Shabbat Parashat Shof’tim
August 29, 2014 – 4 Elul 5774
The Jewish month of Elul is often associated with soul-searching and with heightened spirituality. But, reading this week’s Torah portion of Shof’tim brings home a basic Jewish teaching that soul-searching and spirituality go hand in hand with an awareness of the world around us.
Our Torah Portion, Parashat Shof’tim, teaches us to establish a system of courts, to regulate ourselves, and to agree on the parameters of our interactions for the good of all. It speaks of the need to appoint judges and magistrates – officials whose job it is to help us maintain a society in which people may expect to be treated justly – a society that treasures and inculcates ways of peace. With these officials in place, we can hope to stave off the chaos that would envelop us if we attempted to live in a lawless society, depending entirely on the goodwill of others.
At the same time, Torah teaches us that chaos is not only external. It may reside within our souls as well. Elul is a time to address the foment within our souls. It is a time to prioritize. But, Torah teaches us that, even as we do so, we are not to dwell exclusively in the world of soul and of spirit.
Our soul-searching and our spirituality must ultimately be connected to a plan for a purposeful and a proactive life. We are reminded that we must appoint judges and magistrates, lest we be consumed by external forces that would defeat the causes of justice and of peace. Because, ultimately, we are responsible for more than ourselves.
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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