This week’s Parasha opens with the words “שופטים ושטרים תתן לך ….” – Judges and Officers you shall appoint…” Rabbi Aryeh Varon of Yeshivat Netiv Aryeh pointed out an interesting grammatical point in the verse.
You might think that it would make more sense for Hashem to command us that we should appoint judges and officers for ourselves, as in, the entire community is responsible to appoint the legislatures and enforcers of the Law. Instead, we see that Hashem speaks in the singular language and says that you – the individual – should appoint these judges and officers. The rabbi then went on the explain that it is especially appropriate that this Parasha comes out in the beginning of Elul, a time of חשבון הנפש – self introspection.
The verse is coming to teach us that each individual should appoint himself as an investigative judge and an enforcing officer over his own thoughts and actions. As a judge, one should use his intellect to make a thorough self introspection of what he is doing wrong and what he is doing right in his life. As an officer, one should eliminate his bad habits, and even more importantly should recognize and strengthen his good habits and character traits.
While making this self introspection, one should never let himself lose hope or feel despair over the (sometimes seemingly overwhelming) bad traits and habits in one’s life. As Rebbe Nachman of Brestlev famously teaches, “אין שום יאוש בעולם כלל” – “There is no despair in the world, whatsoever!” My Rebbe, Rav Yaakov Darmoni taught us this week how to approach one’s failures with a positive and proper mindset. Say for example, you consider the strength of your Tefillah. Sometimes you feel that your prayers reached the highest levels of the heavenly spheres, sometimes you feel like it was great but not outstanding, and sometimes you feel like your prayer was devoid of feeling and meaning. Do not despair!
My rebbe taught us that Hashem glorifies Himself with our prayers and wears them as a crown, so to speak. We must remember that a King’s crown is not just a blob of solid gold; rather, it is made up of a golden frame that is encrusted with diamonds and precious stones. The diamonds are like our exceptional prayers, the gold is reminiscent of our average prayers, and the gaps and indentations in the gold of the crown correspond to those “empty” prayers of ours. Even the empty prayers are needed, for were it not for them, we wouldn’t have any of the beautiful designs and fine filigree on the King’s crown!
The goal of every Jew is to always rise above – above this world, above the impulses of the heart, above the cold logic of the intellect. Use your G-d given strengths to glorify Hashem’s name and connect to your Creator. Recognize your weaknesses, and convert them into new strengths. As Rav Darmoni always says, the Yetzer Hara tries to attack us in precisely the places in which we have the most potential to do great things. May we all merit to judge and be judged favorably by Hashem, by ourselves, and by our fellow Jews. Yehi Ratzon that we should merit to live life the way it should be lived!
Shabbat Shalom and Chodesh Tov,