Parshas Shoftim

August 24, 2012
6 Elul, 5772

Candle-lighting Time: 7:26 PM

Don’t Look Now, the Boss is Coming
by Rabbi Raphael Leban

Once there was this fellow who owned his own widget manufacturing business. He founded it and carefully nurtured it until it grew to be quite successful. After more than a decade, he felt like it was high time for a vacation to Hawaii.

Before he left, he placed one of his employees in charge of the factory. He then carefully wrote detailed instructions for running the factory on the main office wall. Every possible circumstance and contingency was covered; all the interim manager had to do was follow the instructions.

The owner headed off to the airport, bathing suit and sunblock in hand.

Three weeks later, he returned. He pulled up to the factory to see how everything had proceeded in his absence.

The workers were sitting down near the machines. Packing tape and cardboard were everywhere, and misshapen widgets were strewn about randomly. Conveyor belts were flying around and around, and there were large pools of motor oil collecting on the floor.

The owner ran into the office to find his ‘manager.’ He was under the desk, hunting through a large pile of papers that seemed to have come from the emptied filing cabinets.

The owner stared at him, totally aghast.

“What happened here while I was gone? Why didn’t you follow the directions I left for you?!”

The employee shrugged his shoulders, which was difficult from under the desk. “I guess I forgot,” he sullenly replied.

This week we begin Chodesh Elul, the Jewish month immediately preceding Rosh Hashanah. During this month, we prepare for our upcoming meeting with the King of Kings.

Hopefully we haven’t made too much of a mess of things since last year, but let’s be realistic. It’s never a bad idea to check the instructions one more time. We would hate to be caught under the desk in a pile of papers, having forgotten to follow G-d’s instructions for the successful operation of His widget factory.

Fear of the Unknown
by Rabbi Dovid Nussbaum

The Torah prepares us for battle against the enemy. However, the protocol differs from the normal approach that you might expect. We don’t train our soldiers in the fine points of strategic warfare; rather we inspect our combatants as to whether or not they have sinned. If they are not pure and free from guilt, they cannot join the ranks of our armed forces. Ohr HaChaim explains that when we fight our enemies, we merit miracles which allow us to defeat our foes. If our forces are not totally righteous and deserving, Hashem will not deliver our adversaries into our hands – we will suffer defeat.

Ohr HaChaim cites the language of the Talmud that anyone who feared that he had sinned was exempt from joining the ranks of the armed forces. In other words, even if one was uncertain that he had transgressed, he should be cautious and not enlist. Firstly, we have to appreciate the caliber of our soldiers that even if they had only slightly deviated from the Torah they still could not fight together with the others who were totally righteous.

There is another factor that Ohr HaChaim points out that indicates the depth of the Jewish soul. When we are concerned or disquieted by the thought that perhaps we have sinned, then we have a nagging feeling that disturbs our calm and alarms our conscience. The prophet Isaiah stated, ‘Sinners were afraid inZion’. The hypersensitivity that the Jewish spirit expresses for elevation in life appears as anxiety on its face. Actually, it is our pristine inner-self seeking its level of purity that is its essence. The Talmud relates a story that one of the giants of the generation was walking together with a disciple. The student began to tremble and his Rebbe cited the above mentioned verse from Isaiah.

When a prospective soldier was worried that perhaps there are blemishes on his record and this would cause him to fear the enemy in combat, then he declined to enter into the ranks of those fighting. He knew that this tug of his heart meant that he was spiritually unprepared to merit Hashem’s grace in the form of a miraculous delivery from the enemy.

The Jewish nation survives with different rules than those of the rest of the world. While supersonic stealth technology and amazing weaponry stock the arsenal of the most powerful armies of the globe, we rely upon Hashem to save us from the threat of our surrounding enemies and foes. We utter every morning in davening the words of King David, the ultimate warrior, that others depend on their chariots and horses to demolish their adversaries, we, however, know clearly from where our salvation comes from, directly from Hashem.

Yet, there are those from within our very ranks, that would tear down those very institutions that breathe life into our nation and provide for its ongoing continuity and vibrancy. They only see the physical armaments that propel others to victory, and refuse to review our historic victories replete with miracles and supernatural occurrences that have saved us from the clutches of our enemies.

Even in recent times, many who fought in the Sinai War of 1967, the Yom Kippur War of 1973 and the Lebanon campaign for Peace in the 80’s witnessed events first hand that could only be ascribed to Hashem’s direct intervention to save His people when we were under such terrible duress and potential calamity.  We must conclude recalling our unbelievable exodus fromEgyptwhere we escaped from the ‘invincible’ Egyptian army. Our Sages tell us that our eventual deliverance from our current predicament will eclipse what transpired when we exitedEgyptmany times over.

Byte For Shabbos

We are commanded to passionately pursue righteousness in our court system . There is no end to our obligation to judge with the total truth because we must emulate Hashem whose attribute of truth is indeed unrelenting.

Question for the Rabbis
By Rabbi Mordechai Becher, reprinted with permission from

The Torah prohibits the king from accumulating too many horses “so as not to bring the people back to Egypt… G-d has said that you must never again return on that path” (Deuteronomy 17:16). Many rabbis have addressed the question of how Jews could have lived in Egypt in light of the above verse. There has been a Jewish community there for thousands of years, and many great scholars (Maimonides, David ben Zimra, et al) have lived there. Rabeinu Bachya, in his commentary on the Torah portion this week, suggests that the prohibition was only in force when Egyptian culture was corrupt and idolatrous, but in later times it was no different from other countries. The Sefer Mitzvot Gadol (Prohibition 226) maintains that since King Senacherib of Assyria exiled and forcibly resettled all the nations in the Middle East, Egypt is no longer looked at as the Egypt of the Bible. Rabbi Shaul Nathanson (Shoel Umeishiv 4:107) holds that the prohibition only applies when, as the verse states, one is bringing “the people back to Egypt.” If, however, one is not moving the entire nation to Egypt but just a small segment, then it is permitted.

Joke of the Week

Q: What did the big shabbos candle say to the little shabbos candle?

A: I’m going out tonight.


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