• Maverick (Avigdor) Peters

Parshas Shoftim 2018: Judges in Elul

Our parsha (Torah portion) elaborates on the laws pertaining to having a functional judicial system in place amongst the Jewish community. The pasuk says, “You shall appoint judges and officers for your tribes, in all the settlements…” (Deuteronomy 16:18)

This mitzvah (commandment) applies in any town whose population exceeds 120 people. This community is required to have a beis din (Torah qualified court) of three men.

Consequently, this parsha is always read during this particular time of year, the month of Elul which is the month before the Yomim Noraim (high holy days) of Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur. Elul is an auspicious time for self improvement!

During the month of Elul Jews are to contemplate the previous year, recalling both the mitzvos and the avairos they were involved with and develop strategy to improve in both areas and to repent.

Our Sages teach that when the Torah instructs the Jewish people as a whole to have judges and officers established throughout, it is a mitzvah on the whole nation but there’s an additional understanding. This commandment is also on every individual “to appoint judges & officers” for themselves in their own conduct.

There’s beautiful illusion to the month of Elul in a prayer we say daily. After we use the bathroom we thank & praise Hashem for making our bodies run smoothly with the bracha (blessing) of “Asher Yatzer”. In it a line that reads, “Ei Efshar Lehiskayeim V’la’amode Lefanecha” “it would surely be impossible to stand before You (if our body was dysfunctional)”. If we remove the first word “Ei” and read it again it would say “it is possible to stand before You”. The rashei taivos (first letter of each word) spell out the Hebrew word “Elul” which is this month.

We have to understand this time of year is an incredible opportunity for growth. Take the time to set aside goals, things to work on, ways to build yourself and become a more observant Jew! If we make the effort to “appoint judges and officers” over ourselves making sure we live uplifted lives, we will surely be able to “stand before Hashem” with confidence and merit!

Have a wonderful Shabbos and weekend!

Maverick V. Peters

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