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Weekly Chizuk

Parshas Shoftim

Elul - Does Anything Need Fixing?

You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your gates. (Devorim 16:18)

The simple reading of this possuk describes the mitzvah to set up a legal system in every city. Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l (Dorash Moshe) points out, however, that the word: "lecho (for yourself)," seems superfluous and disjointed. This 'society-type' commandment could have simply stated "appoint judges and officers." Why did the Torah add the word: "lecho"?

He explains that the Torah is teaching us a very fundamental concept. In addition to the need for society at large to have these shoftim and shotrim, each individual must be both a judge and officer over himself. "Lecho - for you." Over you. You must constantly oversee your own actions like a judge and making sure that they are what they should be. Secondly, you must also be a policeman to give yourself a ticket when you overstep your bounds.

Where should these judges sit? "B'chol sh'a'recha (in all of your gates)." The Shla"h Hakodesh writes that a person has seven gates: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and a mouth which are the gates between the person and all that surrounds him. You should "appoint judges" on "all your gates," that all your senses should be led by the "judges" of your soul, the intellect of the G-dly soul with which one learns Torah. The Torah should control the functioning of one's sensory powers. The way that these gates are used will either build or destroy the person. A person must appoint shoftim and shotrim to control the flow through these gates.

* * *

Rebbe Yaakov Yosef HaCohen (the Toldos) was standing together with the Baal Shem Tov discussing various thoughts in Torah (according to this version of the story, there are other versions involving other personalities). The Baal Shem expressed the belief that everything that happens and you notice it, is a message relevant to you. If something occurs in the world, and you become aware of it, that means that you are being sent a message from Heaven. The Baal Shem Tov added that this is true even if it seems to be very insignificant, and even if it seems entirely natural, still, since everything that happens in the world is ordained by Hashem, even your becoming aware of this event is also ordained by Hashem, so it means that it contains some message.

As they were discussing this concept, a gentile worker passed by and peeked through the open window and said, "Good Morning Rebbe, is there anything that needs fixing today?" He was a worker looking for a job.

"No, not today; everything seems to be in order," the Baal Shem replied.

The workman could not accept the answer, he needed work. So he blurted out, "Rebbe, if you look hard enough you'll always find something that needs repair.

The Baal Shem turned to Rav Yaakov Yosef and said, "Do you realize that we have just been sent a message from the Ribono Shel Olam. If you look hard enough, you can always find something that can be fixed up. Never think you're perfect."

Rav Yaakov Yosef was not ready to accept this idea. "If Hashem has such a lofty message, is He going to send it through a goyishe laborer? I can't accept that."

The Baal Shem Tov looked at him and retorted, "You can, you just don't want to."

Rav Yaakov Yosef left the Baal Shem Tov's house, reflecting upon the conversation. As he was standing there, a goyishe farmer passed by with a wagon load of hay. (Other versions relate this story happening to Rav Zusha.) As he drives by, a few bales of hay become loose and fall off the wagon. The goy stops his wagon and gets off and looks at Rav Yaakov Yosef and asks, "Can you help me lift these bales of hay back on the wagon? They're too heavy for me to lift."

Rav Yaakov Yosef replied, "I'm sorry, but they're too heavy for me too."

The goy looked at him and said, "You can. You just don't want to!"

That did it. He was convinced. A Heavenly message can come even through a goyishe wagon driver.

So when we hear the shofar we should realize that it is not just a musical instrument. It is not just a nice minhag. Hashem is talking to us, "Yidden, do Teshuvah!"

Wishing everyone a Gut Shabbos!

Rabbi Eliezer Parkoff
4 Panim Meirot, Jerusalem 94423 Israel
Tel: 732-858-1257
Rabbi Parkoff is author of "Chizuk!" and "Trust Me!" (Feldheim Publishers), and "Mission Possible!" (Israel Book Shop Lakewood).
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