Rebecca Masinter

Shoftim - You Are Your Children's Best Mother

Parshas Shoftim addresses leadership in Klal Yisrael. We are told to appoint judges, officers and a king, and we are enjoined to listen to the Sanhedrin and Torah leaders in this Parsha. Obviously, parents are leaders and many of the lessons in Parshas Shoftim apply to mothers as well. Let’s look at one of them, which teaches a powerful message for each of us. וּבָאתָ֗ אֶל־הַכֹּהֲנִים֙ הַלְוִיִּ֔ם וְאֶ֨ל־הַשֹּׁפֵ֔ט אֲשֶׁ֥ר יִהְיֶ֖ה בַּיָּמִ֣ים הָהֵ֑ם וְדָרַשְׁתָּ֙ וְהִגִּ֣ידוּ לְךָ֔ אֵ֖ת דְּבַ֥ר הַמִּשְׁפָּֽט׃ The pasuk is discussing what to do if one has a halachic question with conflicting approaches. If a person can’t figure out what is correct, the Torah says: “Then you should come 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 living 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! One may read that and feel disappointed: If only I had lived when Judge Ploni was alive, I would have had a great person to consult, but I’m stuck with mediocre Judge Almoni because that’s who we have today… However, that is not the pasuk's intent. The real meaning behind this Sifri is that you don’t just happen to get whatever judges and leaders live in your generation, rather you get the exact perfect leaders for your generation because that is who Hashem has given 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 - Ein l’cha ela shofeit shebyamecha doesn’t mean we’re out of luck and are stuck with the judge in our days. No! It means each generation has the judge that Hashem handpicked for its time. This applies beautifully to mothers. There are times that 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 most 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. Just as we aren’t stuck with the leaders and judges of today. They were handpicked because they are exactly what we need and 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.