Parshat Shoftim: Judges and officers you shall appoint in your gates

Art by Yehoshua Wiseman

Parshat Shoftim

Judges and police officers shall you appoint in all your gates (cities) – Shoftim 16:18

Rabbenu, Rebbe Nachman, says in Lesson 286 of Likutey Moharan: “The main delight of the Garden of Eden is the perception of Divine Wisdom – both upper wisdom and lower wisdom, which correspond to the Garden of Eden, as said.

“However, the only way to merit to this is by virtue of the gates – for there are gates, the gates of the Garden of Eden, by virtue of which one merits entering the Garden of Eden, that is, the perception of the upper wisdom and lower wisdom – and these gates are buried and hidden in the earth, as in: ‘Her gates sunk into the earth’ (Lamentations 2:9)

“Furthermore, extracting, lifting and setting up these gates that have sunken into the earth requires the master of the earth – someone who can rule the earth. But know: by studying Torah rulings, one merits becoming a king and ruler of the earth.

“Then one is able to lift up and set up the gates that have sunken into the earth.”

How to enter Gan Eden

When we get to the Parsha of shoftim, judges and police officers, we can merit to enter into Gan Eden, and the main delight of Gan Eden is the perception of Divine wisdom, it’s to see Hashem face-to-face, and to know that ein od milvado – there is only God.

And it’s impossible to get to any perception of the Divine any other way, except by studying the poskim, i.e. Torah rulings, and studying the halachot. The Rebbe explains in lesson 286 that we need to be persistent about studying the poskim.

If we want these sunken gates to be revealed to us, if we want the merit of attaining a perception Divine wisdom, and of entering into Gan Eden, then we need to consistently learn Torah rulings.

We need to learn more halacha

“Her gates sunk into the earth” – we need to raise up the gates of halacha; we need to be experts on the in-depth halacha. By way of studying the poskim, we will merit to become ‘rulers of the earth’, we’ll merit to become ‘judges and police officers’. This is what is written: “Judges and police officers you will appoint in all your gates.”

You need to build the gates! You need to know all the gates of halacha, you need to build these gates for yourselves, because there are gates that lead to Gan Eden, where you can enter into Gan Eden, and enter into Divine wisdom.

After the destruction of the Temple, they were hidden and interred in the ground.

So, how do we raise these gates up?

How to raise up the gates

Raising these gates only happens by way of learning halacha in-depth, and learning the poskim, and learning the Rambam, and the Tur, and the Beit Yosef, and all the others meforshim (commentators).

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The Rebbe says in Lesson 62, that when a person has no kavana (proper intention) in his prayers, this is a sign that he has no emuna. It’s heresy, every word that a man rushes through, without kavana, this is heresy.

When a person really knows in his heart that the whole world is full of Hashem’s glory, and when he really feels Hashem, and really feels that Hashem is standing over him, and watching him during his prayers, this is called having emuna. And then he’ll pray in a relaxed way, and he’ll say each letter slowly.

If a person says even just one word in the Shmoneh Esrei prayer with kavana, if he says it slowly, in a relaxed way, then he’s mamash called a tzaddik, and he deserves all the presents in the world.

The true definition of ’emuna’

But Rabbenu says: that you had the proper kavana for a single word is great, it’s wonderful that you had the right kavana! But you still shouldn’t think that you are a Jew with complete emuna. To have kavana is fabulous, it’s wonderful – but this still isn’t really called ‘emuna’.

Emuna is when you have the right kavana during every single word of prayer.

Emuna is when you can talk to Hashem in no less a way than you speak to your friend.

We need to rectify our own heresy

A person can hate the apikorsim (heretics); he can want to throw stones at them, and be prepared to fight against them with sword and with spear, through fire and through water – but Rabbenu is showing us in Lesson 62 that all the work to be done is really with ourselves. With the heretic that hides in our own heart.

Because, if a person doesn’t pray with kavana, this is called being a heretic! We have enough of our own heresy to deal with, we don’t need to try to rectify other people’s, to try to fix the secular people.

If we rectify our own heresy, then there won’t be any more secular people in the whole world!

Everyone will make teshuva.

Adapted and translated from Tzama Nafshi.

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