AUGUST 13-14, 2010 4 ELUL 5770
"Justice, justice shall you pursue." (Debarim 16:20)
Our perashah discusses the obligation to establish a bet din (Jewish court) in every city. Rashi comments on the above verse and says: "Go after a high quality court." Although two Jews who have a dispute may take their case to any competent court, they should make an effort to take it to the court which has the most learned and righteous judges. Rabbi A.H. Leibowitz asks, to what sort of person is this commandment speaking? A deceitful plaintiff, intent on cheating and robbing the defendant, would blatantly disregard this law. The Torah must be speaking to an honest person who feels he has been wronged and is now going to the bet din to retrieve what is rightfully his. He feels confident about his case and would be comfortable going to the local bet din. The Torah nevertheless commands him to search for the best court even if it is in a distant location. But, why is this necessary? In the plaintiff's eyes, the defendant is clearly wrong. Why bother to find more qualified judges?
The Torah requires man to maintain a high level of honesty and integrity. Even if one is sure he is right he must question himself and his motives. One must protect the person he is accusing. There exists a slight chance that a less scholarly court may err in his favor and as a result he will be taking from his fellow man that which is not his. This is the lofty level we must keep, not to inadvertently wrong the accused.
If the Torah requires us to go to such trouble not to do any unintentional dishonesty, how much more careful must we be not to do anything which is questionable in nature. Why is this such a challenge? The Mesilat Yesharim (chapter 11) explains that man, by nature, desires money and to be truly free of its influence requires a great deal of sincere introspection and care. The month of Elul and the days of Selihot are here. Our Sages warn us that the most severe prosecution is caused by monetary misdeeds. If we make progress in this area we can gain a powerful merit on our behalf when our case is heard in the most supreme court of all. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Reuven Semah
"Do not erect a masebah (pillar)" (Debarim 16:22)
The simple meaning of the word 'masebah' is 'pillar'. This pasuk is telling us that it is forbidden to erect a pillar in order to serve Hashem. Our Rabbis offer another explanation for this verse by pointing out the similarity of the word masebah to the word 'masab' or 'situation'. When we read the pasuk this way, it is telling us "don't set up a position for yourself that is rigid and inflexible." No two situations are alike, and we must look at all the circumstances of each situation before we take a position.
There are times when a misvah in one situation could actually be a transgression if the circumstances are changed. A person who acts compulsively, basing his actions totally on his unbending ideas, will put himself in a position to make many errors. One must have a full grasp of the Torah principles which apply in each case, and apply them properly. The more Torah a person learns, the more he will be equipped to react in different predicaments.
This is not to say that one should sacrifice his Torah ideals in any situation. This only refers to a person's traits, and how he should apply them. At times, a person must be compassionate while at other times, he must act cruelly. Sometimes he should be generous; sometimes he needs to be stingy. The Torah is warning us that a person should be careful to avoid treating every situation the same way without taking all of the factors into account. Only in that way can he make an objective, Torah based decision. Shabbat Shalom. Rabbi Shmuel Choueka
"For bribery blinds the eyes of wise men..." (Debarim 16:19)
The Hafess Hayim gives an analogy: If you would hear Reuven say that Shimon is wealthy, you need to know Reuven's financial situation before you can have a clear picture as to how much money Shimon has. If Reuven himself is very poor, then the fct that he considers Shimon wealthy does not mean that Shimon really has a large amount of money. However, if someone who is internationally famous as one of the richest men in the world would say that someone is wealthy, we know that the person he is referring to owns a tremendous amount and has enormous financial assets. It is the same with wisdom. If Reuven says that Shimon is wise, we need to know how wise Reuven is to get a picture of Shimon's wisdom. For example, if we heard the Rambam say that someone is wise, we know that person has much wisdom.
With the above in mind, we can gain a deeper understanding of this verse. If Hashem himself testifies that a person is wise, then this person must have the ultimate in wisdom that is possible for a human to have. Even so, the Torah states about him that bribery will blind him. Regardless of how wise any mortal is, once he is biased he will not be able to see. (Hafess Hayim al HaTorah)
"You shall rid yourselves of evil." (Debarim 17:7)
One who is in the company of sinners and constantly sees their actions will become used to the sin. The sins will gradually become less severe in his eyes.
When witnesses testified against a person who was then sentenced to stoning by the court, the Torah tells us that the witnesses would be the first to throw stones at the man. Why is this? Since they actually saw the sin being committed, they became accustomed to it. Therefore, they are required to initiate the stoning in order to emphasize upon themselves the severity of the sin. This is what the Torah means by "You shall rid yourselves of evil." You must remove the evil from within your own hearts.
This is a very important principle even today. One must understand that he is constantly being influenced by his surroundings. If we spend much of our time with people who are not observing the misvot, we are sure to absorb their indifference to Torah ideals. Therefore, we must try to associate with people who are constantly striving to improve themselves in Torah observance. Then, we are guaranteed to learn from their ways, whether we are conscious of it or not. (Yalkut Hamishai)
The judge was losing patience with the nervous defendant. "Answer the question, please," she said sternly. "The court will not tolerate your evasive responses any longer. Either reply directly to the query, or you will be held in contempt of court."
The defendant's guilty expression hinted at the reason for the delay. A person who does not have a good answer might stall and not answer at all.
Each of us will one day be "the defendant" and be required to answer questions. The Judge will not be a mere mortal, and the verdict will be for eternity. It is now that we must work on the answers.
You were given a talent. Is it a sharp mind? Financial acumen? A good voice? The ability to sway the opinions of others?
What is your strong point? Are you using it for a good purpose?
It is not as difficult as you might think to perform as Hashem expects. Author and international lecturer Rabbi Akiva Tatz suggested an exercise that might help: Draw a circle on a clean sheet of paper. In the circle, list everything - traits, situations, and talents - with which you have been blessed. Outside the circle, list all the things you would like to have but do not. Then cut around the circle and discard whatever is written outside the circumference. Look at what remains. These are the tools Hashem has given you to do your life's job completely and successfully.
A carpenter needs a hammer and nails and a painter needs a brush and paints. What did Hashem give you? That is exactly what you need to fulfill your role. Now go figure out what your job is, and start working to maximize your productivity.
One day you will be the defendant. One day you will have to answer the questions.
Will you be ready? (One Minute With Yourself - Rabbi Raymond Beyda)
A quick tip to boost the power of your prayer. Hazal tell us (Masechet Baba Kama Daf 92A) that Hashem loves the tefilot of one Jew for another so much that anyone who prays on behalf of a fellow Jew with similar needs will have his prayer answered first. A special service has now begun to provide people with names of others who find themselves in a similar predicament. You can call with complete anonymity and get the name of someone to pray for and give the name of someone that needs our prayers. The name of the service is Kol Hamitpalel. Categories include: Marriage; Income; Health; To have children etc.
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