By Rabbi Yisroel Shusterman
This week’s Parsha Perspective is dedicated in memory of Elka bas Zisel OBM
Dedicated in memory of Leah bas Rochel OBM
We are currently in the Hebrew month of Elul, just a few weeks away from Rosh Hashanah and the High Holidays – a time of reflection, introspection and taking on new resolutions with which to enhance our lives, spiritually and meaningfully.
Cheder Chabad of Monsey hopes that these weekly Torah thoughts will help inspire to achieve those goals. All the students, staff and administration of Cheder Chabad of Monsey wish you and yours a happy, healthy and prosperous New Year. May this year be the year of the full and complete redemption with the coming of our righteous Moshiach - NOW!
This week’s Torah portion, Shoftim (Devorim [Deuteronomy] 16:18-21:9), is always read on the first Shabbat of the month of Elul. As nothing is accidental, this Torah portion must contain important lessons for us to implement during this auspicious month.
Shoftim means “judges.” The Torah commands us to appoint a hierarchy of righteous judges in every city and province. On a literal level, this commandment refers to judges who adjudicate civil, criminal and religious issues. On a deeper level, however, this commandment, as well as its details, has great meaning for every one of us in our personal lives. Let us examine one of this law’s details:
“You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show favoritism, and you shall not take a bribe.” (Devorim [Deuteronomy] 16:19)
A person is “bribed” by a sense of self-love, and is incapable of rendering a completely fair self-evaluation. Once the Torah prohibits the perversion of justice, is it necessary to ban bribery? Can there be a greater miscarriage of justice than bribery?
Rashi, the preeminent 11th century Bible commentator, explains that the Torah forbids bribery even in an instance where the giver stipulates that the money is being given on condition that the judge issues a fair verdict! For as soon as the judge is thus “bribed,” he will be biased in favor of that particular party, and will be unable to issue an objective ruling.
As the verse continues: “for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise.” As soon as a kinship exists between a judge and one of the litigants, that judge is unfit to preside over that case.
During the month of Elul, every person is expected to judge his or her actions and accomplishments of the previous year. However, every person is “bribed” by a sense of self-love, and is incapable of rendering a completely fair evaluation. Therefore, every person must appoint a “judge,” an impartial spiritual mentor who can issue an objective opinion.
Furthermore, the very knowledge that at the end of every week or month one will have to discuss one’s spiritual accomplishments with another is oftentimes enough to impel an individual onto the path of improvement. As RabbiYochanan ben Zakkai said to his disciples, “If only you would fear G‑d as much as you fear your fellow man.”
(Excerpts from Chabad.org - by Rabbi Naftali Silberberg)
May you have a meaningful and uplifting Shabbos!
If you would like to dedicate the weekly Parsha Perspective in honor or memory of a person or occasion, please contact Rabbi Shusterman at email@example.com