How are we supposed to relate to commandments in the Torah that aren’t apparently relevant at this time? When the Torah portion speaks about the Temple, or dividing up the land of Israel, or (as in this week's Torah portion) appointing judges and police in every town and city, what are we supposed to do about it? The Lubavitcher Rebbe explains that since the Torah is G‑d's will and wisdom, it is an eternal document and therefore relates to every time and place. We can find a lesson in each commandment that is appropriate for each and every person.

The Talmud says that every person is an entire world. As such, there are parallels between each of us and the world at large. Just as the world has cities and towns that are the centers of life and production, so also the individual has centers for living life and being productive. These are our thoughts, speech and actions.

When an individual wishes to think positive thoughts…he should open up his gates wide….

We live in exciting times, when even the media describes the whole world as a "global village", and where society is being tested constantly by the fall of boundaries in day-to-day life. Nevertheless, ideally, every city and town should have a gateway. What is the purpose of a gate? A gate serves as an entrance and exit that can be closed if necessary to stop unwanted traffic. Similarly, when an individual wishes to think positive thoughts, say something helpful or kind, or do a mitzvah, he should open up his gates wide. Alternatively, when the impulse to think, speak, or act in a negative way approaches, he must close the gate.

What are our gates? These are our eyes, which read what the Torah says and therefore inform us how to act properly; our ears with which we listen to what our teachers say; our noses that smell a pure and holy atmosphere, infused with true Judaism; and our mouths with which we eat only kosher food and drink and speak words of holiness.

The small world of each individual's reality is connected to the true reality that can only be seen behind the facade of the physical world we live in….

The opening verses of this week’s Torah reading speak about appointing judges and police: Who is the judge that decides when to open and close the gate? Our intellect. Who are the police that maintain order? This is our willpower to fulfill the decision of the judge.

An easy example of the process is with food: The desire to eat something is only the very beginning. First, we have to decide if the food is kosher. Even if it is, we must consider other factors: "Am I allowed to eat dairy now, or did I just eat meat?", "Do I really need to eat this?", etc. Even after we decide that it is permissible, we still must decide what blessing to make. When and how the gate is opened is a choice the Almighty gives us to guide our souls and bodies in the right way.

Part of the teaching of the weekly portion is gaining an added sensitivity to see the world and ourselves in the way the Torah describes. When we do this, we understand that there is a great joy both in This World and in higher spiritual planes when a person successfully fulfills this G‑d-given mission.

There is another parallel between the world and the human microcosm. The small world of each individual's reality is connected to the true reality that can only be seen behind the facade of the physical world we live in. When we successfully use our intellect and willpower to control our gates, we open a gate to an extraordinary possibility: for the Almighty to appoint the future judges of the Great Assembly, which will accompany the building of the third Holy Temple. The Great Assembly, also called the "Sanhedrin", is the rabbinic authority that teaches the ultimate truth of the Torah and essentially gives us the proper perspective for relating to the world, an ability we most lack during the exile. This can only happen now through our efforts.

How does this relate to the month of Elul, which begins soon? Elul is the gateway to the month of Tishrei, the month of the High Holidays, when we are judged for our actions of the previous year and what we will receive in the coming year. How we use our time now affects how our prayers will be accepted in the month to come. Just as using our intellect and willpower now will create a great impact in the immediate future, so also our efforts will succeed in bringing the true and complete redemption that will happen with Mashiach.

Shabbat Shalom, Shaul

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