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Shoftim

Shoftim

Shoftim: The Blinding Gifts

Published on Thursday September 5th, 2019

In this week's parsha (Shoftim), the Torah prohibits judges from receiving any gifts, even if they have the intention of judging properly. The Torah says that gifts corrupt the judgment!

[Incidentally, the Torah prohibits giving or receiving even a small sum and says that it will influence judgment. Indeed, although the judge will not get rich by receiving ten cents, he will be touched by the attention he has been given and he will be influenced! This comes to encourage us to be nice to everyone. Even a simple smile costs nothing and can revive the person who receives it! The Sabba of Slabodka said that everyone needs to feel that he is appreciated by at least one person, otherwise, he will not be able to survive, chas veshalom! By being nice to our neighbor (and especially to those who are rejected by society) we can restore the taste and joy of life to so many people!]

Rav Elchanan Wasserman learns from here the power of corruption. If a single coin can blind a judge (even one who is righteous and seeks the truth), how much more so can the pleasures of this world blind us. The Rav adds that this is why many people have difficulty feeling Hashem. A simple look at the creation should have caused us to understand and feel that it was not created by itself and that there is a Creator of the Universe! Why does a seed that decomposes underground create a new plant? How can we not be impressed with the workings of the human body? And of nature as a whole? And the capacity for human reflection? And reproduction? The list goes on…

The clearest answer is to admit the existence of a Creator! But no, because it obligates us to listen to Him and to live within the limits that He has set. However, in his nature, man is attracted by the evil inclination and prefers to live without limits... Man is blinded by all his desires and that is what prevents him from seeing the truth!

Moreover, when a person learns that a specific professor has discovered some danger and says that we must pay attention to something (which does not concern him), a person will believe it entirely, because he is not blinded by his own desires not to believe!

[To live perfectly with Hashem, it is necessary to put aside one's prejudice. We must distance ourselves from sin, because it blocks the heart from seeing and feeling the truth! In particular, sins of purity and forbidden food!]

Rav Wassermann message will allow us to follow the precautions of our sages. He says that indeed, some people have trouble understanding them, but you must know that it is normal because the temptations of the body prevent us from grasping them. It should be known that wise people, who have managed to detach themselves from all material desires, understood the risk or the danger of such behavior.

One must also remember that there is a mitzvah in the Torah to respect all the prohibitions and the mitzvot of the wise. This is why we recite the blessing of mitzvot (and we thank Hashem "Who ordered us to do such mitzvah) even on a rabbinical mitzvah (see Kaf Hachaim 158, 1, reported by Rabbi Raphael Baruch Toledano).

The month of Ellul, the month of Teshuvah, has just begun! If throughout the year we can and must get closer to Hashem, this is especially so during this month of teshuvah. It is possible to reach a closeness to Hashem that will hopefully accompany us all year round. Let us take advantage of this period to redouble our strengths in the accomplishment of the mitzvot, in distancing ourselves from sin and in the preparation for the day of judgment, Rosh Hashanah!

Rav Emmanuel MIMRAN

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