Shabbat Commentary

6/7 Sept: Shoftim : Shabbat comes in 7:21 pm,  ends  8:22 pm

Parashat Shoftim: Judging Ourselves

‘Set judges and law enforcement officials for yourself’’, begins Parashat Shoftim. This week’s Torah portion is interested in setting up leadership (judges, sages, prophets, and kings), holding our leaders to high standards, and trusting in their judgments.

According to the first ever Ḥasidic work ever published, Toldot Ya’akov Yosef, that oft-overlooked word – ‘l’kha’, ‘for yourself’ – adds a layer of meaning to the concept of judgment. ‘For yourself’, Toldot Ya’akov Yosef explains, means that this is an internal process as well as an external one. We each have an obligation to weigh our own behaviours, for the same reason that societies require judges: to hold ourselves responsible, and hopefully to aid healthier behaviour.

However, we can often be our own worst judges. We can be overly lenient, judging ourselves on intention when we would judge others on action; we can be overly strict with ourselves, allowing self-judgment to weigh us down with guilt. In this month of Elul, this month of teshuvah (‘returning’ to our better selves), it is important that we judge ourselves, and also that we hold our own ability to judge to a high standard.

Shabbat shalom.

Rabbi Natasha Mann



September 5, 2019