D’var Torah by Rabbi Zischa Shaps

This morning we blew the Shofar heralding the new month of Elul representing the
start of the High Holiday season. The Shofar is a reminder that Rosh Hashanah the Day
of Judgment is coming and we should prepare ourselves.

Parshat Shoftim begins with instructions regarding appointing judges and going to
court. The Torah tells us צדק צדק תרדוף – Righteousness, righteousness shall you
pursue. Rashi quotes the Talmud in Sanhedrin 32b that this means that one should be
sure to find the best court possible with the most knowledgeable judges. Who is the
Torah speaking to? If it is someone who is dishonest, why would he look for the best
judges? That will guarantee he will lose. It must be speaking to an honest, righteous
person and the Torah is telling him that even as a litigant you have a responsibility to
find the best judge to make sure that you are not mistaken in your claim.

A court case requires preparation. Before you walk into the courtroom, you review the
claims and the evidence to make sure that you have the information needed to prove
that you are correct. Now picture the scenario. You are an honest person who wants to
do the right thing. You want to win your case, but only if you are truly right. That is why
you have made sure that you have the best judge possible and that your evidence will
stand up to the closest scrutiny.

Rosh Hashanah is the Day of Judgment. Hashem is the best judge possible. You can be
sure He will not make a mistake in judgment. Certainly, you want to be sure that all of
the evidence you bring to make your case will stand up in court. Fortunately for us,
Hashem is a merciful judge. He has provided us with the month of Elul in order to give
us the time to prepare our “case”. We review our conduct over the past year to see
where we need to improve, and we resolve to change for the better. As a merciful
judge, He doesn’t expect perfection. He wants to see that we are sincere and doing the
best we can in our relationships to Hashem and to people.

As we hear the sound of the shofar each morning during this month, let it be a
reminder to us to make sure our case before the Heavenly Court is built on solid
evidence in our favour.

Shabbat Shalom & Shanah Tovah,
JET Ottawa