So, to review, in order to be a successful leader, you are going to want to get yourself two Torahs, and scale back on the horses, the precious metals, and the women. We know that foreign women can lead a king away from Torah (as happened with Solomon), but why is the Torah so concerned with horses, gold, and silver?
Rashi writes this about horses:
|he may not acquire many horses for himself: But, only what he needs for his chariots, “so that he will not cause the people to return to Egypt” [to purchase the horses], because horses come from there, as it is said of Solomon (I Kings 10: 29), “And a chariot that went up and left Egypt sold for six hundred shekels of silver, and a horse for one hundred fifty.” - [San. 21b]||לא ירבה לו סוסים: אלא כדי מרכבתו, שלא ישיב את העם מצרימה, שהסוסים באים משם. כמה שנאמר בשלמה, ותעלה ותצא מרכבה ממצרים בשש מאות כסף וסוס בחמשים ומאה (מלכים א' י כט):|
There is a clear connection between a certain type of wealth and Egypt. I think that it is worth exploring this connection further, especially if we think of Egypt's spiritual geography instead of its physical one. In Hebrew, Egypt is known as Mitzrayim, the root of which is tzarim which means "trouble" or "narrow places." While we cannot verify the historical veracity of our sojourn in a literal Egypt, we can testify to our struggles in narrow places, and God's ultimate redemption of our people.
Egypt is a place of slavery. Egyptian society puts material wealth before human dignity. Egyptian faith places the adoration of idols before the worship of The Divine. Egypt is the type of place that views human life as a means to an end, and human suffering as an acceptable currency in the quest for material gain. A righteous king must avoid Egypt at all costs; he cannot be this callous, and cannot possess these values.
It is for this reason that we learn in our Torah portion that a king should possess two Torahs: one that should remain in his treasury, and another that should always be upon his tongue. He should endeavor to possess Torah's wisdom completely, and it should be his lodestar at all times. Once he begins to pursue material and earthly wealth as his primary priority, he will lead the people back to Egypt, even if they never take a physical step toward the country. He will lead them, and himself, to narrow and dehumanizing places, degrading the power invested in him by his Creator and his people.
We are now entering Elul, the month of reflection before our ultimate moral accounting. What are you pursuing, and trying your best to acquire? What model are you presenting to those who follow you? What is on your shopping list, and what needs to be given away in order to purify your soul and break away from Egypt? What are you doing to affirm redemption, and journey toward it at all times?
May we focus this week on shedding that which clouds our judgement and integrity and turn toward Torah for the light of leadership.
Chodesh Elul Tov!