Food For the Soul
Try to see the good in others
The Parshah Shoftim begins with the biblical command for judges to be appointed in every city and town to adjudicate and maintain a just, ordered, civil society. Interestingly, it occurs in the first week of Elul, the month in which we are to prepare in earnest for the Days of Judgment ahead, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur.
There are, however, some significant differences between earthly judges of flesh and blood and the heavenly judge. In the earthly court, if after a fair trial a defendant is found guilty, then there’s really not much room for clemency on the part of the judge. The law is the law and must take its course. The accused may shed rivers of tears, but no human judge can be certain if his remorse is genuine. The Supreme Judge, however, does know whether the accused genuinely regrets his actions or is merely putting on an act. Therefore, He alone is able to forgive. That is why in heavenly judgments, teshuvah (repentance) is effective.
A teacher once conducted an experiment. He held up a white plate and showed it to the class. In the center of the plate was a small black spot. He then asked the class to describe what they saw. One student said he saw a black spot. Another said it must be a target for shooting practice. A third suggested that the plate was dirty or damaged. Whereupon the teacher asked, “Doesn’t anyone see a white plate?”
There may have been a small black spot, but essentially it was a white plate. Why do we only see the dirt? Let us learn to find the good in others. Nobody is perfect, not even ourselves. Let’s not be so judgmental and critical. Let’s try to see the good in others.
Condensed from an article by Rabbi Yossy Goldman
Experience the energy
The unique quality of Shabbat derives from two types of mitzvot: the mitzvot of sanctification such as candle-lighting and Kiddush; and the equally important mitzvot which require that we refrain from certain activities and work. The prohibitions against “work,” far from being negative or burdensome, are an integral part of the experience of Shabbat as a day when body and soul are in true harmony. Writes Rabbi Pinchas Taylor, “Classifying something as work is not assessed by the amount of sweat that drips from the brow, it is whether this action is a creative change or shows human mastery over nature. Refraining from these acts, in even the most minor manifestations, opens one up to be a conduit to experience the energy of harmony and tranquility which G‑d made available during this day.” For information about observing Shabbat, visit Chabad.org
Mind Over Matter
G-d is with you
In Shoftim we read: ”When you go out to war against your enemies and you see a horse and chariot, a people more numerous than you, you shall not be afraid of them, for the L‑rd, your G‑d is with you.”
Rashi explains that it’s a question of perspective. When we look at the forces arrayed against us, we see an impregnable foe, more numerous than us and fully equipped to conquer. Yet, from G‑d’s perspective, there’s nothing there. It’s as statistically insignificant as a single horse. If we stopped looking for problems, we could start working towards the solutions. The host of enemies that we thought were attacking us were really just as insignificant as a single horse and, with G‑d’s help, we will overcome.
Excerpted from an article by Rabbi Elisha Greenbaum
The era of “counsellors”
Much of our world is sadly, immersed in darkness and so the need for law enforcement officers is beyond question. However, during the Messianic era, when all the nations of the world will pursue the study of G-d and Torah, “Instead of officers there will be counselors,” wrote Rabbi J. Immanuel Schochet. “The task of the counselors is to explain and clarify to litigants the words and decisions of the judge so that they will understand and realize how those decisions are in the peoples’ best interest and for their own benefit. Thus the people themselves will want to follow the court’s judgments. It follows, then, that in the Messianic era there will no longer be a need for officers to enforce the law, for all shall willingly live up to their obligations.”
Have I got a Story
Are you objective?
There was once a king who was very fond of target shooting. He practiced daily and arranged competitions. With time he felt that he had gotten pretty good at the sport, yet he continued trying to improve. One day, as he was traveling through the countryside, the king noticed several target boards near a small peasant hut. Looking closely, he was astonished to see that every one of the many darts on the boards was precisely in the center! This simple peasant was apparently an expert; he had hit a bull’s-eye with every try!
Curious to learn how the man had done it, the king knocked on the door of the hut. The peasant who answered laughed heartily at the the king’s question. “Why, it’s very simple,” he replied naively. “Instead of drawing the target and aiming towards it, I throw the darts, and then draw the circles around them. It works every time . . .”
The Parsha Shoftim includes a prohibition for judges to take bribes. The Torah then explains the reason for this commandment: “For bribery blinds the eyes of the wise.”
Now, you’re probably thinking, “No kidding, that’s the definition of a bribe! What kind of reason is that?”
Good point. But, actually, the Torah is not trying to explain what’s wrong with paying off a judge; it’s obvious that corrupting fair judgment is immoral. Rather, the Torah seeks to clarify a fact. Often, people say, “I can be objective in this case, despite my connection to it.” Recognizing the difficulty of proper judgment when personal concerns are involved, we may nonetheless convince ourselves that we are immune to bribery, intellectually and emotionally capable of separating fact from feeling.
Yet the Torah cautions us that the danger of bribery is not merely a possibility, nor even a probability. It is an automatic effect. Bribery –monetary or otherwise –skews one’s perception, literally “blinding” him to reality. No one is immune.
We are all judges, all of the time. There are important decisions to be made constantly, and these require clear thinking and examination of facts. But often, we may be swayed by bribes –personal concerns, interests and feelings. We may have the best of intentions, yet the possibility of a purely objective decision is technically out of our reach, “for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise.”
For this reason, it is crucial that every one of us have a mentor, an objective individual upon whom we rely to help us make decisions. Before signing on the dotted line, run it by someone out of the picture. It’s a sort of reality check, a way to make sure that we are aiming towards the target, rather than adjusting the goal to suit us.
By Rabbi Mendy Wolf.