Shabbat Shalom Weekly: Shoftim 5760
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Shoftim(Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)

Shoftim 5760

GOOD MORNING!  Summer is ending, school is starting and it's time to think about Rosh Hashanah!


Q & A:  WHAT IS SPECIAL ABOUT THE HEBREW MONTH OF ELUL?

Thursday, August 31, and Friday, September 1, are the two days of Rosh Chodesh, the beginning of the new Hebrew month of Elul. This is a very special month in the Jewish year as it is the month preceding Rosh Hashanah (which begins Friday evening, September 29th). Jewish cosmology teaches us that each season of the year has a special spiritual opportunity for success. For instance, Passover is the time to work on freedom and Sukkot is the time to work on joy. Elul is the time to work on personal growth.

Elul, when spelled in Hebrew letters, is the acronym for the words, "I am to my beloved, my beloved is to me" (ani l'dodi v'dodi li -- oftentimes it will be inscribed on the inside of an engagement ring). The month of Elul is a time of heightened spirituality where the Almighty is, as it were, closer and more approachable. It is a time of introspection and preparation for Rosh Hashanah. It is a time to do a spiritual audit and to fix up your life.

Rabbi Noah Weinberg, the founder and head of Aish HaTorah, illustrates the availability of coming close to the Almighty in Elul with the example of trying to make an appointment with the President of the United States. It is a very difficult task to accomplish -- unless it's an election year. Elul is like an election year. The Almighty is like a loving Father/Mother waiting for us to come home. (See www.aish.com for more!)

To help you prepare for Rosh Hashanah, the Day of Judgment, I present questions for you to ask yourself and discuss with family and friends. They are an excerpt from a fabulous and indispensable book, The Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur Survival Kit, written by Aish HaTorah alumnus Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf.


QUESTIONS FOR A MEANINGFUL LIFE

  1. When do I most feel that my life is meaningful?

  2. Those who mean the most to me -- have I ever told them how I feel?

  3. Are there any ideals I would be willing to die for?

  4. If I could live my life over, would I change anything?

  5. What would bring me more happiness than anything else in the world?

  6. What are my three most significant achievements since last Rosh Hashanah?

  7. What are the three biggest mistakes I've made since last Rosh Hashanah?

  8. What project or goal, if left undone, will I most regret next Rosh Hashanah?

  9. If I knew I couldn't fail, what would I undertake to accomplish in life?

  10. What are my three major goals in life? What am I doing to achieve them? What practical steps can I take in the next two months towards these goals?

  11. If I could only give my children three pieces of advice, what would they be?

If you find the High Holidays boring, can't follow the prayer service and don't understand it; if the services lack meaning and aren't a spiritual experience, then to have a meaningful experience and to have something meaningful to share with your children and family -- you might want to get a copy of the Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit ... especially if your kids think a shofar is someone who drives a limousine. Unless you prepare in advance, then you are relying on a miracle to have any kind of positive experience at all. Available at your Jewish bookstore or by calling toll-free 877-758-3242.


Torah Portion of the Week
Shoftim

Topics covered in this week's portion include: Judges and Justice, Sacred Trees and Pillars, Blemished Sacrifice, Penalties for Idolatry, The Supreme Court, The King, Levitical Priests, Priestly Portions, Special Service, Divination and Prophecy, Cities of Refuge, Murder, Preserving Boundaries, Conspiring Witnesses, Preparing for War, Taking Captives, Conducting a Siege and the Case of the Unsolved Murder.

This week we have the famous admonition: "Righteousness, Righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that the Almighty your God, gives you."

 

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

The Almighty commands in this week's Torah portion that a Jewish king write for himself a Sefer Torah (Torah scroll) that he will keep with him and read from it so that "he should not raise his heart above his brothers" (Deuteronomy 17:20). What does it mean to "raise his heart above his brothers"?

Rabbi Simcha Zissel of Kelm comments that we learn from here a prohibition against a person being arrogant. "Arrogance is a reprehensible trait that is the father of all other negative traits."

What does it mean that arrogance is the father of all other negative traits? An arrogant person will easily become angry when others do not do as he wishes. He will not be satisfied with what he has because he arrogantly thinks he should always have more. He will speak against others because he feels above them.

He will not exert himself to do favors for others because he feels that others should do things for him and he has no obligation to help them. He will seek honor and power and therefore all that he does will be motivated by selfishness. He will take advantage of other people because he feels that everyone is only in this world to serve him.

He will be ungrateful for any good that others do for him because he thinks that of course others should serve him. He will not admit that he made any mistakes because that would be humiliating and he wants others to feel that he is infallible and he often believes this himself. He will not honor his parents properly because he wants them to serve him. He will boast as much as he can to build himself up in the eyes of others.

He will frequently lie in order to save himself from anything that will lessen his stature in the eyes of others and in order that others should have a higher opinion of him than he really deserves. He will not ask anyone for clarification if he does not understand something for this would be belittling to him. He will frequently become involved in quarrels.

He will blame others when things go wrong because he never wants to take blame for anything himself. He will act obnoxiously towards others. He will hate any person who slights him in any way.

Any of these traits sound familiar? If yes, you might want to think about working on humility. (I have a strong feeling that this Dvar Torah might get forwarded to a good number of people).



CANDLE LIGHTING - September 1:

Jerusalem 6:28   Miami 7:30  New York 7:22
L.A. 7:10  Hong Kong 6:22  Singapore 6:51
Guatemala  5:56  Honolulu   6:29  J'Burg 5:36
Melbourne 6:41  Moscow 7:06  London 7:29
Atlanta 7:46  Toronto 7:37  Montreal 7:14



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

An arrogant person is too full of himself
to let anyone else in.



Dedicated by...

Happy 80th Birthday
Sid Hersh

Published: August 26, 2000

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