Torah Portion: Shoftim (Judges) Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:18-21:9

HafTorah: Isaiah 51:12-53:12

Tonight we read the first Torah portion of the Hebrew month of Elul. This month is devoted to repentance and soul searching. We take the time to look at ourselves and our relationship with G-d. We set our spiritual life in order. Interestingly Elul can be looked at as an acronym for, “Ani le-dodi vadodi li.” Which in English is, I am my beloved and my beloved is mine. This month can be an opportunity to renew our romance with G-d.

My question this week was really two questions that bears on this relationship with the “Lover of our soul.” One of those questions had to do with verse 18:13, “Be wholehearted with your G-d.” What does this mean to us today? If you noticed right before this statement the Torah speaks to us of those things to avoid like, a soothsayer, a diviner of times, sorcerer and one who interprets omens.” What do all of these have in common? The future, what will be, what to do. Then our verse follows. So what does it say to us? We expend tremendous amounts of time and effort worrying about what will be, what tomorrow holds. We expend energy trying to secure what can’t be secured.

So here Moses tells us to be wholehearted with G-d. In other words, the future is His and we accept what He brings into our lives. We stand on our faith in Him and our knowledge that He has our good ever before Him. Matthew 6:34 tells us not to worry about tomorrow. G-d is already there. He is in perfect control. To be wrapped up in worry about the future could be the same as saying our trust is conditional, trusting only in the good times. If G-d were to speak to you right now and invited you to live in His presence, would you first ask Him where He plans on taking you? We should strive to make our trust in Him unconditional. He is with us. He is running the show and that is all we need to know.

Next I want us to look at the opening verse of our section 16:18, appointing judges and officers in all your gates. Think of this verse and how it might apply to us today. What are our gates? It could be what we see, what we hear and what we allow into our physical lives. Again during this month and all year we are to set up judges and guards over what enters our gates and what then becomes a part of us, which relates back to repentance. True repentance must come from the heart. We recognize our sin, stop doing it, and never go back to it. This requires our constant focus and attention and is a process. The entire process does not happen in the emotional moment of repentance. To not return to the sin is a process. What can happen when we repent and later find we are back in the same thing again? Our judge, the Holy Spirit, will be remind us and we have the choice to return and grow through the experience. Repentance is more than a feeling. It must be followed by action, by doing, by making new and better choices than in the past. As we do this we grow closer to the Father and our feeling comes into sharper focus and in line with the Father’s will for our lives. It is much more than how we feel each day. We learn by doing. When our judge tells us we are going down a dangerous path we should make that right choice immediately and correct our path. As we do this and time goes on, our feelings begin to change and we see the lasting benefit of change. Our judge, or the Holy Spirit, will show us the absolute necessity of staying in repentance, if we are listening and allow Him to speak to us. The point of repentance is to restore that romance between us and G-d. True, long lasting repentance will bring us to look at our life in terms of this romance and the closeness we experience when we walk with Him. This is a benefit to our soul, to which nothing else can compare.