As we journey through the month of Elul, moving our way to another New Year, it’s time to take stock of our behavior. Knowing that we are submitting ourselves to judgment before God on Rosh Hashanah, we begin to take seriously the way we judge ourselves.
This week’s Torah reading, Shoftim, begins with the command to appoint judges in every community so that justice can prevail. The judicial system is meant to provide fairness in communal dealings, as several of the laws in Shoftim emphasize. But the Hasidic master Reb Elimelech Weisblum of Lizhensk uses our portion to explore a Talmudic idea about judging ourselves reasonably. Here’s a skeletal version of this teaching:
Rabbi Yose the Galilean said: The good impulse controls the righteous…the evil impulse controls the wicked…and both impulses control average people…Rava said: “The average people are, for instance, us.” Abbaye responded: “The master does not leave room for anyone to live!” (Bavli Berakhot 61b)
On Shabbat morning, we’ll delve deeper into this teaching, and see how Reb Elimelekh helps us be what we most likely are but can’t admit it–not righteous, not wicked, but average people. Besides, what’s wrong with being average?
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise