The Midrash1 comments on the opening words of the portion Shoftim — “Appoint yourselves judges and police”2 — by noting: “R. Levi said: ‘This is analogous to a king who had many children and loved the youngest most of all. He also had one orchard that he loved above all others. The king said: “I shall give my most beloved orchard to my most beloved son.”

“So too did G‑d say: ‘From all the nations that I created, I love the Jewish people,’ as the verse states:3 ‘For Israel is a lad and I love him.’ “From all that I created, I love justice,” as the verse states:4 ‘For I am G‑d who loves justice.’ ”

‘Said the Holy One, blessed be He: “I shall give that which I love to the nation whom I love.” Thus — “Appoint yourselves judges and police.”

Why does the Midrash take pains to use a king for its analogy; it could seemingly have mentioned any father who had many children and many orchards?

By stating that he “loved the youngest one most of all,” the Midrash gives us to understand that the extra measure of love felt for the Jewish people — for which reason He grants them the gift of “justice” — is because one’s youngest child is the most cherished. This is also why, in the analogy, the verse quoted is “For Israel is a lad and I love him.”

But in truth, the opposite is the case: Justice relates to maturity and intellectual attainment, not the naiveté of youth.

Justice, as the Torah states, is composed of “judges and police — justices who rule on matters of law, and police who insure that the judgments are carried out.”5

At first glance, magistrates seem to merely clarify the laws of the Torah, but, in truth, their role is much more prominent. Thus, the Rambam defines6 the role of the High Court in Jerusalem — the mainstay and fountainhead of all other courts: “They are the interpreters of the Oral Torah; they are the pillars of practical law; from them law and justice emanate to all of Israel.”

The Rambam here defines three aspects of the High Court’s role:

a) “They are the interpreters of the Oral Torah,” referring to the study and understanding of Torah in general, not only as it applies to practical law;

b) “they are the pillars of practical law,” referring to the clarification of the laws and the issuing of new rulings;

c) “from them, law and justice emanate to all of Israel” means that the High Court is to see that its rulings reach all Jews.

Thus, according to the Rambam, Jewish magistrates and judges are entrusted with learning the Written Torah well enough that they can analyze and expound upon it, this being the essence of the Oral Torah. In other words, they are empowered not only to clarify the Torah but also — in keeping with its general principles and laws — to devise new legislation.7

This, then, is what is meant by G‑d giving justice and rule to the Jewish people: Jewish judges are not only expected to enforce justice — something incumbent on the judges of other nations as well — but are entrusted with the intellect and wisdom of the Oral Torah.

This is why this aspect of justice and rule was given to the Jewish people; they are loved as a “lad.” For the fact that they were trusted to the degree that they are “the interpreters of the Oral Torah,” is not a reflection of their wisdom or intellect, but comes because they are wholly one with G‑d, the Giver of the Torah.8

This is why the analogy refers to a young child, for the love of a father for his young child does not have to do with any of the latter’s qualities — he is too young to have them. Rather, it is because father and son are of one essence.9 So too, this awesome power within Torah was given to the Jewish people because of their unity with G‑d.

This also explains why the analogy refers to a king. The gift involved is one that can only be given by a king; only one who is King of Justice has the ability to bestow such a mighty gift.

Based on Likkutei Sichos, Vol. XXIX, pp. 95-99