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Shoftim 5772

Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 )

by Kalman Packouz

GOOD MORNING! A father of a teenager I knew had a beautiful 1965 Ford Galaxie convertible -- yellow with a black top. One day he asked his father why he owned a Galaxie while the other person who vied with him for the top salesman in the company drove a Thunderbird. His father replied, "People don't want to see that you make too much money off of them." Two years later his father bought a '67 Thunderbird. He asked him why he decided to buy a Thunderbird. His father replied, "People like to see that you are successful."

The brain is a powerful instrument. Ask it for 10 reasons to rob a bank and it will give them to you -- 1) It will be exciting 2) Think of all the good I can do with the money 3) They're insured ... Ask your brain for 10 reasons not to rob a bank and it will give them to you -- 1) It's wrong 2) You'll probably be caught 3) Your next girlfriend's name will be Bubba ... Knowing that the brain can justify almost any action, you must ask it "What is the right thing to do?" And often, it is still very worthwhile to ask a friend who doesn't have the same vested interests as you for his opinion. It helps to keep you objective.

We can use our brains to better our situation or make it worse. We all know people who can grab misery out of times of joy. A waiter once told me that sometimes he feels like asking some diners after their meal, "So, was anything OK?" We have the ability to look at the glass as half full or half empty -- although that often depends on whether you are pouring or drinking. We must use our brains to focus on the positive.

As part of my community's Bikur Cholim Society (a group of volunteers who visit and help the Jewish sick), I used to visit the Rehab Unit where people are recovering from hip and knee replacements. Often they are in great pain. It is painful to see their pain.

I tell the patient: I wish I could take away your pain, but I can't. Besides praying for your full and speedy recovery, I could -- if you are interested -- teach you how to minimize the intensity of your pain. Nine out of ten patients are fascinated and anxious to learn; one out of ten thanks me for my visit and asks me to leave.

I then continue: There are two types of pain -- meaningful pain and meaningless pain. If one takes a beating, it is painful; if one takes a beating to protect his child or instead of his child being hit, it is less painful. Why? Making a choice to receive the pain rather than have your child receive the pain gives meaning to the suffering.

Pain after an operation is meaningful. It means that you are alive. It means that your body works and hopefully is healing. There is a syndrome where a child is born without the ability to feel pain. Unfortunately, these children do not usually live long because they don't know when they are bleeding, if they are too close to a fire or are injured.

There are other benefits of pain. Pain can be a wake-up call from the Almighty to look into your deeds and your life. Is there anything that you should change or could do better? There is a Torah concept that the Almighty deals with us "mida k'neged mida" measure for measure. If one stubs his toe, he should not only think about the advisability of wearing shoes, but also on a metaphysical level "Who have I been kicking around?" Even if you don't figure out the reason, you can benefit from the introspection and improve your character and actions.

On a spiritual level, pain also serves as an atonement. When I am in pain, I ask the Almighty, "Please, accept this pain as an atonement for anything I have done wrong." One is certainly better off accepting the pain with love and appreciation rather than with anger and resentment.

If the Almighty gives a person pain as a wake-up call or as an atonement and the person ignores it, he has taken something that is meaningful and could benefit him and relegates it to the level of randomness and meaninglessness -- which is not only sad, but more painful.

If you know someone in pain, perhaps you can help them by sharing some of these ideas.


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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 Almighty commands in this week's Torah portion that a Jewish king write for himself a Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) that he will keep with him and read from it so that "he should not raise his heart above his brothers" (Deuteronomy 17:20). What does it mean to "raise his heart above his brothers"?

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm comments that we learn from here a prohibition against a person being arrogant. "Arrogance is a reprehensible trait that is the father of all other negative traits."

What does it mean that arrogance is the father of all other negative traits? An arrogant person will easily become angry when others do not do as he wishes. He will not be satisfied with what he has because he arrogantly thinks he should always have more. He will speak against others because he feels superior to them.

He will not exert himself to do favors for others because he feels that others should do things for him and that he has no obligation to help them. He will seek honor and power and therefore all that he does will be motivated by selfishness. He will take advantage of other people because he feels that everyone is only in this world to serve him.

He will be ungrateful for any good that others do for him because he thinks that of course others should serve him. He will not admit that he made any mistakes because that would be humiliating and he wants others to feel that he is infallible and he often believes this himself. He will not honor his parents properly because he wants them to serve him. He will boast as much as he can to build himself up in the eyes of others.

He will frequently lie in order to save himself from anything that will lessen his stature in the eyes of others and in order that others should have a higher opinion of him than he really deserves. He will not ask anyone for clarification if he does not understand something for this would be belittling to him. He will frequently become involved in quarrels.

He will blame others when things go wrong because he never wants to take blame for anything himself. He will act obnoxiously towards others. He will hate any person who slights him in any way.

Any of these traits sound familiar? If yes, you might want to think about working on humility -- or forwarding this Dvar Torah to someone who does need to work on humility ...


(or go to

Jerusalem 6:37
Guatemala 6:01 - Hong Kong 6:29 - Honolulu 6:36
J'Burg 5:33 - London 7:47 - Los Angeles 7:11
Melbourne 5:34 - Mexico City 7:39 - Miami 7:31
New York 7:23 - Singapore 6:53 - Toronto 7:48


A person wrapped up in himself makes a very small package


In loving memory of my father,

David L. Egozi, MD

Esther Choukroun



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