This week’s Parsha, Shoftim, begins with the Torah’s instructions to our people to place judges and and law enforcement officers at all of our gates. The simple meaning of this mitzvah is to establish a court system for every city. However, since this verse can be translated as we did, there is room for another meaning as well.

The suggestion that many commentaries give is that gates refer to the gates or ports of entry on our person. This would refer to our eyes, our ears, our nose and any other port of entry by which we take in information and pleasure from the outside. The implication is that we should carefully guard those gates allowing in only that information and pleasure that will be healthy for us and keep out that which will harm us.

How appropriate it is that as we welcome the month of Elul which ushers in the great holiday of Rosh Hashanah and the Days of Awe, the Torah instructs us how to prepare ourselves.

This week’s event of the solar eclipse and all the warnings that accompanied it, reminded me of a story from the Chofetz Chaim. This story was related by a student of the Chofetz Chaim who was with him as he recited the early morning brachos. As the Chofetz Chaim recited the bracho of Elokei neshama he let out a deep sigh, the kind of sigh that one emits when reminded of something sad.

In this bracho we acknowledge the great kindness HaKadosh baruch Hu extends us each morning by returning our souls back to us. At night, when we lay down to sleep, we return our tired soul to Him.  He then freshens it up takes away the tiredness and perhaps some of the unhappiness and then returns it the next morning refreshed and ready to go.

The student asked the Sage why did he sigh, is it not a truly inspiring and uplifting bracho?

The Chofetz Chaim responded; in this bracho we mention how Hakadosh baruch Hu will eventually take our soul away and will return it at the time of the resurrection. The Chofetz Chaim continued, when you give your jacket that is filthy dirty to the cleaners you can expect it to be cleaned when it will be returned to you. However, if the sleeve is missing you cannot expect the jacket to be returned with a new sleeve on it. As we travel through life we confront challenges which endanger our soul and we can, G.D forbid, lose a spiritual limb in the process. Those missing limbs will not be replaced when our souls are returned to us at the resurrection; they will be eternally missing. Imagine! For the rest of my eternity I will be missing my tongue! That is why I sigh.

As the signs and flyers were being distributed warning and cautioning everybody of the tremendous consequence that can result from looking directly at the eclipse, it reminded me of this powerful lesson the Chofetz Chaim taught his student how careful we must be with what we allow our eyes to see and what we allow our ears to hear and we allow our tongues to say.

There is nobody distributing such flyers and the consequence is far more reaching that staring at the eclipse. Even a momentary glance of inappropriate images can cause much damage to our eyes and to other parts of our souls. The consequence cannot be overstated.

How fortunate we are to have the timeless lessons of the Torah whose messages protect us and guard us from everyday hazards!

Have a wonderful Shabbos.

Paysach Diskind