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Dvar Torah: Shoftim

Mann Tracht, Un Gott Lacht -- Yiddish Proverb (Man plans and G-d laughs)

"Best laid [plans] of mice and men do often go awry" -- Robert Burns


We live in unexpected times. We constantly plan what our life will be like, and mostly we at least have a shot at making the plan work. However, sometimes, G-d has other plans. This year has been one of those times. 2020 has been a year of the extremely unexpected and has forced all of us to adjust and adapt. 

This week we see the way the Torah plans for adjustment and adaptation. The Torah laid out a way of life, a wonderful plan for us to achieve our goal of getting closer to G-d and of building "a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." However, sometimes the plan goes awry. The goal didn't change, but the way we were going to get there became more difficult, or just different. To cope, we have to change course as a nation. Our ability to do so is dependent on our leadership. So the Torah tells us, we should have judges and officers, courts and a king. We should have a communal leadership structure which can guide us through turbulence and help us come out the other side still true to our ideals. 

In the desert, when our entire nation was together, it was relatively easy to appoint leaders who could help us decide what we should do to respond to change as a collective. Today, with Jews spread all over the world and with so many different points of view, it is much harder. We no longer have unquestioned leaders who can guide us and are acknowledged by everyone. Today, to compensate for that fact, every Jews must be his or her own leader. Every one of us must work hard to see the way forward, to plan the correct course which helps us all, as a team, to move forwards and not back, not to become distracted by even very major difficulties which come up. As we read Parashat Shoftim his week, let us all look at the Torah's guidelines for leaders, and think how we can apply them in our own lives, to help ourselves and to make the world a better place for others. 

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