|Week of August 16, 2000 Shabbat Elul 2, 5769|
The Parasha for this week is named Shoftim which means Judges. The first paragraph does not make sense when read in Hebrew. The grammer is confusing - changing from singular to plural and back again.
The first Verse is translated as follows: Judges and Officers shall you appoint in all your cities - which HaShem, your Elokim gives you - for your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgement.
Officers is usually understood to be police. How do we understand the connection between the Tribes and the judges. Are the laws supposed to be different between one Tribe and another?
Rabbi Chaim Vital in the name of the ARI teaches that Judges and Police in the cities are referring to our senses - Vision; Hearing; Smell; Taste; and Touch. It is strongly recomended that we guard what we sense. This is a great lesson and can be contemplated during the weeks of Elul and Tishrai as we deal with our process of Tshuva.
There are 97 verses צז and the code word for the Parasha is סלוא which means to weigh or to evaluate. The number 97 is the same Gematria as the phrase HaYam HaGaDoL which translates as the Great Sea and is a reference to the Sepherot of Binah which means understanding.
Returning to the concept of the Judges; This leads us to the question "What is justice". To me there is an intriguing connection within the word Justice which is Tzedek צדק. This word means both Justice and the planet Jupiter. Jupiter is the largest planet in our solor system but not the largest planet in the Hebrew Astrology system. That is the Sun. Part of the traits of Jupiter according to the Hebrew Astrology system is expansiveness and generosity. I think we will understand this later in this discussion.
There is a very intriguing ritual in this Parasha. The ritual of the Cities of Refuge. THERE ARE NO JAILS mentioned in the Torah. When someone accidentally killed someone - the "Blood Avenger" - the Nearest blood relative had the obligation to kill the perpetrator of the accident or hire someone to kill the perpetrator of the accident (usually frowned upon), prior to the moment the perpetrator arrived at the city of refuge and asked for protection. Then the perpetrator was immediately put in front of a Sanhedrin - a court made up of 23 members of the Temple Sanhedrin - the High Court in Jershalem. It is from this ritual that our Sages receive one of the hints that after Mashiach there will be 23 Hebrew Letters not 22.
To be a member of the Sanhedrin required someone to be a Torah Scholar (Talmid Chacham). The minimum requirement included the following:
Speak all 70 languages fluently; change the course of a river; Bring rain out of season; and Resurrect the Dead. Yes let me restate that each of the 70 members of the Temple Sanhedrin or high court could ressurect the dead.
Explaining a little more about the drama of an accidental murderer. If someone caused someone to die by accident such as a car crash; dropping a hammer from the top of a ladder by accident; or being a cause of someone dying by accident, then that person was fair game to the Blood Avenger until he reached a City of Refuge. There were 6 cities of refuge 3 in Israel proper and 3 on the West Bank, until the destruction of the Temple and after Mashiach there will be 9 cities of refuge.
Returning to the drama, if the accidental murderer reached the city of refuge ( not an easy task because most people do not help suspected murderers even today), then the court was immediately called into session and his fate was determined. If the Sanhedrin ruled the murder was an accident than he was safe as long as he lived in the city of refuge (in essence - he had to move from his home, friends, and family). If the incident was ruled a murder and not an accident. The blood avenger who by then had arrived in court killed him. The accidental murderer lived in the city of refuge until he died or the High Priest died - an unusual ritual to say the least.
The Kabbalists teach that the High Priest had the responsiblity to bring the energy of Shalem - completeness or perfection into the physical world during the rituals of Yom Kippur. Since there is no accidents, the High Priest bears part of the responsiblity for what appears in our physical illusion as an accident.
Lets digress a bit and i am sorry for this email to be this long.
Shoftim is the third of the 7 weeks of comfort leading up to Rosh Hashanah. It is always the Shabbat before the month of Elul or the first Shabbat in Elul. It is always connected to the idea of Ani Ledodi Vedodi Le or I am to my beloved and my beloved is to me. This is an anagram from the name Elul spelled Aleph Lamed Vav Lamed. This is a phrase relating to Elul and refers to the relationship between the nation of Israel and HaShem. It is relating to the energy in the cosmos that supports the process of Tshuvah - usually translated as Repentance. The Zohar and the Kabbalists explain that Tshuvah is correcting the mistakes we make during this year prior to our being judged by HaShem on Rosh HaShana. In essence Elul teaches us the spiritual law - Judge yourself as one ususlly judges others (with strictness) and judge others as one usually judges ourselves ( with mercy).
Bringing one final item to the discussion.
There are many people speaking about a term called social justice and Tikune Olam (correcting the world). This is speaking about making the world a better place to live. This relates to people helping people which on its surface sounds like a good idea.
One aspect of social justice says that long term prison sentences and putting a quilty murderer to death is cruel and unusual punishment. Of course this is a subject that society has to deal with.
I am suggesting that one begin to understand our unity between Tshuva on the individual level and on the level of society. In America our prison system is a school for teaching greater criminality. I am sure this is true through out the western world.
Returning to the City of Refuge.
In order for the system of the City of Refuge to work there are certain spiritual truths must be understood.
1. The boomerang law works - if someone does a wrong action, (kills, steals, causes harm) than that chaos will come to his/her life - in this lifetimne or the next.
2. Knowledge of true cause and effect creates certainty that our world has perfect justice.
3. The law of reincarnation teaches that someone born during the month of Elul (Virgo) was the cause of an accidental death in a previous life. The universe gives this person the tool of "seeing details" so that he won't make that same mistake again.
4. There is no accidents in the physical world. There is no coincendence in the physical world. Everything that happens in the phsyical world has a spiritual cause. In essence that judgement of what will happen each and every day for the next year on some levels is rendered on Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur.
With this in mind, i suggest that society eliminate prison and return to the laws of the Torah, which are Fines, Lashes, Other discomforts, and ultimately the City of Refuge.
When one does Tshuvah on a personal level one can also visualize the Torah law coming back into use. This will be necessary when Mashiach manifests. Mashiach will happen in a evolutionary way if we bring him with peace rather than destructionl. The choice is yours!
Enjoy the Reading!
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Chanoch Ben Yaacov
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