Parashat Shoftim // “Magistrates”

- י ל י -

Why is it that the smaller our ego, the bigger our world?

Acknowledging the value of others allows us to let their unique light enter our hearts

“When thou art come unto the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee, and shalt possess it, and shalt dwell therein, and shalt say, I will set a king over me, like as all the nations that are about me” Deut. 17:14

  • To ascend to the highest spiritual level, we must fully comprehend the insignificance and ephemerality of our own existence. Recognizing our smallness is not an act of weakness or self – abnegation. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of the worth of others. An individual who is negative, materialistic, and self – centered reduces the world to a small, dark spot. A king must therefore be humble and also avoid self – worship. We must always see the grandeur of God’s creations, including other people. 
  • Embracing acts of love and kindness means transcending ourselves and following in the footsteps of spiritual giants. The smaller our ego, the vaster our horizons. As a person matures morally, they are less deceived by illusions of grandeur.

When we spread love and compassion, evil can be overcome 

“But he shall not multiply horses to himself, … Neither shall he multiply wives to himself, that his heart turn not away: neither shall he greatly multiply to himself silver and gold. And it shall be, when he sitteth upon the throne of his kingdom, that he shall write him a copy of this law in a book And it shall be with him, and he shall read therein all the days of his life: that he may learn to fear the LORD his God, to keep all the words of this law and these statutes, to do them: That his heart be not lifted up above his brethren… to the end that he may prolong his days in his kingdom” Deut. 17:16 – 20

  • The ritual breaking of a heifer’s neck (see Deuteronomy 21:1 – 4) gives the Israelites an opportunity to atone for the sins affecting their communities. Moral transgressions are typically driven by an evil temptation to experience thrills and otherworldly manifestations. The war against immorality and our lower instincts is constant and intense – and it manifests wherever evil is found. Sins cannot be corrected without repentance and atonement. Hurting a single person is an insult to the essence of mankind – which is the image of God.

Pearls of Divine Wisdom: “Magistrates”

  • “You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes” (Deuteronomy 16:18). The hidden message of this verse is that we must constantly reflect on our behavior. The “gates” are our senses, our speech, our deeds, and our thoughts. The magistrates and officials symbolize our human ability to oversee who and what enters and leaves our body.
  • We spend most of our days satisfying our earthly instincts rather than growing spiritually. However, the purpose of our life is to become one with the true essence of existence – God’s divine light. To do this, we must overcome our natural impulses to seek thrills and material gain. 
  • Our sins trickle into the depth of our souls. If we want to change our natural inclinations, we must focus on improvement and self – correction. The “magistrates and officials” we appoint can help us to slowly change our ways.
  • We must avoid criticism, reflect on our actions, and perform good deeds. Over time, these steps will help us change our habits. By distancing ourselves from negativity, we can collect the lost sparks of creation and allow them to fill our souls with enormous amounts of energy and divine light.
  • Recognizing our smallness is not an act of weakness or self – abnegation. Rather, it is an acknowledgment of the worth of others. 

Compassion is striving to love and relieve the pain of others, just as we would wish to relieve our own pains.