Shof’tim: “And judges and police you shall place in your gates,” so our parashah begins. But why? Evolutionary psychology explains that we are bred for altruism to enable survival as a group and yet simultaneously, we have a strong impulse to put our own needs first. Sadly, exaggerated fears, greed, and selfishness create disorder and suffering. Rabbi Hananiah, the Deputy High Priest of first century Israel, declared: “Pray for the welfare of the government, for if people did not fear it, they would swallow each other alive” (Pirkei Avot 3:2). For a dramatic look at the law of the wild where the stronger (a hawk) pursues the weaker (a squirrel), check out this amazing video: https://www.youtube.com/v/XBEyCr5AoIs. Our sages teach that the need for vigilance at the gates also applies to our sensual portals, all the more so as we begin the new month of Elul. As we prepare for a new year, let us guard our tongues against hurtful speech and our eyes from invasion of the privacy of others. Wishes from my family and me to each of you of a new year of good times and goodness. Elie
Ps. Consider watching last week’s sermon: (R’eih)- What is the link between the command “open your hand” and the three pilgrimage holidays? Examines how the breaking of the glass at a wedding conveys the Jewish reality principle that life is incomplete up close and we are duty bound to make the world more whole. Likewise, Deuteronomy 15, which describes the need for relinquishing debts in the Sabbatical year and for freeing Hebrew slaves is linked to holidays of collective memory of humble origins as a people, Deuteronomy 16.