Linda Pardes Friedburg
Linda Pardes Friedburg
Russian-speaking American Israeli Community-building Mom

Parshat Shoftim – Seven Illuminating Gates

מקימי עמיה
Bat mitzva - the power to illuminate! (Photo credit: Tomer Melichi)

Elul – warm, breezy evenings and crisp, sunny mornings. Kids race by on bicycles, as I trot my dozing granddaughter in her stroller to nosh from the best fig tree in all of Gush Etzion, and then to the park near our home again.

Two nights ago, this street was filled with dance music and the squeaky karioke of 12 year-old girls, as our youngest, Mekimi Amiya, celebrated her bat mitzvah.

Sweet Mekimi, Elul and this Parasha are here to remind us that our work in this world is never done!

“And you shall put Judges and enforcers of the law in all the gates that Hashem your God has given you… Justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you may inherit the Land that Hashem your God has given you.” (Devarim 16)

What do these judges and policemen who sat in the city gates in ancient times have to do with us and you, as you continue to grow, God-willing?

Rabbi Nachman of Breslav teaches, based on our Kabbala, that every person is a city with seven “candles” or gates in our heads that illuminate us and our world, but they must be carefully guarded. These include your two eyes, two ears, two nostrils and one mouth!

I am proud of you for trying to see and hear things that are healthy for your soul – the brilliance of nature, good conversations with friends, books or films that make you laugh or inspire you, versus things like excessive social media, that waste time and may cause pressure and jealousy.

The words of your mouth are usually kind and uplifting. How great is the reward of your restraint – keeping your mouth closed and not promulgating argument.

And the connection to your nose? That is “af” in Hebrew, Rabbi Nachman says – hinting at “haron af” which is anger, to be avoided at all costs.

The Torah that teaches us this is not an accessory, to be studied occasionally, but our essences. The goodness you see all around you, my amazing daughter, is the result of many people working hard on themselves to be kind, giving, and hospitable, and to build Israel out of love for God, Torah, and our People, despite the challenges – which also refine us as Jews and human beings.

And most importantly – when you judge yourself favorably and love yourself as you do, you will hopefully have the power, wisdom, and love to bring justice to others, all the days of your long, joyful life.

Mazel tov Mekimi!
Shabbat Shalom!

About the Author
Linda Pardes Friedburg made Aliyah from New Jersey in 1990. She is Founding Director of Shishi Shabbat Yisraeli National Jewish Leadership Initiative for Young Russian-Speaking Israelis, is grateful for her six kids and one Belarussian husband, and still feels the need to pinch herself every time she drives up the hill to Neve Daniel, Gush Etzion, their home since 1994.
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