But in my eyes, the simple explanation of the verse is thus: It is obvious that the human species needs a judge to judge its members, because without it, each man would swallow his fellow alive, and the entirety will be destroyed. And every nation needs for this purpose a civilized state (bad translation- ישוב מדיני), until the wise man said "Even a band of thieves agreed on justice between them." And Israel needs it like all the other nations. Separate from that, they need this for another purpose, and that is to firmly establish the laws of the Torah and to punish those liable for lashes or death by the court who transgress the words of the laws of the Torah, although these transgressions may not harm the state's civilization at all.Awesomeness, no? I'll tell you what I thought was so cool and fun for a modern reader.
There is no doubt that for both of these sides there will be two issues. One will obligate to punishment every man according to the true law. The other, when he is not liable to punishment according to the true just law, but will obligate him to be punished according to improve the national order and according to the needs of the time.
And G-d assigned each of these issues to a special body. And commanded that judges be appointed to judge the true, just law, as it says "And they shall judge the people a just law."...And since the national order will not be complete with this alone, G-d added its repair, in the commandment of the king....
It says in the Mishna in the chapter Hayu Bodkin [that they asked the witnesses] "Did you recognize him?....Did you warn him and did he accept that warning, freeing himself for death? Did he kill within seconds afterwards?" There is no doubt that all this is right from the perspective of justice. For how can a man be killed if he did not know that he was entering into something for which there is a capital penalty and still transgressed?...But if , the transgressors are punished only in this way, the national order will be completely lost, for murderers will be numerous and will not fear punishment. And therefore G-d commanded for the sake of settling the world that a king be appointed...
And the king may judge without a warning as he sees necessary for the national welfare. Thus, the appointment of a king is the same for Israel and for the other nations that need national order, and the appointment of judges is unique and more necessary for Israel...
1) He frankly acknowledges what everybody tries to apologetics away: The Torah's legal code is not all that effective in the real world.
2) He breaks things down perfectly into how legal theorists divide the purposes of law: the deontological and the utilitarian. All legislation is trying to strike a balance between the two, and he makes the Torah system be just the same way.
3) Under his system, the religious norms- the victimless crimes of the religion- are designed to be basically unenforceable (okay, he has a paragraph that raises the option that the court can be extra-legal for those things, but I choose to go with his other opinion), while those things needed for society are left flexible and in human hands, to sort out with the changing state of society.
4) I like the idea of there being a body who just represents justice. Even though everybody knows that the final result isn't going to be the same, it's good to have them around reminding what strict justice would say. Kind of like the role of a largely powerless religious force in a secular country.
5) According to my Mishpat Ivri teacher, there was a great debate on this Ran between R' Chaim Ozer Grodzensky and R' Herzog. R' Herzog, I think the first chief Rabbi of Israel, wanted the Israeli legal system to incorporate aspects of Jewish law. R' Chaim Ozer, charedi and anti-Zionist, suggested using this Ran to establish a completely independent, completely secular system of criminal and civil law in the state of Israel. R' Kook seems to have taken the Ran much the same way.
6) According to the Ran's perspective, the king is a very practical, earthly sort of role. There is nothing all that divine about his purpose and therefore no reason that it should actually be an anointed, hereditary king. In fact, both R' Grodzensky and R' Kook extend the Ran to any sort of head of state, including a democratically elected one. After all, it's just like what all the other countries are doing to cater to their civilization needs. Which means that Mashiach could, in theory, be a democratically elected leader operating a thoroughly secular legal system. Which is actually just a little freaky.