Parashat Shoftim

Sitting in Judgment By Rabbi Yechiel Spero

In the beginning of Parashat Shoftim we are told, “judges and officers shall you appoint in all of your cities. And they shall judge the people with righteous judgment”. Rav Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev Explains that the Al-mighty judges the Jewish people with great compassion and mercy. But they must trigger that compassion through our own actions. When we act with compassion and mercy by judging our fellow man favorably, this awakens compassion from Above, and all Jews are judged favorably. This is the meaning of the end of the above verse: Each individual, through his own judging, can bring about a favorable judgment for the Jewish people.

The Baal Shem Tov adds that a person’s actions are judged on how he judges someone else in the same scenario. When a person is brought to judgment, he is shown how he judged similar incidents. If he was lenient and gave the benefit of the doubt to others in that situation, then the same is done for him. But if he was harsh and judgmental, then he is viewed and judged with same harshness.

If someone sees another Jew walking into McDonald’s and ordering a nonkosher item, he should assume that he is doing so because he has an unusually strong inclination or he doesn’t realize the severity of the sin (or any number of other reasons). In truth, this should be a humbling experience, as one who sees another Jew transgress must know that is witnessing this transgression only because he possesses a similar fault, and the Al-mighty is presenting him with a situation that reflects on his own shortcomings. Rav Nachman of Breslov writes that no decree is issued against a person unless he paskens(giving final ruling) on the issue himself. Therefore, when a person sees another individual doing a questionable act, it is in his own best interests to judge the other fellow favorably.

Think of it this way: when you see someone doing something questionable, it is as if you are looking in the mirror. How would you judge yourself?

The Sfat Emet takes this one step further. The Mishnah in Avot (1:6) teaches, “And judge everyone favorably.” The Sfat Emet asks: who appointed you to be a judge? He explains that the manner in which you judge your friend will cause him either to be judged favorably or not. So,in essence , you are the judge.

facts of life: take this serious

A Story Of Debt Collecting In Elul

Hagaon Rav Moshe Chadash  ZT”L once told over an incident when he was a bochur in Yerushalayim, and he ate a meal by a family during Elul. While he was in the house, he overheard a conversation between the husband and wife, who were the parents of many children. The wife was complaining to her husband that they had finished all the food in the house, and there was no money to purchase additional food. She reminded her husband that there were several people who owed them money, and since the situation in the house was becoming dire, she asked him to approach these people and request their money.

The husband answered, “I’m sure you remember that it is now Chodesh Elul, and we will soon stand by the Yom Hadin. We will request from Hakadosh Boruch Hu that He will grant us a good and blessed year. And with what zechut will we dare to request a good year from Hakadosh Baruch Hu? In Shamayim, they will present all our debts from the past year! And if the debts of the past year are not enough, they will also remind us of old debts from past years. And what will we answer?”

The husband continued, “The only advice I have is that we also will not demand from our debtors that they return the money to us, and we will struggle to continue to live with what we have. Maybe doing this will serve as a defender for us, and will act for us as Midah keneged midah(Measure for Measure) . We won’t demand what we are owed, despite the great difficulty it will cause us, and maybe there will be hope that in Shamayim they will also have mercy on us and agree to grant us a good year, and not mention our debts.”

Rav Moshe Chadash said, “These were the husband’s words, and I was awed by the fact that his wife listened to his words and agreed with them! Despite the fact that she had many small children in the house and had no food left to feed them, she was convinced by her husband’s words. These were the type of Jews of yesteryear, with their simple Emunah!” (Aleinu Leshabeach)

simcha corner

During a visit to an Israeli mental asylum, a visitor asked Director Epstein what the criterion was which defined whether or not a patient should be institutionalized.

“Well,” said Director Epstein, “we fill up a bathtub, then we offer a teaspoon, a teacup and a bucket to the patient and ask him or her to empty the bathtub.”

“Oh, I understand,” said the visitor. “A normal person would use the bucket because it’s bigger than the spoon or the teacup.”

“No.” said Director Epstein, “A normal person would pull the plug. Now, do you want a bed near the door or window?”

Parsha Summary

First Aliyah: We are commanded to appoint judges in every city of Israel. These judges are instructed to adjudicate fairly. Capital punishment is prescribed for idolatry, and various idolatrous practices are banned. The sacrifices we offer to G‑d must be blemish less. We must follow the rulings of the Sanhedrin, the Rabbinic Supreme Court, and the Oral Law. Refusal to accept the Sanhedrin’s authority is a capital offense.

Second Aliyah: Moshe instructs the Israelites to coronate a king after they enter Israel. A Jewish king may not amass an excessive amount of horses, wives, or personal wealth. The king writes for himself two Torah scrolls. One of them remains with him at all times — a constant reminder to remain humble and follow G‑d’s Law.

Third Aliyah: The Kohanim were chosen by G‑d to be His holy servants. They do not receive an inheritance (portion) in the Land of Israel, because “G‑d is their inheritance.” Instead, the Kohanim are the beneficiaries of various priestly gifts; selections of meat from certain sacrifices, as well as tithes from crops and animal shearings.

Fourth Aliyah: Although the Priestly families were divided into many shifts, each serving in the Temple in their designated turn, a Kohen always retains the right to come to the Temple and personally offer his personal sacrifices. This section then contains prohibitions against divination, fortunetelling and similar occult practices. Instead of probing into the future we are commanded to put our faith and trust in G‑d.

Fifth Aliyah: We also have no need for these above mentioned abominable practices because we are blessed with prophets who transmit G‑d’s messages to His people. We are commanded to obey these prophets. This section prescribes the punishments for non-compliance with prophets’ words, as well as for an individual who falsely claims to speak in G‑d’s name. This aliyah then reiterates the command to establish cities of refuge for the inadvertent murderer. Moshe commands the Jews to designate six such cities, and when G‑d expands the borders of the land (with the coming of Moshiach) to add another three cities of refuge.

Sixth Aliyah: A minimum of two witnesses are required to secure a conviction in a capital or corporal punishment case. Individuals who testify falsely are liable to receive the punishment which they sought to have imposed upon their innocent victim. The procedure for battle is outlined in this section. When approaching the battlefield, a Kohen addresses the troops, admonishing them not to fear the enemy, and listing the various individuals who are exempt from military duty, such as one who has recently betrothed a woman or built a new home, or a fainthearted and fearful person.

Seventh Aliyah: Before waging battle against an enemy in battle, we are commanded to make a peaceful overture. Only if the enemy does not accept the offer does battle ensue. In the battles against the Canaanite nations, if the enemy does not agree to the peace offer, the Israelites are commanded to completely annihilate them. We are forbidden to cut down fruit-bearing trees while laying siege on a city. The reading closes with the procedure to be followed in the event of an unsolved murder.

something to think about

Elul Is More Terrifying Than A Bear!

Reb Yisroel Salanter would live in a state of sheer terror during Elul. Someone once asked him what is so scary about Elul? Is it a bear? Reb Yisroel Salanter answered that it is scarier than a bear. The mighty Dovid HaMelech said (Shmuel Aleph 17:36) that he killed both the bear and the lion. Neither of these terrifying animals scared him. Yet in Tehilim he wrote “Somar MiPachdecha Bisari U’Mimishpatecha Yareti”; my skin gets goose bumps from fear of You and I am scared of your judgement. (Sichot Moreinu Hagaon Rav Shimshon Pincus)

Rav Chaim Volozhin once got up to speak about Rosh Hashana.  He began saying the pasuk Somar MiPachedecha Bisari and he fainted on the floor.  He was overcome with such fear and trepidation that he couldn’t go on.  He didn’t have to.  Anyone who heard his “drasha” lived a different Elul for the rest of his life.

The great Tzaddik Dovid HaMelech was more concerned with Elul than getting in the way of a hungry lion. Reb Chaim Volozhin passed out from mentioning it.

What about us? 

10 Steps of Greatness

by Rabbi Avigdor Miller

In order to acheive greatness one has to learn many sepharim like Mesilat Yesharim, Hilchot Teshuva from Rambam, Ramban, ect. But what about the regular person, how can he acheive greatness, greatness doesn’t come right away, one acheives greatness step by step, no one can jump the ladder. So after much research through many Sefarim, Rabbi Avigdor Miller Z”tl made his 10 steps of greatness, made that everyone, no matter who you are, will be about to acheive greatness. If you do this easy program, you have acheived a great amount.

Ground Rules, don’t tell anyone they will think you’re crazy and will discourage you, do all of these privately and secretly. Also don’t do anymore right away you will tire yourself out.

1. No one speaks about one subject anymore, it has been forgotton from everyone’s minds. no one ever wants to talk this subject the Yetzer Hara made it a dirty word because he knows that this word might change a person’s entire life. That is Olam Haba. Spend 30 seconds everyday thinking about Olam Haba when stuck in traffic, walking in the streets, anytime you want, what is it like, who is going, who will have a nice share, what’s the purpose of this world. In Pirke Avot it says this world is just a corridor to the next prepare yourself in this to be ready for the main party. think about this 30 seconds a day and your life will be different forever.

2. When no one is watching say once a day “I love you Hashem” Even a child can be taught to love Hashem, every Jew is capable of fulfilling the Mitzva of loving Hashem. Just say it once a day. say it even if you don’t feel it, eventually you will come to feel. Deep down, every Jew can bring these emotions out. It will eventually turn into a fireball of emotion and love for Hashem.

to be continued next week…