Rebecca Masinter

Parshas Shoftim - You're The Best Mom Ever! (For Your Kids)

Parshas Shoftim addresses leadership in Klal Yisrael.  We are commanded to appoint judges, officers and a king, and enjoined to obey the Sanhedrin and Torah leaders. One of the fundamental concepts applicable to us today is in the following passuk:

וּבָאתָ֗ אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים֙ הַלְוִיִּ֔ם וְאֶ֨ל־הַשֹּׁפֵ֔ט אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִהְיֶ֖ה בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֑ם וְדָרַשְׁתָּ֙ וְהִגִּ֣ידוּ לְךָ֔ אֵ֖ת דְּבַ֥ר הַמִּשְׁפָּֽט׃

[If you have a halachic question and you don't know the correct approach], then you should go to the Kohanim, the Leviim, and to the judge who will be in those days; you will ask and they will tell you the word of judgment.


The obvious question is why does the Torah tell us to go to the judge “who will be in those days”?  Who else could you possibly ask other than the current juge? Rashi brings a famous Sifri:

וַאֲפִלּוּ אֵינוֹ כִּשְׁאָר שׁוֹפְטִים שֶׁהָיוּ לְפָנָיו, אַתָּה צָרִיךְ לִשְׁמֹעַ לוֹ – אֵין לְךָ אֶלָּא שׁוֹפֵט שֶׁבְּיָמֶיךָ 

Even if the judge you have isn’t like the judges of previous years, you still have to listen to him because you only have the judge available in your time!


Whether or not your present day leader is the same caliber as a previous generation's leader, he is the one available to you and as such is the one you should consult. Often we interpret this Sifri as a sad commentary on later generations. We think,  "Unfortunately, today's leadership isn't what it once was, but this is who we have available, so this is who I will consult for guidance".


However, that is not the Torah's intent.  The real meaning behind this Sifri is that you don’t just happen to get whatever judges and leaders are alive in your generation, rather you get the perfect leaders for your generation because that is who Hashem has given to you.  Moshe was given to the generation that needed him, Shmuel was given to the generation that needed him, and Judge Ploni was given to the generation that needs him.  Hashem gives us the leaders who are just perfect for us - אֵין לְךָ אֶלָּא שׁוֹפֵט שֶׁבְּיָמֶיךָ doesn’t mean we’re  out of luck and are stuck with the mediocre judge of our days.  No! It means each generation has the judge that Hashem handpicks for its time.


This concept applies to our children too.  There are times we all feel inadequate.  We worry that we don’t have what it takes to parent our child.  We sometimes may even think, “If only so and so was this child’s mother, he’d  be fine”. We doubt ourselves and find ourselves asking everyone else for their opinions instead of digging deep inside to uncover our own.  But here’s the message of Parshas Shoftim: Your children have you as their mother because you are the absolute best mother possible for them.  No other woman throughout history has the potential to be the mother your children need because only you were handpicked for them.


This is not to say that we don’t all need to work on ourselves to bring out our inner potential and it isn’t to say that we shouldn’t ask mentors for advice.  Obviously we can all work to develop into the best version of ourselves.  But the fact remains that we forget all too often that our kids aren’t stuck with us because no one better was available.  Just as our generation's leaders were handpicked because they are exactly what we need, we were handpicked because we are exactly what our kids need.  You are the best mother possible for your children!  You, and no one else, has the ability and potential to raise your children to live their best lives.  Let’s accept and embrace this truth.