By Ariel Natan Pasko
This week’s Torah reading is Parshat Shoftim, yet just a few weeks ago, the Jewish people observed Tisha B’Av, mourning the destruction of the first and second temples. It seems God gave us some more time to learn all the laws of the Beit HaMikdash. Seventy years after Israeli political independence, fifty years after liberating Jerusalem and the Temple Mount, and the Third Temple still hasn’t been built? That’s certainly something to mourn over. But is fasting and saying Kinot/dirges, the only thing there is to do?
The Yalkut Shimoni – a midrash – on the Book of First Samuel (106) teaches us an awesome lesson about the Churban/destruction and exile by the Romans, Rabbi Simeon Bar Menasya said, “Israel was only exiled after it rejected the following three things, Malchut Shamayim/the Kingdom of Heaven, Malchut Beit David/Kingship from the House of David, and the Beit HaMikdash/the Holy Temple.
So we learn from this, that the cause of the exile of the Jewish people, was because we took too lightly, Torah observance (God’s rule), we should have demanded a rightful Davidic descendant be appointed as king, once the Maccabees drove out the Syrian Greeks, and Jews didn’t care enough about the Holy Temple in Jerusalem.
A variant text in the Yalkut Shimoni explains from a different angle, why the Roman exile would be so long, as opposed to the limited seventy years of Babylonian exile, after the destruction of the First Temple. Rabbi Simeon Bar Menasya predicted, “In the future the following three things will be despised by Israel, the Kingdom of Heaven, David’s kingdom [the Messiah], and the building of the [Third] Temple.”
By the attitudes and behavior of most Jews today; the rampant secularization and assimilation; apathy about the Messianic concept and the Temple; Rabbi Simeon’s prediction seems to have come true.
But there is a third variant text, that gives the solution, how to end the exile. Rabbi Simeon Bar Menasya said, “Israel will not see a sign of the redemption until they repent and demand the following three things, the Kingdom of Heaven, David’s kingdom [the Messiah], and the building of the [Third] Temple.”
To remedy the situation, end exile and bring redemption, Jews must be taught to understand the value of these three things, then begin to demand them, and work to achieve them.
What does all this have to do with Parshat Shoftim? Well, actually quite a lot. This week’s reading, maps out for us, the ideal national structure, the policies of the Jewish people in the Land of Israel, that Jews should be striving for today: Malchut/Kingdom, Sanhedrin/Torah, Nevuah/Prophecy, and Kehunah/Temple.
In the parsha, we encounter the Mitzvot/commandments, to establish a Torah-based Legal System (Deut. 16:18) and recognize G-d’s prophets (Deut. 18:15) – the Kingdom of Heaven; to appoint a king, and the laws of war (Deut. 17:14-20, 20:1-20) – David’s Kingdom; and issues dealing with the Priests and Levites (Deut. 18:1) – the Temple.
So, in fact, Rabbi Simeon was telling the Jewish people, to be redeemed, we need to implement those Mitzvot/policies that will re-build the ideal national structure in the Land of Israel.
What might some of these policy goals be? They can be summarized as kingdom and war; law, righteous justice, prosperity; and spirituality.
Comment by Shlomo Moshe Scheinman. Ariel Nathan Pasko provided some suggestions how to advance the above goals. They are in part 2 of the article. For some of his suggestions I have alternative ideas on how to move the redemption process forward. Ariel Natan Pasko’s blog is located at http://arielnatanpasko.blogspot.com/