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Simcha Groffman

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Kinder Torah
For parents to share with children at the Shabbos Table

Parashas Shoftim

Guard the Gates

The security situation was serious. Guards were everywhere. In the schools and stores, at the bus stops, banks, and simcha halls. They even set up roadblocks and stopped cars. They were checking everyone and everything that wanted to enter. Metal detectors, frisking, checking ID cards - no security measure was spared.

You might think that the population was up in arms over this massive inconvenience. Not true. No one seemed to mind. They knew how serious the danger was. They knew that the destructive forces had to be stopped. At all costs.

"Judges and guards shall you appoint in all your gates" (Devarim 16:18). The Arizal is puzzled. Why does the verse write the word "you" in the singular tense, and not the plural? These judges and guards were, after all, charged with serving all of Klal Yisrael, and not any one individual. He answers this question with a beautiful drasha from Rav Chaim Vital. Each and every Jew has several "gates" that need to be guarded. The gates of vision: the eyes. The gates of sound: the ears. The gate of speech: the mouth. The gate of fragrance: the nose. The gates of touch: the hands and feet. A person must place judges and guards at each of these gates. He has to check and evaluate each sensation that wants to enter his body and soul. The dangerous forces must be kept out. He guards his eyes from seeing impurity. His ears need protection from hearing loshon hora, apikorsus (heresy), destructive music, and mockery. His mouth cannot be allowed to speak rechilus, and derogatory words. His nose and hands should not smell or touch anything that will contaminate his pure thoughts. His feet should not take him to the wrong places, where the wrong kinds of people congregate. In short, a person must be his own judge and security guard on his own gates. The judge is charged with thoroughly checking everything that wants to enter, and the guard must shut the door on the bad influences. We don't mind the inconvenience. We know how serious the situation is.

Kinderlach . . .

Our senses are the gates to our souls. Guard them! You would not think of swallowing a piece of dirt or garbage. It would pollute your mouth, stomach, and your whole body. Spiritual dirt contaminates your soul. There are many destructive forces out there. The big screen, the little screen, the wrong reading material, and the bad company, to name a few. They can ruin you if you let them. Be a good judge and watchman. Guard the gates.

Good Judgment

"Shalom Abba! I'm home."

"Shalom, Avi! How was your day at school?"

"Wonderful, Abba. The teacher really made us work hard."

"Adam l'omol yulad (A person was born to work hard)" (Iyov 5:7).

"He even gave us a question to discuss with the family."

"Wonderful, Avi! What is it?"

"Is it good to be judged?"

"Hmmm. That is a very deep question. Let's work out the answer together. What is your first reaction?"

"Judgment is unpleasant."


"The judge examines your life. He evaluates everything that you do."

"What is wrong with that?"

"It can be embarrassing to recall private things. It can also be painful to hear about your past mistakes. It is also very nerve-wracking to think that your future rides on this judgment."

"All very true, Avi. What is the positive side?"

"Maybe you can help me with that, Abba."

"I will do better than that, Avi. I will get Rav Shach zt"l to help you. He writes about parashas Shoftim, and uses this as a starting point to speak about the judgment of Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur."

"What does he say, Abba?"

"Hashem's yearly judgment is a tovah (good thing) for His creations. People commit various sins over the years. If Hashem would not give the opportunity to do teshuva, judge, and forgive, the sins would build up. They would get to such a level, that Hashem would have no choice except to be angry with us (so to speak)."

"I see."

"Therefore, the judgment of Yomim Noraim is a very good thing. It compels us to examine our deeds, recall our mistakes, and resolve to correct them. We actually judge ourselves before Hashem judges us. If we do a good job, and truly regret our aveyros (sins), then He will forgive us. We then begin the new year with a clean slate."

"That is wonderful."

"Correct, Avi. So you see that judgment is a very good thing."

"The best, Abba. May we all merit a good judgment this year!"


Kinderlach . . .

We are now at the beginning of the month of Elul, the last month of the year. Now is the time to begin preparation for the upcoming judgment of the Yomim Noraim. Hashem does us a big favor these next two months. He makes it easy for us to do teshuva. He comes close to us during these Yimei Ratzon (Days of Special Favor). The distance for us to return to Him is very short. Take the opportunity, kinderlach. Do teshuva now. Prepare yourself for the judgment day and begin the new year with a clean slate.

Parasha Questions:

Why must a king take his Sefer Torah with him and read it all the time? (17:19-20)

Who has the first priority to be the successor to the king? (Rashi 17:20)

What is the Levi's inheritance? (Rashi 18:1)

What are the conditions for a killer to find refuge in an Ir Miklat? (19:4-6)

What is the punishment for Adim Zommimim? (19:19)

Who is exempt from going to war? (20:5- 7)

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