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The other day I overheard a woman trying to get her school-aged son to walk on an outdoor set of stairs rather than clamber up the dirt slope next to the staircase. "Lalekhet b'derekh hamelekh," she urged – literally, "Walk on the king's path" (or "the king's highway").

The woman was, probably unthinkingly, echoing Moses' requests to the kings of the...