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Shoftim(Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)

Shoftim 5767

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GOOD MORNING! This week is Rosh Chodesh Elul (August 14 and 15), the beginning of the Hebrew month of Elul. This means that there is one month and counting to Rosh Hashanah (Wednesday evening, September 12th). Many people might ask, "So, what?" or might think, "Thanks for the reminder to buy a brisket!" However, the answer to "So, what?" is that we have one month to prepare for Rosh Hashanah ... and Yom Kippur.

___Why would one want to prepare for Rosh Hashanah? Rosh Hashanah is the day of judgment when the Almighty decides "Life or death, sickness or health, poverty or wealth." Does it make sense to prepare for a day of judgment? You bet! However, for many it has the same emotional impact as their cardiologist telling them that they need to lose weight to avoid heart attacks and strokes ... a wonderful idea between meals!

___There is a tremendous benefit to living in Miami Beach. It's a hurricane zone. Around May you get the annual predictions - 21 tropical storms, 11 hurricanes, 7 major hurricanes. They actually have ways of measuring, correlating and predicting the number and size of storms. At the beginning of the season we start buying bottled water and batteries to prepare. We put a new battery in the weather radio which broadcasts the position and strength of the storms. We even have a chart where we mark off the present location of storms out there in the Caribbean.

___Why is living in a hurricane zone a benefit? It teaches you a very important lesson: Be real with life! Usually, the weather bureau (N.O.A.A. - National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) gives a week's heads up. You know that in 7 days a Force 3 or 4 or 5 hurricane will hit. You generally know for sure whether it will hit land, you just don't know whether for sure it will hit YOU until perhaps a day or a few hours before landfall.

___What happens during that week? The hardware store sells out all of its plywood (used for covering windows) and batteries. They have to make special shipments from neighboring states! The grocery stores shelves are cleared out or seriously diminished of canned goods and water. People are scrambling to buy generators to provide electricity needed to keep the lights on, fans going and the refrigerator and freezer working. There is a mad dash for last minute preparations because the STORM IS COMING!

___What's the difference between a hurricane and Rosh Hashanah? The hurricane MAY hit your area; Rosh Hashanah DEFINITELY will touch you!

___So, if one believes in a God who has set a standard for behavior and observance in the Torah and who will judge us, does it make sense to make some preparations? You bet!

___How can one prepare for the Day of Judgment? Here are:


10 THINGS YOU CAN DO
TO PREPARE FOR ROSH HASHANAH

  1. Take a spiritual accounting. Each day take at least 5 minutes to review your last year: (a) your behavior with family, friends, associates and people with whom you've interacted, (b) your level of mitzvah observance.
  2. Attend a class or classes at a synagogue, Aish center, a yeshiva on how to prepare. Read articles on aish.com and listen to world-class speakers on aishaudio.com. Buy the Artscroll book Rosh HaShanah.
  3. Study the Machzor (Rosh Hashanah prayer book) to know the order of the service and the meaning of the words and prayers. You can buy a copy of the Rosh Hashanah Yom Kippur Survival Kit, by Rabbi Shimon Apisdorf (available at your local Jewish bookstore, at http://www.judaicaenterprises.com or call 877-758-3242).
  4. Make sure that you have given enough tzedakah (charity) and have paid your pledges (One is supposed to give 10% of his net income). It says in the Machzor that three things break an evil decree - Teshuva (repentance), Tefilla (prayer) and Tzedakah (charity). Why not maximize your chance for a good decree?
  5. Think of (at least) one person you have wronged or feel badly towards - and correct the situation.
  6. Make a list of your goals for yourself and your family - what you want to work towards and pray for.
  7. Limit your pleasures - the amount of television, movies, music, food - do something different so that you take this preparation time seriously. Then, increase your Torah learning!
  8. Do an extra act of kindness - who needs your help? To whom can you make a difference?
  9. Read a book on character development - anything written by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin would be great!
  10. Ask a friend to tell you what you need to improve. A real friend will tell you ... but in a nice way!


For more on "Elul" go to ShabbatShalomAudio.com!

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Torah Portion of the Week
Shoftim

___Topics 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" (Deut. 16:20).

* * *

Dvar Torah
based on Growth Through Torah by Rabbi Zelig Pliskin

___The Torah states:

"Do not erect a 'matzaivah' (a pillar of one stone upon which to bring an offering)." (Deut. 16:22)

___What lesson for life can we learn from this verse?

___Rabbit Tzvi Elimelech Shapiro of Dinov commented: There are people who are rigid and inflexible. They have certain habits and customs and are unwilling to deviate from them. However, this is a mistake. This day is not similar to any previous day, and no two situations are exactly alike. What is the right thing to do in any situation is dependent on all the unique circumstance of that situation. This can be understood from our verse. Do not erect a way that is rigid or stubbornly unbending regardless of the situation ('matzav' - which has the same root as 'matzaivah' - means 'situation'). Rather, you should always take action according to the needs of that particular moment.

___What could be a mitzvah (proper behavior) in one situation, could be a transgression in another situation. At times a certain act could be a Kidush HaShem (a sanctification of God's name), and in other situations where some factors are a bit different, similar behavior would constitute a Chilul HaShem (a profanation of God's name).

___A person who does things compulsively without wisdom will make many mistakes. Only someone who has a grasp of the full panoramic view of Torah principles will have the necessary wisdom to judge what is the correct thing to do in every situation. The more Torah you learn the greater will be your ability to make distinctions between different situations.

* * *

HOW TO STAY SAFE IN THE WORLD TODAY

  1. Avoid riding in automobiles because they are responsible for 20 percent of all fatal accidents.
  2. Do not stay at home because 17 percent of all accidents occur in the home. (that's 37 % already)
  3. Avoid walking on streets or sidewalks because 14 percent of all accidents occur to pedestrians. (now that's 51%)
  4. Avoid traveling by air, accidents involve these forms of transportation. (that's 67%)
  5. Of the remaining 33 percent, 32 percent of all deaths occur in hospitals. Above all else avoid hospitals.
___You will be pleased to learn that only 0.01 percent of all deaths occur in a synagogue, and these are usually related to previous physical disorders.

___Therefore, logic tells us that the safest place for you to be at any given point in time is in Synagogue services. Torah Study is even safer. The number of deaths during Torah Study is too small to register.

___For safety's sake, go to Shul as often as possible, and attend Torah Study. It could save your life!




CANDLE LIGHTING - August 17
(or go to http://www.aish.com/shabbat/candlelighting.asp)

Jerusalem 6:46
Guatemala 6:09 - Hong Kong 6:35 - Honolulu 6:42
J'Burg 5:30 - London 8:01 - Los Angeles 7:20
Melbourne 5:28 - Mexico City 7:45 - Miami 7:38
New York 7:34 - Singapore 6:56 - Toronto 8:01



QUOTE OF THE WEEK:

What you are afraid of
is never as bad as
what you imagined .



In Loving Memory of
Rachel bas Rav Yakov
-- Sol & Anna Zuckerman


Published: August 11, 2007

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Visitor Comments: 2

(2) v nordyke, August 19, 2007 12:04 AM

Thanks for this fine advice of today's Shoftim!

Dear Rabbi Packouz, I pray that you and your family will be kept safe and well through this summer's hurricane season especially the latest one may it disapate or go the other way from you all by God's mercy and grace. With appreciation and kindly love, VN

(1) Anonymous, August 12, 2007 12:15 PM

I enjoyed this first exposure.

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