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Parshat Shoftim (5761)

This week's section tells us that we need to put Judges and policemen at all of our gates.

There is an eternal personal lesson here for each of us as well.

The "gates" also refer to the "gates" of our soul: our eyes, mouth, ears, action, speech and thought.

The sentence is telling us that we must be wise and strong. We must use the Torah to develop the wisdom and strength, to judge and guard ourselves from both the misleading world around us and natural urges within.

But later on in this section (18:13), it seems to say exactly the opposite:

"BE SIMPLE WITH G-D"

In other words, there's no need for wisdom or force; just "BE SIMPLE" with the heart of a child and then you will be "WITH G-D".

How can the Torah demand both? If we are expected to be judges and policemen on ourselves, then how can we be simple? But on the other hand, if we decide to serve G-d simply, it's almost impossible for us to be good Judges or policemen.

Here is a story to explain this:

It didn't take long for the ideas of the Baal Shem Tov to spread like wildfire across Russia and Poland. Despite all the opposition and evil
rumors, within just a few years the Besh't had already gathered around him some of the greatest seekers of Truth and Holy Scholars in his generation. Jews that had mastered all the Talmudic and Mystical literature, but found that only the Besh't made it come alive.

For instance the great genius Rabbi Dov Ber, "the Magid" of Mezritch. After having memorized every Torah book in print at that time, he went skeptically to investigate the Besh't, ultimately leading to became his follower:

The Besh't asked him to explain a certain mystical passage in the The Zohar (Mystical book) dealing with angels.

Rabbi Dov Ber, familiar with the passage, gave an excellent and detailed explanation, but the Besht told him it was superficial.

Suddenly the Magid felt something happen; his mind opened and he "received" a deeper explanation, but the Besht rejected it also. This repeated itself several times, until the Baal Shem asked him sit down and hear the real explanation.

As the Baal Shem spoke, the room became dark, and then suddenly filled with awesome fire, lightning, thunder and visions of immense angels, until the Magid thought that he would expire from sheer awe and fear.

"Your explanations were intellectually correct," the Besht explained afterward, "but they lacked feeling".

All these pupils were holy geniuses that lived and thirsted only for true knowledge of Torah. And the Besht was an inexhaustible wellspring to quench their thirst.

But as much as he revealed to his pupils on a normal day, it was incomparable to what he taught them on the Sabbath (Shabbos).

According to Mystical teachings, Shabbos is a break in time through which all secrets are revealed in three successively higher levels; evening (beginning of the day in the Jewish calendar) morning and afternoon, at the three Shabbos meals which are eaten.

But to the chagrin of his Chassidim, the Baal Shem would always give most of his attention in the first (evening) meal to all sorts of simple people; ignorant farmers, manual laborers, shopkeepers and the like.

It seems that the Besht put tremendous emphasis on these people, and encouraged them to join him in this holy Shabbos meal. He sat them near to him, gave them to drink from his personal kiddush cup, and told them things they had no way of understanding.

But his holy Chassidim (pupils) didn't really understand why he did this, and it bothered them. They reasoned that these unlettered folk would benefit just as much at the back of the room. After all, they came only to see the face of the master, and they, the pupils, should be near the Besht in order to hear his every word and learn from him.

One Shabbos, in the second (daytime) meal when he was alone with his devoted Chassidim (the simple people participated only in the evening meal and ate by families for the other two meals) the Baal Shem suddenly requested that they all be silent, and each put his right hand on the shoulder of the one sitting next to him, forming a circle with the Besht at the head. The Besht then closed the circle by putting his hands on the shoulders of the Chassidim seated on either side of him, and then requested that they all close their eyes.

After a moment of silence the Chassidim began to hear in the distance a choir singing T'hillim (Psalms).

At first it was very faint, but slowly it grew louder and louder, until it was so intensely loud and beautiful, that they felt as though they were elevated into a vast choir of heavenly angels accompanied by celestial music. They had never heard such perfection or incredible harmony in their lives, and they were drawn in. It was impossible to resist; their souls were about to expire from sheer longing.

At the height of this ecstasy, the Besht removed his hands, and the music suddenly stopped. Needless to say, the Chassidim were deeply shaken by the intense experience and some of them almost fainted.

"Come, open your eyes, I want to show you what you heard. Please follow me." The Baal Shem stood, walked out of the room, then out of the house to the street, until he reached the Shul (synagogue), with the Chassidim following close after him.

"Look inside and tell me what you see." He said.

Inside the shul were sitting all the simple people that had been at last night's meal, totally involved in reading T’hillim. They were saying and singing the words aloud, each one at his own pace, each a different Psalm, truly pouring out their souls to G-d.

One was beseeching mercy, another praising G-d's wondrous greatness, and a third begging for help. Often they didn't even understand what they were saying, but each read with all his heart.

"This is what you heard," explained the Besht. "You heard the awesome effect these simple Psalms said with pure heart have in heaven".

This answers our question.

One of the main tasks the Besht hoped to accomplish with his new, warm way of serving G-d, Chassidut, was to encourage the simple people to learn more, and the learned people to become more simple (Tamimut). It seems impossible, but that, taught the Besh't, is the essence of Judaism.

That is why, when the fifth Rebbe of Chabad set up the first of what was to become a world wide network of Yeshivas (schools for higher Torah learning), where part of the schedule would be learning the Chassidic ideas of the Besh't, he announced that it's pupils would be called Tamim (simple ones). And with their combination of Torah knowledge (Judges) determination (policemen) and simplicity, they would bring the redemption.

Because joining these three is the ONLY way to bring Moshiach.

There is a saying (Hayom Yom pg.180), that the main attribute of Moshiach will be simplicity (like Moses and even more so), and only he will reveal the greatness of reading T’hillim with simplicity (ibid 141).

This shows us the importance of reading the Psalms of King David with song and an open heart.

It is known, that Moshiach will be a Judge and a Policeman "Well versed in Torah like King David his father, and fight the battles of G-d" (Rambam, Malachim, Chapt. 11).

May our saying of T'hillim, learning Torah, and being strong and simple in the ways of HaShem bring us all a good sweet new year with...

Moshiach NOW!!

Copyright © 1999-2017 Rabbi Tuvia Bolton. All rights reserved. No unauthorized reproduction or copying of this material shall occur without prior permission.

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