The Torah tells us it is important to be Nosay b’ol im chaveiro – literally “carry your friend’s burden.” In other words, be aware and share the pain of others.
Parshat Shoftim is the first Parsha that we read in the month of Elul; the Parsha initiates a special season within the Jewish calendar year spanning the months of Elul and Tishrei which includes the days of Judgment and Repentance.
“Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourselves in all your cities…” (Deut. 16:18)
Because there are no coincidences in spiritual matters the commentators interpret the commandment to appoint judges as a trumpet call to arms issued to all of us.
The Torah repeatedly warns against submission to the “el zar.” El zar is usually translated as, “strange god,” but it can also mean, “god of estrangement.” The el zar is the force of disconnection and alienation.
As the great contemporary sage Rabbi Shlomo Wolbe writes:
“What a frightening force is the el zar, which transforms a person into being a stranger to himself, to others, and to his Creator – truly a stranger, without emotion, without understanding, without connection, without love!” [Alei Shor, p. 83]
In the beginning, when all was “waste and void”, God created the universe. Day by day, the world unfolded. First, there were the domains: light and dark, the upper and lower waters, sea and dry land. Then there were the objects that filled the domains: the sun, moon and stars, then the fish and birds, and finally the land animals, culminating in mankind.
There is a part of me that really dislikes Rosh Hashanah. Rosh Hashanah is called Yom HaDin, the “Day of Judgment”–and I simply dread being judged. Who enjoys feeling fear, feeling threatened, or thinking about possibly being punished?
One of the most harrowing pictures I ever saw appeared in Newsweek. The camera caught a glimpse into a life that had, in many senses, vanished before it even began. A child, who could not have been more than three or four years old, was carrying building materials. We would call him a pre-schooler; in today’s Sudan, he ― and his parents ― are slaves.
It’s so interesting that preparation deepens an experience. But this applies particularly to deep and meaningful experiences. The truth is, an experience that is superficial is not enhanced by preparation; it can sometimes even be ruined by preparation.