> Weekly Torah Portion > Beginner > A Life Lesson

Practice What You Preach

Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 )

by Adam Lieberman

In this week's Torah portion, Moses instructs the Jews on additional commandments they need to observe. He tells them that when they appoint a king, the king:

"...shall write for himself two copies of this Torah ... it shall be with him, and he shall read from it all the days of his life." (Deuteronomy 17: 18-19)


God wants the king to have a Torah - with all its commandments - in his personal possession at all times. Why would a king, the very person in charge of telling others what to do, have to do this?

It is because all too often we'll see people who are in charge decide - whether consciously or not - to have one set of rules for themselves and a completely different set of rules for everyone else.

Why is it that people "in charge" so often believe that one set of rules should apply to them and another set to everyone else? The reason is when you're the one barking out orders, it's very easy to forget that you too have a boss to answer to - one named God.

This is precisely the reason God wants every king not only to possess two Torah scrolls, but actually to keep one with him at all times. Every place a king goes (except in unclean places) the Torah goes with him as well. Clearly, there are many perks with being a king, and a king is certainly entitled to all of them. But his underlying behavior must be to abide by God's rules, not his own.

The powerful message is very clear. There cannot be one set of rules for a leader and another for his followers. God tells the Jewish people that kings and their followers must all live by the same rules.

We see this happening in our own lives all the time. Parents instruct their children never to lie, but when the same child answers the telephone, the parent may quietly whisper, "Tell him I'm not home." This is the exact behavior that God wants us to avoid at all costs.

And in everyday situations, sound advice you readily give to others you should also start taking for yourself. Practice what you preach. Live by the same words you give to friends, family, and co-workers, and don't feel you're above any of it. This will force you to grow in ways you've never imagined, and that's exactly what God had in mind.

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