Parshas Shoftim

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Is the tree of the field a man..? (20:19)

What is the connection between man and a tree?

The unique quality of a tree, which no animal possesses, is that it is firmly and deeply rooted in its source of life and energy, the ground. And due to this firm rooting, the tree grows taller and stronger than any member of the Animal Kingdom.

Thus, the “tree” within man is that part of his make-up which is: a.)the most deep-rooted in the soul; and consequently, b.) it is the most powerful. And this is: his character and emotions.

While at first glance, the intellect would appear to be a man’s most expressive and “personal” faculty, Chasidic thought teaches that one’s emotions and character are in fact more deep-rooted in the soul. For this reason our emotions tend to be powerful and uncom­pro­mising, like a tall tree, because their deep “roots” unleash the inner wellsprings of the soul directly into the conscious arena.

Intellect, on the other hand, has no fixed roots (rather like members of the Animal Kingdom which are not fixed to one particular place). So we are able to be intellectually involved in all sorts of matters with which we have no personal connection, since the intellect is not so deeply rooted in the soul that it will passionately “take offense” to something which runs contrary to a person’s make-up.

Likewise, changing one’s mind is relatively easy, whereas changing one’s personality—from miserly to generous, or from evil to good—is no easier than uprooting a tree and planting it somewhere else.

Nevertheless, the Torah wishes us to do exactly that: to change our character and emotional traits for the good. In this way we bring perfection to even the innermost aspects of the soul, where the “roots” of our emotions reach.

And it is in this vein that the Talmud warns us only to study Torah from “a respectable Torah scholar” i.e. one whose knowledge “bore fruit” in the form of good deeds and fine character. For a person should seek a teacher who has both intellectual andemotional refinement, who will provide a living example of how to cultivate his “arborous” side.

(Based on Likutei Sichos vol. 24, p. 115ff.)

Some time ago Kol Menachem launched an online classroom for Jews on the go – ‘Torah in Ten’. The series provides weekly insightful conversations on the current Torah portion. The class includes interesting commentaries from renowned historical figures as well as modern views in addition to thought provoking and inspiring questions.

Announcing his new idea Rabbi Miller wrote: “In this go, go, go world we live in, it can be difficult to sit down and find time to study the weekly parsha. And when shabbos rolls around, we all wish we had studied more and could contribute to the conversation at the shabbos table. Not to mention our children, don’t we all wish we could provide them beautiful insights into the weekly parsha?”.

‘Torah in Ten’ is now available not only from a computer.  Asked by Jewish iPhone Community and many more iPhone users Kol Menachem kindly agreed to change the format of presentation so that weekly portion of  ‘Torah in Ten’ was available to be watched on iPhone’s/iPad’s screens.  Nu, now then, what kind of excuse will you come up with?

Torah in Ten will take place every Thursday,  for ten minutes.  Let’s sum up with Rebbe’s words: “Our task is solely to illuminate the world with the light of  Torah,  Judaism and Chassidus”.

Your weekly “Torah In Ten” videocast by Rabbi Chaim Miller – Parshas  Shoftim

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Shabbat Shalom.
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