18/19 August 2023, 2 Elul 5783

I watched Oppenheimer last Sunday and couldn’t fail to reflect on governance and how those with power behave. ‘Don’t let that cry baby in here again,’ we see Truman say to his Secretary of State James Byrnes after meeting Robert Oppenheimer and witnessing his guilt and moral ambivalence about the atom bomb.

We are only too aware decades later of the authority, at times misused by those with responsibility.

This week’s portion Shoftim told the Israelites,

“You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes…and they shall govern the people with due justice.” (Deuteronomy 16:18)

Here, we are watching democracy threatened in the very land Torah discusses. As many say now of Israel’s government, the ruling party’s power is increasing at the expense of justice.

It’s all in Torah – the concern and the watchfulness of governance.

Rabbi Talia Avnon-Benveniste’s poem, in the style of Rosh Hashanah’s Unetannah Tokef prayer, expresses the caution captured in Deuteronomy. These are no longer ancient words with no relevance or meaning.

Who by court
Who by officer
Who by law
And who by power,
Who by despair
Who by struggle
And who shall I say is ruling?
Who by judge
Who by justice
Who by hatred
And who by mercy
Who by us
Who by others
And who shall I say, are we?

Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom and do catch the film, if you can.