Our Torah Portion of Shof’tim [Judges] begins with the words: “You shall place judges and magistrates for yourself at all of your gates…”.
Isn’t this obvious? Of course, we need to have a system of justice in our society in order to maintain a just society.
Nevertheless, as this Torah Portion is read at the beginning of Elul, the month of “introspection” leading up to the High Holy Days, our Sages read a deeper meaning into these words.
In their thinking, “all your gates” refers not to the physical gates of our city or of our society in general, but rather to our individual gates; to our ears which open us up to the sounds of the world around us, and to our mouths which communicate our thoughts to the world around us!
What does it mean to place judges at all of y/our individual gates? It means that we should do our best to judge justly the things that we hear and the things that we chose to communicate to others.
Similarly, one might note the repetition of the word Tzedek [justice] in the verse Tzedek tzedek tirdof [Justice justice shall you pursue] which appears just two verses later in our Torah Portion.
Why is the word “justice” repeated twice? Perhaps it is to teach us that we should judge our own state of justice or injustice first. Only after that, should we consider the state of justice or injustice in the world around us.
And so….perhaps, rather than describing Elul and a month of “introspection”, we might benefit by thinking of Elul as a month of “inner-spection”. If we do our best to improve our individual inner spiritual state, together we will, hopefully, be better able to create a more just society around us.
Rabbi Gilah Dror
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