Dvar for Shoftim (Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9)
This week we read the Parsha of Shoftim, which charges us to “Appoint for you judges and officers at all of your gates” (16:18). Rav Moshe Feinstein points out that the word “lecha” (for you) seems superfluous. This commandment could have simply stated, “appoint judges and officers”, why did the Torah add the word “lecha”? The question is even stronger if you consider that the commandment is a society-based commandment, and the extra word is singular. It seems almost contradictory to address an individual while describing a community-based law.
Rav Moshe explains that the Torah is teaching us a very fundamental concept. In addition to the need for society at large to have these judges and officers, individuals must be both a judge and officer over themselves. The Shlah extends this thought when he explains the continuation of the Passuk (verse), explaining that a person has seven “gates”: two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and a mouth. The way that these gates are used will either build or destroy the person, which means that one must control the flow through these gates. But the Torah also tells us that to accomplish our goal of controlling what comes out of our ‘gates’, we need both judges AND officers. Judges make the rules, and officers enforce them. Not only do we have to make an extra effort to know the rules by which to live, but we also need to build safeguards to help us adhere to those rules. (I.e. if the rule is not to speak negatively about others, maybe we should try not to hang around people that do, etc.) If we study the Torah’s guidelines, we’ll realize their value and appreciate our need to protect them.