Parashat Shoftim- Clear Your Fear My Dear
You are about to get a crash course in Physics 101. Here we go. In physics, there are different ways to measure energy. There is kinetic energy which measures energy based on physical movement of an object; and then there’s potential energy which is ‘stored’ energy. This energy isn’t put into action….yet. It’s a reserve that could be tapped into when more energy is needed and accrues based on an objects’ location and position in relation to others. When the object is moved due to work, it gives off some of this stored energy.
Okay, enough nerd talk. Let’s get to the real deal.
Hodesh Elul has just begun, and based on my conversations with others, I think the generally feeling going around is a certain anxiety and fear that Rosh HaShanah and Yom Kippur are coming up so soon. Suddenly, we realize that we have only 40 days to make up for our past year in order to ensure a better one next year.
What exactly are we fearing though? There are different types of fear.
Not-good fear: My goodness, I messed up so badly this year, I won’t ever be able to make up for it now. I’m so scared of being punished! There’s no hope left….
Good Fear: Wow I have 40 days to make the best of this. I’m going to try my best to take advantage of these days. There is so much potential to improve! I only fear that I won’t be doing enough!
It comes down to this: Is your fear taking you down or building you up? That’s the difference.
During Hodesh Elul, everything comes into perspective and we realize we could have done so much more this past year. We fear that we haven’t taken advantage and will miss out because of this, Has ve’Shalom. We have the potential to experience tremendous abundance next year based on these next few weeks, and so we are afraid we might mess up. Yet, we must exploit every moment of these 40 days in order to reach our full potential for the upcoming year and hopefully, for our entire lives.
In Parashat Shoftim, we have a specific Missvah that when we go out to war, we are not allowed to cut down the fruit trees in the area. Why? The Torah HaKedoshah tells us, ‘Ki HaAdam Ess HaSadeh’- because the tree of the field is akin to a person. These trees bear fruit, they have potential- we are forbidden to destroy them. The Torah tells us that we are very much like these trees. Just like these trees have tremendous potential, we do too-and it is completely forbidden to devastate that potential.
Right after the Torah HaKedoshah gives us the privilege to keep this Missvah, it continues on to another Missvah of Eglah Aroufah. In a case where an unidentified body is found between two cities, the councilmen and Kohanim of both cities must meet, summon a baby calf which specifically has never worked in its life, and break its neck declaring that neither side was responsible for this person’s death.
What is all this violence about? What does a cow have to do with anything? What did the poor calf do??
Those who witness the calf being murdered feel the remorse of a life lost prematurely. They feel regret upon a cow who had the potential to work but was never able to- this is why they must choose a baby calf who has never worked in its life. The same way the calf’s potential is gone, so is the potential of this unidentified person- the murderer disrupted the entire cycle of his life. His potential was snatched from him entirely. But how come they chose a calf specifically? Couldn’t they choose a small bird at least or something of the sort? What’s the connection?
The word for ‘calf’ in Lashon Kodesh is ‘Egel’- that is why it’s called ‘Eglah Aroufah’. Egel implies ‘ma’agal’ (the letters are the same in Hebrew)- which means round, a cycle. When they break the calf’s neck, they are breaking the ma’agal, they are breaking its’ cycle of life; they are shattering its potential completely. And this is devastating.
In the same section, the Torah speaks about those who are exempt from going out to fight in battle. Among them is the person who planted a vineyard and has not begun to benefit from it, whoever has built a house and not dedicated it, and whoever has betrothed a woman and not taken her. The people who have not fulfilled their potential are fully exempt from war in order to go finish off what they started, because there is nothing worse than unfulfilled potential. HaShem tells them, You have more to give? I have a reason to keep you here. I understand that you started something so beautiful and I don’t want to interrupt. I want to give you the opportunity to finish it through. Don’t worry, you don’t have to fight, it’s on Me. You just go back home and thrive.
HaShem takes care of those who strive for more. These aren’t people who are afraid of war- they are people who are afraid of losing out on all the good that they could possibly have. The same feeling that we are supposed to be having this time of the year. These people don’t fear what is, they fear what could be but is not.
These 40 days, there will be times where you might feel afraid. Don’t let it be the type of fear that will restrict you. This fear should propel you forward. You have so much potential inside you! This is the best time of the year to tap inside and unleash it. There is nothing greater than fulfilling your entire potential in this world. Take advantage of every moment you have these next few weeks to help work on yourself, improve, and to become closer to HaKadosh Barukh Hu. There is no better time!
Be’Ezrat HaShem, May we identify our potential in life and fulfill it. May this be the start to a sincere and heartfelt Teshuvah Shelemah and may this be a tremendously productive Hodesh Elul. May we walk into Rosh HaShanah confident that we did our utmost best and that HaShem will shower us with wonderful Berakhot in return!
Wishing everyone a fulfilling Shabbat Shalom uMevorakh!