Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 )
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GOOD MORNING! Did you ever want to meet the President of the United States? Unless you are a foreign dignitary or a very generous contributor, the chances of getting an appointment are small. However, there is one time when it is relatively easier to meet the President - when he is on the campaign trail. Then he seeks out to meet as many people as he can to impact them and communicate his message. In spiritual terms, the upcoming month of Elul is the spiritual equivalent of the campaign trail - it is the time when the Almighty's presence can most easily be felt.
Tuesday, August 17th, and Wednesday, August 18th, are the two days of Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Elul. This is a very special month in the Jewish year as it is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah (which begins Wednesday evening, September 15th). Jewish cosmology teaches us that each season of the year has a special spiritual opportunity for success. For instance, Passover is the time to work on freedom and Sukkot is the time to work on joy. Elul is the time to work on personal growth.
Elul, when spelled in Hebrew letters, is the acronym for the words, "I am to my beloved, my beloved is to me" (ani l'dodi v'dodi li - oftentimes it will be inscribed on the inside of an engagement ring). The month of Elul is a time of heightened spirituality where the Almighty is, as it were, closer and more approachable. It is a time of introspection and preparation for Rosh Hashanah. It is a time to do a spiritual audit and to fix up your life.
To help you prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, I present questions for you to ask yourself and discuss with family and friends. They are an excerpt from a fabulous and indispensable book, The Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit, written by Aish HaTorah alumnus Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf.
QUESTIONS FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE
- When do I most feel that my life is meaningful?
- Those who mean the most to me - have I ever told them how I feel?
- Are there any ideals I would be willing to die for?
- If I could live my life over, would I change anything?
- What would bring me more happiness than anything else in the world?
- What are my three most significant achievements since last Rosh Hashanah?
- What are the three biggest mistakes I've made since last Rosh Hashanah?
- What project or goal, if left undone, will I most regret next Rosh Hashanah?
- If I knew I couldn't fail, what would I undertake to accomplish in life?
- What are my three major goals in life? What am I doing to achieve them? What practical steps can I take in the next two months towards these goals?
- If I could only give my children three pieces of advice, what would they be?
If you find the High Holidays boring, can't follow the prayer service and don't understand it; if the services lack meaning and aren't spiritual experiences, then to have a meaningful experience and to have something meaningful to share with your children and family - you might want to get a copy of the Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit ... especially if your kids think a shofar is someone who drives a limousine. Unless you prepare in advance, then you are relying on a miracle to have any kind of positive experience at all. Available at your local Jewish bookstore, at judaicaenterprises.com or by calling toll-free to 877-758-3242 Also, see http://www.aish.com/holidays/!
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).
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin
The Torah states:
"You shall (trust) wholeheartedly in the Almighty, your God." (Deuteronomy 18:13)
The question arises regarding testing people before marriage for being carriers of Tay-Sachs disease. Some people wonder whether such testing is not contrary to the trust we are required to have in Divine Providence -why search for problems when in all probability none exist?
Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory, (who was the foremost authority on Jewish law) clarified this point: "Although the percentage of infants born with this disease is small and one might be apt to apply the verse: 'You shall trust wholeheartedly in the Almighty,' (which Rashi interprets as meaning that one should not delve into the future) in light of the fact that a simple test has been developed for this, one who does not make use of it is like one who shuts his eyes to what can clearly be seen ... and since the birth of such a child, God forbid, causes great anguish ... it is prudent for all who are considering marriage to undergo this test." (cited in The Jewish Observer, May, 1986)
Having trust in the Almighty will give a person peace of mind and serenity. However, one should never use a claim of trust in the Almighty to condone laziness or rash behavior. There is a thin line between the virtue of trusting in God and the fault of carelessness and lack of taking responsibility.
The story is told of a man who lived by a river. A policeman warns him to evacuate because of a flood warning. The man rejects the offer and says, "I have perfect trust in the Almighty to save me." As the water rises, a person in a boat offers to take him to safety. The man again replies with his proclamation of trust and refuses the ride. Finally, as the man is sitting on his roof, a helicopter comes to rescue him; again the man proclaims his trust and refuses the rescue. The water rises, the man drowns and is finally standing in judgment before the Almighty. "God, I had perfect trust in you - how could you let me down?" The Almighty replies, "But, my son, I sent the policeman, the boat and the helicopter!"
CANDLE LIGHTING - August 20:
(or Go to http://www.aish.com/candlelighting)
Guatemala 6:02 Hong Kong 6:32 Honolulu 6:37
J'Burg 5:32 London 7:52 Los Angeles 7:15
Melbourne 5:27 Miami 7:32 Moscow 7:35
New York 7:27 Singapore 6:55
QUOTE OF THE WEEK:
The difficulties of life are
to make us better, not bitter.
Mazal Tov on Marriage of