A special Tuesday TorahTutors tidbit in honor of July 4th – Independence Day in the United States, where many of our students and tutors live or have lived.
Real Torah, from real TorahTutors sessions.
A number of TorahTutors students have spent time with us learning the book of Shoftim (Judges), whose themes include the need for centralized leadership – as well as the challenges of establishing a healthy governing body.
The first part of the book describes a cycle of sin-calamity-prayer-judge/savior that begins to break down around the time the people ask Gidon to lead them as king. He refuses, yet after his death, his son Avimelech assumes rights as heir-apparent, gathers support with which he massacres most of his 70 half-brothers, and is proclaimed king in Shechem.
The lone survivor of Avimelech’s massacre, Yotam, delivers a stirring parable describing a search for a willing and deserving king of trees. He challenges the people of Shechem to consider honestly whether their behavior has exhibited appropriate gratitude to Gidon, after all he did for them, and whether Avimelech is the appropriate leader to succeed him.
Avimelech is ultimately removed from power and is followed by a series of leaders of unclear characters and a further deterioration. Eventually, the prophet tells us that “in those days, there was no king in Israel; each person would do as he saw fit” (Shoftim 17:6, 21:25).
The themes in these narratives – such as gratitude, the importance of leadership, and the dangers of tyranny – are certainly appropriate topics for today.
May we all be blessed with life, liberty, and the pursuit of Torah.