Recently, I watched the movie The Help. The movie is centered around women of color who work as maids for white families. It baffles my mind that people of color weren’t considered on the same level as white people, yet they took care of their children, essentially educating their children. One of the story lines that particularly sticks out to me is the family that Viola Davis’ character, Aibilene, assists. The family that she works for is called Leefolt. Aibilene cares for the Leefolts’ daughter, Mae Mobley. Elizabeth and her husband completely neglect Mae Mobley. They don’t spend any time with her and leave her in a dirty diaper all night long. Aibilene teaches Mae Mobley to say “You are kind”, “You are smart”, and “You are beautiful”. Later in the movie Mae Mobley says to Aibilene, such a heartbreaking quote “You’re my real mama”. Can you imagine hearing your daughter say that to someone else? At the end of the movie Aibilene tells Elizabeth Leefolt to give Mae Mobley a fighting chance.
In the Torah, we learn about the role of slaves within Judaism. Slaves were to be treated with respect; not as less human. Slaves were also given their freedom after seven years, the year of shmita. Parashat Shoftim begins with the commandment to appoint judges. The judge needed to be someone with a deep knowledge of Torah. Decisions made by a judge reflect the wisdom of the Torah. According to the Rebbe, the Torah judge must use the principles of Torah law to determine the course of action to follow when the Torah does not tell us precisely what to do. By doing so, the judge brings all the different elements of our worldly activities into connection with the Torah, showing how a person can bring the Torah into every aspect of his life. This is incredibly important, Torah is relevant to our lives no matter how long ago it was written.
Like many other nations, the Israelites would want to appoint a king. Hashem gives explicit instructions for the king:
רַק֮ לֹא־יַרְבֶּה־לּ֣וֹ סוּסִים֒ וְלֹֽא־יָשִׁ֤יב אֶת־הָעָם֙ מִצְרַ֔יְמָה לְמַ֖עַן הַרְבּ֣וֹת ס֑וּס וַֽיהוָה֙ אָמַ֣ר לָכֶ֔ם לֹ֣א תֹסִפ֗וּן לָשׁ֛וּב בַּדֶּ֥רֶךְ הַזֶּ֖ה עֽוֹד
וְלֹ֤א יַרְבֶּה־לּוֹ֙ נָשִׁ֔ים וְלֹ֥א יָס֖וּר לְבָב֑וֹ וְכֶ֣סֶף וְזָהָ֔ב לֹ֥א יַרְבֶּה־לּ֖וֹ מְאֹֽד
וְהָיָ֣ה כְשִׁבְתּ֔וֹ עַ֖ל כִּסֵּ֣א מַמְלַכְתּ֑וֹ וְכָ֨תַב ל֜וֹ אֶת־מִשְׁנֵ֨ה הַתּוֹרָ֤ה הַזֹּאת֙ עַל־סֵ֔פֶר מִלִּפְנֵ֥י הַכֹּהֲנִ֖ים הַלְוִיִּֽם
וְהָיְתָ֣ה עִמּ֔וֹ וְקָ֥רָא ב֖וֹ כָּל־יְמֵ֣י חַיָּ֑יו לְמַ֣עַן יִלְמַ֗ד לְיִרְאָה֙ אֶת־יְהוָ֣ה אֱלֹהָ֔יו לִ֠שְׁמֹר אֶֽת־כָּל־דִּבְרֵ֞י הַתּוֹרָ֥ה
הַזֹּ֛את וְאֶת־הַחֻקִּ֥ים הָאֵ֖לֶּה לַעֲשֹׂתָֽם
Moreover, he shall not keep many horses or send people back to Egypt to add to his horses, since the LORD has warned you, “You must not go back that way again.” And he shall not have many wives, lest his heart go astray; nor shall he amass silver and gold to excess. When he is seated on his royal throne, he shall write for himself two copies of this Torah in a book from before the Kohanim and Leviyim. Let it remain with him and let him read in it all his life, so that he may learn to revere the LORD his God, to observe faithfully every word of this Teaching as well as these laws. (Devarim 17:16-19).
The scrolls must always remind the king that even though he is in a position of power, he is really a servant of Torah.
Many of us have been blessed with great things in this life. We must remember to always follow Hashem’s commandments and continue to learn the Torah. Each week, we read a portion of the Torah called, Parsha. Therefore, each week gives us an opportunity to learn a piece of Torah.
While I understand that majority of parents send their children to Jewish preschools/dayschools to teach their children. We must also do our part at home to teach our children. It’s not enough to hire others to teach our children. Moshe constantly reminds us that we are to learn and teach our children. It’s as simple as reading the Parsha to them everyday, perhaps, before bedtime. Just like in the movie The Help, Aibilene taught Mae Mobley a few key phrases, we can do the same with our very young children. We can read the Parsha with them, and pick out a few key things within the Parsha to discuss. As our children get older, we can add more and more opportunities for discussion and projects.
May Hashem give us the strength to continue to grow in our Torah learning so that redemption will come speedily in our days.