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Mazel tov is not enough

Translation by Yehoshua Siskin

There many times that, as a reporter, I covered criminal cases of senior officials, including a past prime minister and president of Israel who ended up in prison. How does this happen? What is the process that causes a person who rises to greatness to behave shamefully and unlawfully?

This week's Torah portion, parashat Shoftim, deals with a king and his relationship with the people. The parasha does not distinguish him for praise, but rather for limitations. He needs to restrain himself from the use of any form of force.
He is not a king but a servant. He is not all-important, but rather the public whom he leads takes center stage. Before anything else, a king needs to rule over himself. The Torah demands that he restrict himself in every area of life and that he write for himself a Torah scroll that is always by his side. A Torah scroll is attached to him no less than security personnel - in order for him to be constantly reminded of how he needs to behave.

The Torah warns not only kings, but anyone who rises in the ranks - after receiving a high level appointment or title - not to let his new status go to his head "so that his heart will not be haughty over his brothers, and so that he will not turn away from (observing) the commandments, either to the right or to the left." (Deuteronomy 17:20)

Perhaps when we hear about someone who is appointed principal of a school, or finishes amy officer training, or receives the title of rabbi or professor, we do not need to just say "mazel tov," but also: "How will you take care of yourself? How do you intend to stay faithful to your values and not lose your way due to the honor, publicity, and status of your new position?".

May our hearts not be haughty.


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