Parshas Shoftim 5776
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September 9, 2016
Volume 12 Issue 34
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Dvar Torah

Leadership and Sacrifice 
 By Rabbi Yosef Prupas

The following op-ed by Jeffery MacDonald, was published in the New York Times on Aug. 7, 2010:
Several new studies show that the American clergy is suffering from burnout... But there's a more fundamental problem that no amount of rest and relaxation can help solve, congregational pressure to forsake one's highest calling.
The pastoral vocation is to help people grow spiritually, resist their lowest impulses and adopt higher, more compassionate ways. But congregation members increasingly want pastors to soothe and entertain them... As a result, pastors are constantly forced to choose, as they work through congregants' daily wish lists in their e-mail and voice mail, between paths of personal integrity and those that portend greater job security. As religion becomes a consumer experience, the clergy become more unhappy and unhealthy...
The implications of the above article are self-understood. However, let us contrast the Torah's view on leadership through the words of Chazal, our sages, and thus deepen our understanding of a leader's status in Judaism.
The Mitzvah to appoint "Shoftim and Shotrim," Judges and Officers, is followed by a group of three seemingly unrelated commandments - Not to plant an asheira tree next to the Mizbeach, the Altar, not to erect a pillar (for purpose of sacrifice), and not to slaughter a sacrifice with a blemish. The Seforno explains that the juxtaposition of these commandments hint to the qualifications one should seek in a judge.
The first is an asheira tree - externally beautiful, but because it was used for idol worship, it should be viewed through a spiritual lens. It would not contribute to the beauty of the Temple Mount. A Dayan, judge, as well, has to be internally (spiritually) beautiful, for him to function as a Dayan.
The second commandment, the prohibition to use a matzeiva, a pillar, teaches the need for the Dayan to revisit and correct the mistakes of his youth. The prohibition to use a matzeiva started with the sin of the Golden Calf. The matzeiva, once a preferred option for sacrifice, became forbidden once it became associated with idol worship. Until the sin is corrected, it cannot be used for Holy purposes. The Dayan, as well, must rectify the past.
The third commandment is the prohibition to use a blemished animal for sacrifice. A small scratch on the eyelid does not impact the economic value of the animal, yet it is disqualified for sacrifice. Our leaders/judges have to recognize the value of seemingly minor personal imperfection. One might have the right persona to fill the role of Dayan, but a small "scratch" in one's personal attributes a should disqualify one from that lofty position.
One can ask, why does the Torah demand such a microscopically fine standard? Further, why are these lessons derived from the laws relating to the Temple and sacrifices? A possible answer can be found in the words of the Abarbanel.
The Abarbanel explains that the Sanhedrin, the High Court, was divinely inspired. Their number was 71, representing the seventy Zekeinim, elders, and Moshe Rabbeinu. This hinted that Ruach Hakodesh, divine inspiration, was upon them too. Another sign is the Sanhedrin's location in the Temple. Further, the Sanhedrin were referred to as "Elohim," the divine Name of Justice of G-d. This reflects Heavenly Aid that they receive to execute justice correctly.
This fundamental fact is needed to understand the jurisdiction of the Sanhedrin to enact takanos, edicts. It might seem, as a result, that the Torah itself is not complete, chas v'shalom. To avoid this notion, the Torah makes clear the divine nature of the Sanhedrin within Torah itself. The overall objective of the Sanhedrin should be understood as part of the goal to come closer to Hashem. Just as sacrifices serve to bring a person closer to Hashem, Mishpatim, law, accomplishes the same.
From the Abarbanel the essential message from the Torah is clear. The Torah correlates the criteria for appointing judges and the institution of the Sanhedrin with the laws of the Temple and Sacrifice because they serve the same goal, to bring one closer to Hashem. By putting Jewish leadership and the Laws of Temple and Sacrifice on the same pedestal, we learn how sacred their position is. It is a position that we should be looking to learn from, not dictating what we want to hear. May we merit leaders of high standards and come closer to G-d through their guidance.

Dvar Halacha
Laws Pertaining the Month of Elul
By Rabbi Yochanan Eskenazi
The forty day period beginning Rosh Chodesh Elul thru Yom Kippur is a period that is an es ratzon (an auspicious time), a time that our teshuva (repentance) is more easily accepted. There are allusions to this in Tanach: Ani L'dodi V'dodi Le (I am for my Beloved and my Beloved is mine) [Shir Hashirim 6:3]. Furthermore, the Torah [Devarim 30:6] states "U'mul Hashem Elokecha Es L'vavcha V'es Lev Zar'echa" (Hashem your God, will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring). The first letters of the highlighted words are Alef, Lamed, Vuv, Lamed, which spells Elul. Additionally, the gematria (numerical value) of the end letters [of Ani L'dodi V'dodi Le- four letter yuds] equals to forty [10 x 4] which hints to that there are 40 days that Hashem is close (Mishneh Berurah 581: introduction).

Many people have their tefillin and mezuzos checked during the month of Elul (Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:3). Additionally, some have the custom to recite ten chapters of Tehillim (Psalms) each day during Elul, in order to complete the entire Sefer Tehillim two times before Rosh Hashanah (Mishneh Berurah 581:1). If possible, it is better not to recite Tehillim at night [during Elul and the rest of the year] (Koveitz Halachos 1:10).

One who writes a letter to a friend during the month of Elul should include wishes for a k'siva v'chasima tova (you should be inscribed for a good year) (Mateh Ephraim 581:9 & Kitzur Shulchan Aruch 128:2). In our day and age, if one is writing an email to a friend who he does not intend to speak to again before Rosh Hashanah should include wishes for a good year (Rabbi Biberfeld, shlit"a).

The shofar is blown during the entire month of Elul, since hearing the shofar arouses a person to repent (Rama 581:1). The prevalent custom is to blow the shofar in the morning after davening shachris (Aruch Hashulchan 581:1). If there is no adult available, a katan (boy younger than 13 years old) may blow the shofar (Koveitz Halachos 1:18). One does not need to stand while the shofar is being blown (Koveitz Halachos 1:17). If the congregation forgot to blow shofar in the morning, it is proper to blow by mincha (Igros Moshe OC 4:21:5). If an individual missed hearing shofar, it is proper for him to blow himself or hear from someone else, although it is not obligatory (Koveitz Halachos 1:21). If one is davening shemoneh esrei while the shofar is being blown, it is proper to pause and concentrate on the shofar (Koveitz Halachos 1:22).

The minhag is to recite the chapter "L'Dovid Hashem oree v'yeeshee" [Tehillim 27] from Elul until Shmeinei Atzeres (Mishneh Berurah 581:2). Anyone who says this paragraph from Rosh Chodesh Elul until Simchas Torah is able to nullify bad decrees against him and merit being innocent in judgment (Sefer Shloshim Yom Kodem Hachag pg. 3 fn. 6 quoting Sefer Sheim Katan). One should recite it at the end of davening, after the shir shel yom [and after barchi nafshe on Rosh Chodesh] (Mishneh Berurah 581:2). However, there are different customs regarding which tefillah to say L'Dovid. Some congregations say it after Shachris and Mincha (Mishneh Berurah 581:2) while others say it after Shachris and Maariv (Alef Ha'magen 581:10). One who is davening in a minyan that says it during a different tefillah than he is accustomed to saying it, is not required to say it together with them (Shloshim Yom Kodem Hachag pg. 3 fn.8 quoting Shu"T Divrei Moshe 1:35).

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