Being that Parshas Shoftim is frequently the first Torah portion read during the month of Elul, the special month of preparation before the High Holidays, many of its pesukim are interpreted metaphorically to instruct us in the ways of teshuva and introspection. The first pasuk in the parsha is no exception.
“Shoftim v’shotrim teaten b’chol she’arecha…- Judges and officers shall you appoint for yourself in all your gates…” (Devarim 16:18).
The simple meaning of this verse is teaching us about the importance of establishing a judicial system in the Land of Israel to assure that the society established is just and orderly. However, in light of the special time when this is normally read, many commentaries have shared a different possible lesson that can be learned from this pasuk. They explain that just as a city or country has gates and/or other points of entry, so too each person has ‘gates’ to his or her soul. What are they? Primarily they are the mouth, eyes, and ears. Perhaps this pasuk is reminding us of the necessity to be careful of what comes in and goes out of our mouths, what we look at, and what we listen to. We are asked to consider what it is that we expose our souls to. Is it beneficial or detrimental to our spiritual well-being? Although the verse is clearly making a comment about the conduct and oversight of our society in general, we must not lose sight of the fact that our own inner environment needs the same attention and concern. Are the words we speak and listen to bringing us closer to Hashem or, Heaven forbid, the opposite? What about that which we look at and eat? All of these things affect our ability to experience true spirituality, and either help or hinder our preparations for Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. May we merit to prepare properly.
Have a great Shabbos and a Kesiva v’Chasima Tova.