Comments of Rabbi Dovid Shteiman on Weekly Parshah Shoftim

This weekly Torah portion writes, “You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself in all your cities that the Lord, your God, is giving you, for your tribes, and they shall judge the people [with] righteous judgment. You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show favoritism, and you shall not take a bribe, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts just words.” (Devarim 16:18-19). What can we learn from these words?

The following story will help us understand Torah’s message.

One of the students of Chozeh (Seer) from Lublin had unusual ability to hear whispers, even being far away from the people. It wasn’t that he had phenomenal hearing.

Hashem granted him this gift because of his unwavering commitment to Hashem to keep away from gossip and evil speech. He came from a poor family, but always yearned to learn Torah.

When he reached adolescence, he went to the great yeshiva in Lublin. Reb Shlomo Leib was very careful not to speak negatively about others, nor listen to negative talk.

He boarded in a tailor’s house, occupying one of the corners. Tailor had several workers, and when they got together to work, their conversation inevitably turned to discussing others. That’s why reb Shlomo Leib spent most of his time in synagogue.

Once there was a big wedding, and everyone was invited. Reb Shlomo Leib also went, congratulated relatives of the bride and the groom, and decided to return to the synagogue. But there he got a surprise. Shamash, thinking that no one else would need the synagogue that night, turned off the heat and… locked it.

Reb Shlomo Leib was very cold. Torn boots didn’t protect his feet from biting frost. He decided to return home, hoping everyone was at the wedding. But the workers were all at work. His teeth started to chatter, but he decided to return to the synagogue one more time. It was still locked.

It was getting darker and colder. He ran home again, but the workers were still there. It continued like this for an hour. He felt that his body turning cold, and a voice inside his head was saying that he is going to die, and his fear of not listening to evil talk is not worth his life. Reb Shlomo Leib felt that his hour was coming, but decided not to give in.

Suddenly strong wind pushed the door of tailor’s house open and blew out all the candles. Tailor decided it was time to go to sleep. Reb Shlomo Leib was able to return home and warm up his half-frozen body by the stove. After this incident he received his gift.

This story illustrates very well the message that Torah wants to teach us. Our Sages explain that “gates” are our ears, mouth and nose. Beit Avraham explains that the greatest message for us is that we are children of the Almighty, the King of all kings. And it obligates us to behave accordingly.

In reality, each of us is the “judge”, able to determine what is allowed and what is not allowed to say or to hear. In this case “law enforcement official” is the power of belief in Torah values. If we believe with complete faith in the values of Torah, then it will give us the strength not to give in to debates in “court”. In our times the bribe comes in the form of pleasures of this world, and in order to remain faithful we have to be ready to nearly give up our life for the sake of protecting the values of Him, Who made us.

Of course, Hashem gave us commandments that we should “live by them” (Vaikra 18:5). But our readiness to nearly give our life for the sake of Him, Who created us, gives us determination to remain strong and not give in to pleasures, which are unacceptable to Torah.

We have to remember that our behavior will sanctify the Name of Hashem!

Source: Ohr HaTorah