This week is dedicated Le Iluy nishmat Eliahu ben Simcha,Perla bat Simcha,
Gil ben Abraham.Refua Shelema of Gila bat Tzipora, Tzipora bat Gila,
Abraham Meir ben Leah and Noa bat Batsheva Devorah. For Zivug agun to
Marielle Gabriela bat Gila.
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and Shabat Shalom.


The great Chassidic leader, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev (1740-1809), was known for his all-encompassing love and compassion for every Jew. He would always look for the good in each person, no matter how bad the person’s actions appeared to be. He was renowned as the “defense attorney” for the Jewish people, because it was believed that he could intercede on their behalf before Hashem, and he was therefore one of the most beloved leaders of Eastern EuropeanJewry.

Once, on the eve of Rosh Hashanah, Reb Levi Yitzchak was heading to shul for Selichot (The prayers commonly recited from the beginning of Ellul on the days leading up to the High Holidays) when a sudden rain forced him and his gabbai (personal assistant) to seek shelter under the awning of a tavern. The gabbai peered through the window and saw a group of Jews feasting and drinking. Growing impatient, he urged Reb Levi Yitzchak to see for himself how the Jews inside were misbehaving when they should have been in synagogue praying to G-d for mercy and forgiveness. Instead of looking, Reb Levi Yitzchak rebuked his gabbai for finding fault with the Children of Israel. Surely, he asserted, they must be reciting blessings over their food and drink; instead of passing judgment on them, he proceeded to bless them. The gabbai then peered into the tavern once more and overheard two Jews talking to one another about thefts they had committed. He told this to the Rebbe, yet once more he refused to judge them and instead concluded that, indeed, they must be holy Jews since they were confessing their sins to one another before Rosh Hashanah!

“The Berditchever”, as he was lovingly known, had a very good reason for finding only the good in each person instead of pointing out the bad – and for making sure that everyone else did the same – as illustrated in the following story which also relates to this week’s Torah portion:

A Maggid (itinerant preacher) was invited to give a lecture at the shul of Reb Levi Yitzchak. The Rebbe sat there with rapt attention as the Maggid masterfully wove together fascinating parables, spectacular stories and lofty Torah insights, inspiring the masses to grow ever higher in their Avodat Hashem (service to G-d). Then the Maggid started reproaching the people and listing a whole list of sins and indiscretions that they were committing and for which they needed to repent and change their ways. At this point, the Rebbe stood up and stopped the Maggid from going any further. He explained his reason for doing so as follows: For thousands of years the Satan has been trying to prosecute the Jewish people in front of G-d and to point out all their sins in the hope of destroying them. Yet, Hashem refuses to hear the Satan’s damning testimony and says to him: “I have already written in My Torah[1], A single witness shall not stand up against any man for any iniquity or for any error, regarding any sin that he may commit; according to two witnesses or according to three witnesses shall a matter be confirmed’, and you want to testify as a single witness against my children?!” And now, this Maggid, who is standing here and testifying the sins of the Jewish people can, G-d forbid, be joined together with the Satan to make two witnesses, so he must be stopped!

We are a few weeks away from Rosh HaShanah, the Day of Judgment, when the Books of Life and Death will be opened in front of Hashem and His Heavenly Court and our fate will be decided for the coming year, and we all want to do whatever we can to make sure that we are inscribed in the Book of Life. Let us take the advice of the Berditchever, the great “defense attorney” of the Jewish people, who writes the following in his classic work Kedushat Levi on the first verse in this week’s Torah portion:

“G-d judges the Jewish people on the Day of Judgment with great compassion and kindness, but He requires that we do our part to arouse and deserve that compassion. So what can we do to arouse it? When we act kindly towards our fellow man and judge him favorably, looking only for the good in him, we will merit, in turn, that Hashem will judge us favorably and only see the good that we have done …”

Let us take upon ourselves in this month of Elul, as we prepare for our impending court case on Rosh HaShanah, to see only the good in the people around us and not the evil, and may G-d inscribe us all in the Book of Life.

[1] Devarim 19:15.

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One Response to “Parshat Shoftim-Only the Good”

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