Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Opening The Gates

Judges and police officers you shall appoint in all your cities..... [Shoftim 16:18]

Source: Mipeninei Noam Elimelech
Translated by Tal Moshe Zwecker

This verse can be understood in the light of the teaching found in the Talmud in Berachos [61b] that "Tzaddikim are judged by their yetzer tov [good inclination] and the wicked are judged by the yetzer hara [evil inclination]. The average person is judged by both."

The righteous have an admonisher inside them who reproves and reprimands them even about the good deeds that they perform. He points out the defects and shortcomings of their actions, how they are lacking and how they should have been performed for the Almighty Creator. In this way they are "judged by their yetzer tov".

The wicked are just the opposite. Not only do all their actions appear good in their eyes, but their evil inclination shows them that even the evil deeds they do are good. Thus, the wicked are judged by the yetzer hara.

But the average person is judged by both, and as the Tanna taught, "we are average people" - that a person should always consider himself a beinoni, average, as someone who walks on both paths. On the one hand, he should constantly rebuke himself, debating his own actions; he should consider himself to be falling short of properly serving Hashem and fulfilling his obligations. When doing mitzvos, he should understand well that he has not acted properly with true clarity and purity as befitting the service of the Almighty; he should be humble and lowly in his own eyes.

Even so, one should not consider himself wicked, Heaven forbid, as our Sages taught: "Do not be wicked in your own eyes" [Avos 2:18] Otherwise if one does consider himself wicked, he will have no motivation to perform the mitzvos, not to learn Torah or pray or perform any good deed. He will give up hope, resigned that he is not worthy enough to do these things. Therefore, one must hold on to both paths at the same time in order to be complete. Then he will fulfill the teaching of our Sages "With all your heart" [Devarim 6:5] - with both inclinations. This is the meaning of "we are average people" and the "average person is judged by both".

Thus it says "Appoint for yourself judges and police officers". This refers to the two judges we spoke about, the good and evil inclinations. The good inclination is an "officer" since it polices the nation, preventing them from committing any offence, and so the good inclination admonishes and rebukes man for his misdeeds and shortcomings in serving G-d.

"In all your cities" [literally "gates"] - every mitzvah and holy act has its own gate. When a person learns, prays, or does any other act of holiness in this world, he opens the gates to that specific mitzvah above.

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