|Week of August 8, 2010 Shabbat Shoftim Elul 4, 5770|
Chodesh Tov for the month of Elul. This week the Parasha is Shoftim which means judges. Shoftim always comes on the Shabbat before or the first Shabbat in the month of Elul. The Sefardic Minhag is to start their Slichot prayers on Shabbat Shoftim. What does Slichot which means sorry! (although that is a corruption) have to do with judges?
The real question is why do normal people like you and me fear judgment? If /when we act righteously we like the Boomerang law of spirituality which says you do good you get good in your life; you do wrong you get chaos in your life.
We fear judgment because we are not sure we are acting righteously. By the way righteously means to do the right thing. How can we be sure we are acting correctly, righteously? The truth is we can not be sure that we are doing the right thing. We follow the Torah as much as we know. We listen to our Rabbi's and follow them as much as they know. Yet we can never be sure and that is why we are fearful of judgment because we are not sure if we acted righteously.
We can only do the best we can and Trust Hashem to show mercy when we do the wrong thing. The same boomerang law has another way of saying it. It says if you show mercy to someone HaShem shows mercy to you. This is the truth of how we can stop fearing Rosh Hashana and Elul. Show mercy to others. Do not judge them so strictly. Allow others to judge you. Allow your ego to be hurt by the jedgement of others. Evaluate what they say and bring their criticism into the way you live. Allow it to help you change. Always be strict with judgment when you are judging yourself. Never be strict with the judgment when it is you judging others.
It seems easy when you read it. Why is it so hard to do? That is why this essence of judgment comes as a vaccine right at the beginning of Elul. It comes to help us judge ourselves strictly and others with mercy. All you have to do is hear the reading of the Torah with this consciousness. This reading of judgment is a vaccine to assist me in not judging others. Hope you remember when it comes time to hear the Torah!
There are 18 spaces in the Torah Scroll in this Parasha. 18 is the number of Chai the word for Life. This also is a direct connection to judgment. How so? The basis of life is the search for truth. One aspect of truth is to know true cause and effect. Judgment implies a cause and an effect. The effect of a judgment is the sentence. The cause for judgment is an action in our physical world. Knowing the true cause and effect is what this Parasha is about and why there are 18 spaces in the Parasha.
I want to direct your attention to some interesting issues in 3 verses during this Parasha. The verse from Chapter 17 Verse 1 has a space before the verse and one after the verse. This implies that it is a separate subject of its own. When one reads the verse one is struck by the thought: What is the spiritual message in this one verse that applies to each person in each generation. Yes the Rabbi's teach us that we do not have the Temple and do not do physical sacrifice because of this lack, yet they also teach us that our daily prayers are the replacement for the Temple sacrifice.
Let's look at the English translation for Chapter 17 Verse 1: Thou shalt not sacrifice unto the LORD thy God an ox, or a sheep, or a kid, wherein is a blemish (a physical deformity or mark), even any evil thing; for that is an abomination unto the LORD thy God. What strikes me is the 3 animals are Astrological signs for the Hebrew months of Nissan (Lamb), Iyar (Taurus or Ox), and Tevet (Capricorn (Gedi)is the Goat or KId). It is also teaching us the concept that a blemish is an evil thing. Which means that we learn from this verse that any blemish, or other physical effect comes from the spiritual causes (Kabbalistic teachings) and that they (blemishes) are related to the energy essence of these 3 Astrological signs. It would be too long to go into the specifics in this email. Yet it is an interesting effect that this verse is separated by the spaces to identify its uniqueness.
Another verse that brings up the same questions is Chapter 19 Verse 14. It also has a space in front of it and a space behind it and seems to be a unique discussion different than the verses before it and after it. It also brings up the question is to what is the spiritual lesson for each person in each generation. Lets look at the English translation for Chapter 19 verse 14: Thou shalt not remove thy neighbour's landmark, which they of old time have set, in thine inheritance which thou shalt inherit, in the land that the LORD thy God giveth thee to possess it.
What is meant by the phrase "they of old time". The word that is being translated is Rishonim (which comes from the root of Rishon which means First). In our generation the Rishonim refers to our sages who commented on the Talmud after it was already written. These sages are referred to as the Early Ones. The verse relates to the Land as well as the idea of theft but why tells us about the Rishonim. In the Land today we no longer have these landmarks from the Early Ones. Perhaps, we can relate this to the writings of these Early Sages. An interesting thought.
The last verse i would like you to look at is Chapter 19 Verse 21. Here is its English Translation: And thine eye shall not pity: life for life, eye for eye, tooth for tooth, hand for hand, foot for foot.
This verse is the end of the discussion of False Witnesses. It is similar to a verse earlier in the Torah that sounds the same yet that verse refers to 8 different items not 5. Why did Moshe leave out these other three items which are burning, wound, or bruise? Also Kabbalistically these Five refer to Keter (life); Chochma (eye); Binah (tooth); Zeir Anpin (Hand) and Malchut (foot).
I will leave you with the question Does this apply only to the discussion of False Witnesses or does it stand on its own in teaching a spiritual lesson?
Remember the spiritual lessons from this Parasha: Judge not (others) for the effect will be you are judged. And also remember the Kabbalistic teachings.
Also learn and remember the Kabbalistic teaching that the judges in your court (after you leave this world) use only the words that you spoke to and about another. Your own words will be your sentence! Always, be careful in what we say about others!
Enjoy the Reading!
P. S. I really suggest you read last years email to help you understand this years. The link is on the left near the top. It will help you to understand what is written here.
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One of the main purposes of the Mitzvah of Hearing the Torah on Shabbat Morning is to receive the Metaphysical Energy we will need during the next week. Please strive to hear the Torah Reading each week for this benefit.
Chanoch Ben Yaacov
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