Parashat Shoftim (“Judges and Executors”) (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)
Provide yourself with judges and executors in all she’arekha (your gates) (Devarim 16:18). When? In all your gates, but especially do this practice during the month of Elul, the gate through which we enter the New Year.
What are judges and executors? The Slonimer Rebbe teaches us that it is never sufficient just to learn teachings. If we are unable to apply the teachings in our actual living experience, they will remain mere platitudes and will have little effect on the way we actually live. So, in order to make progress, to enter gates that lead us closer to Be-ing who G-ds us (Devarim 16:18), we need to cultivate two qualities: judges and executors. On the simplest level, that means both scholars and doers.
Judges alludes to cultivating the ability to discriminate between blessing and curse. This is a quality that is acquired through deep contemplation and reflection on the inner meaning and principles of Torah. It represents the perception and understanding of what is “lawful” and right. But, as essential as this quality is, without executors, we wouldn’t be able to apply the teachings in real life. We need not only knowledge of what is right, but the ability to act on our level of discrimination at the very moment that it ceases to be merely theoretical. Thus we must also cultivate the quality of executors, the motivated awareness to recognize when a teaching needs to be followed and the will to be able to make sure that what is required occurs.
In all your gates. According to Kabbalah, gates refers to the organs of sensation, particularly, the seven orifices of the head, ears, eyes, nose and mouth. In order to do teshuvah, to steer ourselves in the right direction, we need to have conscious judgespresent to monitor how we are relating to what we hear, see, smell, and taste. The presence of judges in this sense enables us to recognize whether what we are experiencing at any given moment through our senses connects us to Be-ing that G-ds us. If not, we need the power of our conscious executors to carry out our will, through enabling us to do teshuvah at that very moment, by separating ourselves from the energy that is leading us astray, and reconnecting ourselves to the Divine Presence within.
On another level, the Torah is teaching that it is most effective to do teshuvah (to turn ourselves back from distracted states of identification with what our senses are experiencing) if we recognize what is arising and intervene, while the thought or impulse is still in all your gates. The meaning is for the executor to be awake and ready to act, before the impulse or emotion is expressed. We need to be constantly aware of what is arising subjectively within our minds. As the Zohar interprets the verse, the master is known within the gates, (Proverbs 31:23), within the gates and imaginings of the mind stream. (Zohar Genesis, 103a).
Additionally, Rebbe Elimelekh, author of Sefer No’am Elimelekh, teaches that we have to make sure that our judges will make a judgment that is righteous (Devarim 16:18). Don’t make a judgment that creates a state in which you do not recognize the Presence,for if you bribe yourself with anything less, you will lose your Wisdom Eye and any claim of righteousness will be a distortion. (Devarim 16:19). The purpose of the inner judge is not only to enable us to act with intention, but to show us a way that can maintain, strengthen and renew our inner access to the witnessing Eye of Wisdom. The Wisdom Eye is the inner quality that enables us to be aware of the Divine Countenance. We need to provide ourselves with judges who can determine for us how to be in continuous relationship with Presence in any situation.
If you really want to be alive, don’t just settle for a concept of righteousness—continue pursuing righteousness until it arises in the very being of your Heart and there you will interface with the Ground of Be-ing that Be-ing who Gods you is giving you. (Devarim 16:20). We learn here not to be satisfied with only knowing what is righteous in your mind, dig deeper within until righteousness reveals itself to you in the very depths of your own Heart. When righteousness is present as an essential quality of the Heart, mind and heart can be integrated. In that unified state, the additional enlivening energy is provided that is necessary for manifesting divinity within earthiness itself.
With judges in place, we can witness objectively what is occurring so that when a manifestation of attraction or aversion arises within you through the gates of the senses that Be-ing who G-ds you provides and which may lead to a breach in your inner pact with Be-ing who G-ds you, making you a slave to other apparent powers…
Then, as soon as you become aware of it, give it your closest attention and if it is true that such an abomination is occurring within you, remove that manifestation of attraction or aversion that is causing this evil within the gates of your senses, strike it with the Jewels of Understanding, until that manifestation of attraction or aversion breaks open and the spark of divine energy that enlivens it is liberated. (Devarim 17:2-5).
As soon as the inner judge determines that an experience is developing that will sever our consciousness of inner connection with divine guidance, the inner executor must blast open the obfuscating experience with the energetic rays of understanding. If the executor is skillful, focused attention can pulverize the obscuration and enable the hidden divine energy to emerge and flow freely.
However this method of releasing holy sparks is not so easily mastered. It will certainly take at least two or three observations (of a particular form of attraction or aversion) before its energy can be liberated, its spark may not be fully liberated on the basis of consciously witnessing it only once. (Devarim 17:6).
Should this practice prove too confusing and you are unable to determine how to judge clearly what aspects of your experience that arise through the gates of your senses require the executor, then pray for divine guidance so you will reach a contemporary teacher who can teach you how to do it. Then you will be able to do what they teach you from the place of divine guidance and carefully adhere to the way that they teach it… (Devarim 17:8-11).
The more proficient you become in the practice of provide yourself with judges and executors (Devarim 16:18), the closer you will come to interfacing and resting in the Ground of Be-ing that Be-ing who G-ds you is giving you… (Devarim 17:14). Skillfulness and diligence in this practice leads to an increasing state of integration of all parts of oneself. As the integrated state becomes more constant, an abiding conscious center emerges, the inner ruler.
Then when you are ready for an inner ruler to arise…Make sure the inner ruler is one chosen by Be-ing who G-ds you from among the deepest parts of yourself that descend directly from the divine source. ((Devarim 17:15). As one develops judges and executorswithin, the ability to act decisively and intentionally increases. We must make certain that this inner ruler that arises is a divinely chosen melekh, who is in constant consultation with Be-ing who G-ds you and not a self-serving autocrat. (The Hebrew root MLKhmeans both sovereignty and consultation.)
This power must not be used to increase causes that will transport you back again into constricted consciousness, since Be-ing already taught you not to go back that way any more (even before the inner ruler arose). (Devarim 17:16).
And when the inner ruler is joyfully resting on the throne of inner consultation with divine Guidance, be sure to write down its inspired insights as oral Torah to be studied in the presence of the parts of oneself that serve and transport the Divine Presence. (Devarim 17:18).
The inner ruler should constantly review this teaching in order to learn how to remain in awe of Be-ing who G-ds you, through keeping all of this teaching and practicing it in the ways that are required. (Devarim 17:19).
By avoiding all narcissism and not deviating from divine instruction, the inner ruler can sustain its role of implementing divine guidance through integrating all parts of the self. (Devarim 17:20).
In this sacred month of Elul, the Gate of teshuvah,
Through which we enter the New Year,
May we all be blessed with increased motivation
To witness closely everything that enters
All of our Gates
So that through the efforts of our judges and executors
We may attain even greater closeness to the Divine Countenance
Through releasing the hidden energy of our holy sparks.
May we all be blessed with integrating inner rulers
Who vibrating in awe
In constant consultation with the Master of the Universe
Skillfully direct us on our evolving paths.
Rabbi Moshe Aharon Ladizhyner
(aka Rabbi Miles Krassen)