Parashat Shoftim – Erev Shabbat 02 September 2022 (5782)
Week of 28 August – 03 September 2022
Torah portion: Deuteronomy 16:18 – 21:9 Haftarah: Isaiah 51:12 – 52:12
“You shall set up judges (Shoftim) and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your gates that the LORD, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment.”
This is how this week’s Parashat begins: God gives the order for the appointment of judges who can coordinate the lives of the people. Something that catches our eyes is that the commandment is that there be judges at every “gate”: this can be interpreted as that we must always be vigilant with the gate of our body, guard our ears from gossip and slanderous words, guard our mouths from slander and falsehood, and guard our eyes from the useless things that the world offers that are empty of meaning and goodness.
The introduction of judges as leaders of the people establishes a new legislation in Judaism and they have a huge responsibility to watch over the Law, but also over their behavior and conduct, as they have a great influence on the people, which can be negative or positive. Today many say they are judges of themselves, but are we able to guard our gates and be examples of followers of the Eternal?
Parashat Shoftim invites us to Teshuva (repentance), a period of remorse for what has been done and a commitment to act differently in the future. These are inextricably linked. For the only test of sincere remorse is the subsequent commitment to a better way of life. To be contrite over the past without changing one’s behavior is an empty and useless gesture.
It is no coincidence that Shoftim is always read in the month of Elul. This month is called the “month of repentance”, “mercy” and “forgiveness”: a period in which we must analyze our conduct and decide whether indeed our “gates” are guarded as God asks us to do. It is a month of sanctuary and repentance; a protected time when one can turn away from the faults of one’s past and dedicate oneself to a new, sanctified future: this is the task of the month of Elul. It is a time of self-examination, when each one must ask oneself if what one has achieved is all one could have achieved. And if not, one must repent and fight for a better future.
In taking advantage of this period of repentance and purpose of sanctification, we always keep in mind that Torah is our refuge, a refuge is a place to flee to – that is, where you put aside the past and make a new home. May we, forgiven of the past, assured of victory in the future, have in the present the necessary preparation for the blessings of Rosh Hashanah, the promise of abundance and fulfillment in the year to come.
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. Have I been my own judge? 2. On the path of regret is my commitment to change sincere or just empty of feeling without the real commitment to change?
Bibliography: McKenzie, J.L. Dictionary of the Bible (New York: 1965)
This week’s Parasha Commentary was prepared by
Nayon Nigel Cezar, Israel, Bat kol Secretary.