets, but we can’t kill God’s message.
Verse 18 continues: “ …and anybody who fails to heed the words the prophet speaks in My name, I Myself will call to account.” This means that the prophet was an ambassador of the Almighty. “In my Name” means he was given the authority to represent God in all he did and spoke. If we didn’t heed the words (not the opinion) of the prophet, we would be held accountable.
Verse 22 states, “But any prophet who presumes to speak in My name, a prophecy that I did not command to be uttered, or who speaks in the name of other gods — that prophet shall die.” We were not to pay attention to the words of the prophets of the other nations, to their soothsayers, diviners, casters of spells, consulters of the dead, ghosts and spirits. We might ask, who does that today? Have you heard of seances, necromancy, astrology, consulting the rune stones or tarot cards or playing with the Ouija board, channelling and so many others? I played with all these things and found that they were correct in some of their messages, but they led me down the wrong path. Only God’s prophets spoke the truth 100% of the time which is how we can know they are from Him. We need to be so careful because there is more danger in ½ truths than in outright lies.
That verse ended with“…that prophet shall die.” I can tell you from first-hand experience that after my years of being immersed in New Age ideologies, and teaching others to do so, I almost died. I fell into such a deep state of depression and anxiety that I could no longer see clearly. But I had developed so much pride from all those years of thinking that I was more spiritually advanced than others, that I wouldn’t seek the help I so desperately needed. It was as if I was walking in a haze each and every day, but when God saw that I had enough, He woke me up to the reality of His existence through these very verses in Deuteronomy 18. As I read each one, I saw that all the things that I had been involved in were an abomination to God and my first thought was…” why did no one ever tell me about this?” On the day I turned my life over to God and to His Torah, my life began to change dramatically in every area, for the better and it continues to this day!
But because of these things, the world is in dire straits and the ailments plaguing it in every area of our society are multiplying exponentially. People may think that we are more advanced and more enlightened, but I can guarantee, we are not. The proposed solutions by organizations that are each promoting their own agendas are simply band-aids which cannot be effective because we are dealing with the soul of mankind. Education alone doesn’t work. If you educate a petty thief; he will only become a corporate thief. Fighting against racism or anti-Semitism without dealing with the root cause is futile. The root is the heart and only God can change our hearts. To cure the symptoms, the root must be healed.
Sadly, we have turned our backs on the Creator, arrogantly thinking that we know better than He does about how we are to live. There is no other answer to the world’s problems than the Words that God gave us at Sinai. Trusting in any other ideologies or theologies is like worshipping false gods.
So what can you and I do about it? Can we change the world? Moses himself didn’t change the world, but he brought us the key that did – the Torah. Yeshua didn’t change the world, but he brought us back to the key and reminded us that it is universal. Every answer that would solve the dilemmas on this planet lies within it, and it begins with us. We cannot change others, but with God’s help, we can change ourselves. That is our challenge as people who are Shomer Torah, keepers of the Torah.
Through Moses, God revealed Himself to Pharoah and all of Egypt, including the Israelites in Goshen and one day He will reveal Himself to the entire world. But we don’t have to be concerned about what that will look like or be obsessed with the end times. We can leave that up to God.
We don’t have to defend our God as some religions do. He can defend Himself.
We don’t even have to defend what we believe; we simply have to live it and watch the results.
We don’t have to destroy their idols, just not turn mundane things into idols in our own lives.
We don’t have to tear down their pillars; we just have to watch as God does that for the sake of His Name.
We don’t need the god of AI, Artificial Intelligence; God gave us a brain imprinted with His intelligence; we just have to use it.
Each of us has daily challenges to deal with – at home, at work, with family, neighbours, and friends. When we don’t know how to handle certain issues, the best thing to do is to ask God for wisdom and muster up the courage to deal with them. The Torah addresses every situation that we will confront in our lives. There are times when we fail, and that’s the time to be vulnerable and humble enough to admit it, to turn to our God, to ask for His forgiveness, and to make restitution. Then our God helps us to begin again. Wisdom, honesty, transparency, respect, reverence, and morality are sorely lacking in today‘s society so let us, as His remnant, be an example of these qualities to those around us. Let us walk in the footsteps of Rabenu Moshe and Raboni Yeshua holding tight to the motto in this parashah, “Tzedek, Tzedek, Tirdof…Justice, Justice, you must pursue”.
Peggy Jacobson Pardo