There are enemies to Israel listed in the Torah portion, and each teaches a lesson about spiritual strongholds. These enemies were not merely enemies to Israel then, but they are enemies of covenant life today. The title of the portion, Shoftim, means "Judges." Judges help us to negotiate with our adversaries in a civil and righteous way way.
One of those enemies is the Amorites. An Amorite is "A sayer, speaker, possibly from a position of prominence (H559)." The spiritual stronghold of an Amorite is rooted in his or her speech. It is what the persons SAYS that becomes a stumblingblock. This may be sin through the tongue or fortune-telling, or using speech to acquire a high position.
The tongue, however, is not intrinsically evil; it is the heart
directing the tongue. A clean heart devoted to the covenant of her Bridegroom can just as easily use speech to declare the Good News (Psalm 68:11), bind up wounds, and speak good counsel. There are many other ways even the layperson becomes a judge, rightly dividing the Word of Truth to bring correction, healing, salvation, and encouragement to the Body of Messiah. A judge is actually an effective teacher of the Word and a healer with the Word. One need not go to Harvard to become a faithful judge to the Holy One; exercise good judgment every day. There are two important points.
First, a judge (shofet) must KNOW the Torah, the Word of God before he or she can handle that Word in judgment skillfully. When one is skillful with the Word, then there is no reason to self-promote one's teaching. All Israel went up to Deborah to seek her wisdom in the Word. She didn't command respect; she INSPIRED it! She was known as a Mother in Israel, and she did not shrink from her calling.
Deborah did not go from city to city promoting her wonderful and practical insights to the Torah; the cities came to her. Deborah didn't run for office, hold Town Hall meetings to get the pulse of the country, or send out pollsters to find out what kind of judgments would be most popular. This would describe an Amorite. Deborah studied Torah, she listened to grievances, and with the power of the Holy Spirit, she exercised righteous judgment. She drew the Israelites in a loving relationship to their laws, statutes, and ordinances. She was an Amour-ite (forgive the pun...it's early).
Second, the judge cannot use the Torah and its judgment to draw attention to one's own wisdom, wealth, appearance, etc. This is an abuse of the Word. Even though Deborah composed a song about herself and the victory to which she led Israel over the enemy, the song was uttered in a prophetic speech. Like Moses, the first judge in Israel, Deborah must have been very humble.
The most humbling thing that Moses could have written was that he was the most humble man on the face of the earth! Men and women chosen for their humility have an aversion to attaboys and accolades. On the other hand, that humility does not prevent them from placing an even higher priority on speaking the Word than their comfort zones of anonymity.
To extend this second point of misdirecting the attention that should be focused on the Torah and the One who gave it, there is a very practical consideration. Rebbetzin Heller observes, "A person who is dependent on others for approval, admiration, etc., will lack tznius." (p. 43)
Tzniut is the Jewish perception of modesty, and one who observes tzniut will dress conservatively, covering the body in such a way as not to draw excessive attention to the body instead of to the person's character.
The Rebbetzin is saying that a person who seeks attention from others will have a difficult time observing modesty, for he or she will crave the attention that he can control by excessive displays of flesh or flashy clothes. This use of human sexuality to command attention and admiration sounds like the stronghold of the Amorite. Drawing people to attach passion or lust for the individual is twisted; the passion should be directed to the Judge of Righteousness who can heal them, not entice them to further sin!
The most important person we will ever judge is ourselves. Have I ever used the Torah to draw attention to myself instead of the Father?
One doesn't have to actually open the mouth to be a speaker. We communicate by gestures, facial expression, deeds, and as the rebbetzin points out, even the way we dress. This does not mean that we have to go around frumpy, but it does mean that dressing (or not dressing enough) to draw attention to one's self is a lost opportunity to have others focus on the speech of the Holy One radiating from the person through actual words, deeds, gestures, decisions, emotions, and appetites.
Monday Night Online Torah Class
I am planning to begin a Monday night online class via WebEx after Sukkot. We will use the Creation Gospel 5 Torah commentaries as a "jumping off place" for the class, which will look into the weekly Torah portions. The class will run from 9:00 - 10:00 pm EST on Monday nights. If there is enough interest in Europe, Africa, etc., I may try to schedule an additional class at an alternate time. This class will not require homework, although there will be suggested study assignments and students will be encouraged to connect for extra study on the portion.
Depending on the number of students who enroll, the cost will likely be $20 per month. I'll need to compare the final number to my current WebEx plan to ensure we cover costs. Students will need to install WebEx on their computers, but the system also accommodates phone logins, which is handy when traveling. Students will have access to the video files of each class for up to one month following, so when life gets in the way, the lesson can be watched or listened to at a later time.
If you are interested in joining the class, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org with your name and email address for updates.