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Shoftim 5771

Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! What is courage?  The year is 1929.  It's Friday, August 23rd.  The Grand Mufti is preaching to a packed crowd of worshippers on the Temple Mount in the Old City of Jerusalem.  He is fomenting them into a boiling cauldron of hate, viciousness and cruelty.  Finally, he charges them with their holy mission: "Itbah al-Yahud!" -- Slaughter the Jew! -- and sends them forth to have the streets run in blood!

Groups splinter off to attack Jews in the Old City, Jaffa Road, Talpiot and Mekor Chaim.  The main body of eight thousand Arabs leave the Temple Mount wielding swords and clubs marching towards the new communities of Me'ah She'arim and Bais Yisroel.  Heading through the Damascus Gate, their blood curdling cries are like a screaming locomotive in a piercing unison of "Itbah al-Yahud! Itbah al-Yahud!"  They are led by a sword-wielding sheik on horseback who urges his shrieking followers to carry out judgment on the Jews sparing neither man, woman or child!

Who stands between this blood thirsty mob and the peaceful Orthodox residents?  A small garrison of Hagana operating out of a flour mill near the south end of Me'ah She'arim.  There is no way they imagine that they can fend off the huge Arab onslaught!

Two men, Rabbi Aharon Fischer and Binyamin Zev Yarden volunteer to stop the frenzied mob.  The two walk out of the flour mill and determinedly walk towards the attackers.  Reb Aharon stops and faces the approaching sheik.  His payis (earlocks) blow in the wind from beneath his hat as he pulls out a revolver and ... shoots the sheik through the heart.  Without their leader, the Arabs are confused and panic!  Then Binyamin Zev throws a hand grenade in their midst as the fleeing mass stampede back towards the Damascus Gate, trampling their comrades in their rush.

What was going through the minds of these two young men?  Did they really believe that they had a chance of stopping 8,000 marauding, frenzied, blood-thirsty Arabs?  Did they think that they were going to a certain death?  What was motivating them?  I don't know.  I can only imagine that they decided there was no choice, no other alternative and that they had to do whatever they could no matter what the cost.  Though we cannot rely upon miracles when making decisions, it is true that one person and the Almighty is a majority!

We all need courage in life -- sometimes just the courage to face the coming day.  However, to change ourselves or to risk a new direction, we definitely need courage.  My favorite quote on courage comes from Mark Twain: "Courage is not the lack of fear.  It is acting in spite of it."

I asked my friend, Reb Zelig Pliskin who wrote the book Courage, for a list of ideas to help people strengthen their courage.  Here are:



  1. It's great to have courage, and courage makes you great.  Courage is a decision to transcend your fears. When you speak and act in a situation that is challenging for you, that is courage.  Decide to transcend fears that needlessly limit you.
  2. Courage is in your mind.  Courage comes from the thoughts you think in your mind.  You choose your thoughts.  Choose courage now.
  3. Courage doesn't mean that you don't have fears.  It means that you are willing to speak and act even with fearful feelings.  At times you might melt those fears.  Even if not, say what needs to be said and do what needs to be done.
  4. Ask your loving Father, and powerful King, Creator and Sustainer of the universe to give you inner strength and courage.  Receive it when He gives it to you.
  5. Every word and act of courage is stored in your brain.  Your brain is always with you so you can always access courage.
  6. If you have said or done something that took courage, you have been courageous already.  Identify yourself as a person who has courage.
  7. This moment is the only moment that exists.  To speak and act courageously, you only need to speak and act courageously this very moment.
  8. Be aware of any inner self-talk that prevents your courage.  Mentally upgrade the recording you play in your mind.  Listen to courageous self-talk.  Reread this list frequently.  It becomes your self-talk.
  9. When you need a boost of courage, say to yourself with enthusiasm and intensity, "I have tremendous and intense courage right now."  Repeat this with more and more intensity until you actually experience it.
  10. Fear and lack of courage is created with your imagination.  Therefore, your imagination can create great courage.  Imagine having all the courage you would wish for.
  11. Learn from every person who speaks and acts with courage.  On the screen of your mind see yourself talking and acting with that same courage.  Repeat until internalized.
  12. Remember your most courageous moments.  Take that courageous energy and double it.  Now double it again.  Double it again.  Keep on doubling this until you feel yourself radiating courage.
  13. If it is difficult to say something to someone, ask yourself, "Do I have a right to say this?"  If yes, just say it!
  14. Have the courage to bounce back from mistakes and adversity.
  15. Have courage to do what's right even if others make fun of you.  The more difficult it is, the greater you are.
  16. Have courage to respectfully tell people to refrain from speaking negatively against others.  Feel joy for acting.
  17. Visualize a great crowd cheering for your courage.  Hear the cheers.  See them waving for their hero: You!
  18. Drink an imaginary drink that gives you magnificent courage.
  19. Don't take needless foolish risks. Differentiate between intelligent and wise risks and those that are rash.
  20. Each and every day do something courageous.

And what was going through the minds of the frenzied Arab mob when opposed by these young men?  Again, I don't know.  Perhaps ... "It's an ambush!  There are two of them!"

Buy a copy of Courage at your local Jewish bookstore, at or call 877-758-3242 ... and go to

For more on "Courage" go to!


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Torah Portion of the Week

Topics in this week's portion include: Judges and Justice, Sacred Trees and Pillars, Blemished Sacrifice, Penalties for Idolatry, The Supreme Court, The King, Levitical Priests, Priestly Portions, Special Service, Divination and Prophecy, Cities of Refuge, Murder, Preserving Boundaries, Conspiring Witnesses, Preparing for War, Taking Captives, Conducting a Siege and the Case of the Unsolved Murder.

This week we have the famous admonition: "Righteousness, Righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that the Almighty your God, gives you" (Deut. 16:20).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Torah states:

"Judges and police you shall place for yourself" (Deut. 16:18).

What homiletic lesson can we learn from this verse to improve our own character?

Rabbi Simcha Bunim of Parshicho commented: Make for yourself judges and police, that is, before you go and make judgments about other people, judge yourself first.  As the Sages said, "First correct yourself and only then correct others" (Bava Basra 60b).


(or go to

Jerusalem 6:27
Guatemala 6:05 - Hong Kong 6:21 - Honolulu 6:28
J'Burg 5:37 - London 7:27 - Los Angeles 7:00
Melbourne 5:41 - Mexico City 7:32 - Miami 7:23
New York 7:32 - Singapore 6:51 - Toronto 7:35


Courage is rightly esteemed the first of human qualities...
because it is the quality which guarantees all others.
--  Winston Churchill


With Deep Appreciation to

Sue Wise

Oakridge, TN



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