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Saturday, August 10, 2013
Return Can Mean Repair
This past week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, is filled with a variety of laws and commandments that will help the Israelites create a society imbued with justice. In Deuteronomy chapter 20, verses 5-8 we read that before going to war, the officers of the army must address the troops, saying:
Who is the man who has built a new home but has not yet lived in it? Let him return to his home, lest he die in war and another man inhabit his home.
Who is the man who has planted a vineyard but not yet harvested it? Let him return to his home, lest he die in war and another harvest it.
Who is the man who has been betrothed to a woman but has not yet married her? Let him return to his home, lest he die in war and another man take her.
About these verses, Rabbi Alan Lew has written: “The idea of all this seems to be that if we leave something incomplete, we fall into the state of mind the rabbis call trafe da’at – a torn mind – a mind pulled in various directions.”
During Elul, this time of introspection, we might be wise to spend some quiet moments contemplating those areas in our lives we feel we have left incomplete. Is there a kind word that went unspoken? An apology that could have been made? A breach that can still be mended? Are our minds torn over these losses or missed opportunities? Are we left feeling less than whole?
It may not be too late to try to complete that which has been left undone. It may not be too late to repair a mind, or a heart, that has been torn.