Rabbi Oury Cherki

Shoftim - Why Two Torah Scrolls?

Translated from Hebrew. Published at the Noahide World Center website and in Shabbat B'Shabbato.

The King is commanded to write a second Torah scroll for his own use, in addition to the one that every man in Israel is required to write (at least according to the Rambam and the Beit Yosef). "And it will be, when he sits on his throne, let him write this second Torah on a scroll, before the Priests, the Levites". [Deuteronomy 17:18]. If the goal is to have the King read the Torah twice, it would have been enough for him to have one Torah scroll.

We are therefore led to conclude that the two scrolls fulfill two different tasks, such that they could not be performed simultaneously. One is the same as the task of the Torah scroll of each and every man from Israel. The Torah links a man to the halacha. It describes what is required from each man as an individual. In order to know what G-d wants him to do, a person from Israel turns to the Priests and the Levites (and today to the rabbis) so that they will interpret the Torah in accordance with the oral Torah. The purpose of the second Torah scroll is to teach the King his political role, in particular the objectives that should lead him in ruling the country. He writes this Torah "before the Priests and the Levites". The difference between the halachic reading and the kingly reading can be seen in greatest clarity in the events surrounding Amaziah, King of Judah (see Kings II 14:6; Chronicles II 25:4). He read the verse "Let fathers not be killed because of their sons" [Deuteronomy 24:16] in a way very different from that of the Talmud, which derives from the verse that relatives cannot testify about each other. Rather, King Amaziah sees this verse as a command to the King in terms of royal behavior not to kill the relatives of those who revolted against him.

We can say that a king would like to find the history of his reign in the Torah scroll, in a way that corresponds to the Chassidic interpretation of the verse, "Let him keep it with him and he will read it all the days of his life" [Deuteronomy 17:19] – that the King will literally read about the days of his own life in the book itself. Thus, the goal of the King is to continue the historical record of the Torah through his own actions in his kingdom. These actions are more important for the community as a whole than the individual religious rituals performed by each of the citizens of the land.

In the Torah, this approach of the King is called a "fear of G-d". As is written, "So that he will learn to fear His G-d" [Deuteronomy 17:19]. The same is true of the mitzva of "Hakhel" – the purpose of gathering the nation to hear the King read from the Torah is to cause fear. "And they will fear your G-d" [31:12].

Thus, what is revealed here is a new dimension of the fear of G-d. While the usual approach to fearing G-d sees it as a movement of the individual soul which centers on the unique aspects of a person, by sanctifying individual acts or by helping others as part of an act of individual kindness, the Torah sees the fear of G-d as a national phenomenon, seen through the hand of G-d as it appears in international relations.

Our generation, which is experiencing the revelation of the G-d through the establishment of the State of Israel, has the privilege of returning to the original sense of the fear of G-d, which faded during our exile. This deals with the way that G-d guides the kingdoms of the world, giving the nation of Israel the task of enhancing the universality among all the nations.