The theme of this week’s Torah portion could not be clearer. Everyone who holds a position of authority – judge, priest, or king – is to adhere to a standard of justice.
Bribery perverts fairness. Showing partiality to a segment of society is unjust. Amassing personal wealth prioritizes self-aggrandizement over the welfare of the people.
Above all, a leader must be honest and trustworthy. Someone who recognizes he or she is fallible and has faith in a higher power for guidance.
This portion describes how when a king reigns, he shall have a copy of the Torah written for him and that he shall read it in order to cultivate reverence for life and mercy for God’s creatures. “Thus he will not act haughtily toward his fellows” or pervert the values that are the core of God’s Teaching.
In the United States, our greatest presidents appealed, in Lincoln’s words, to the “better angels of our nature.” They have known that hope and not fear propels our country toward greater justice for all its inhabitants.
In our bitterly divided nation, let us hold all our leaders to the highest standards of Torah. “Justice Justice shall you pursue” so that all may thrive in our land.