Lazer Gurkow

With G-d’s Help

The Torah tells us to appoint judges and guardians at the gates of our cities. The city’s gathering place was usually at the gates, making it the fitting place for the courthouse and police station. However, Jewish scholarship has long maintained that there is a parallel teaching here. We are each expected to exercise judgement and restraint at our six gate points, the eyes, ears, nose and mouth.

Before you choose to say, eat, drink, smell, or even look at something, stop and consider whether it is kosher and good for you. Be aware of everything that comes through that gate, whether it is coming in or out. Is this something I want to see, something I want to say, or something I want to digest?

Remember what comes in becomes a part of us and is not easily scrubbed away. What you say leaves an indelible mark on the person who hears it. What you do impacts the people around you. First exercise judgement and then restraint. Judges and guardians. Regulate the traffic that passes through your gates.

However, if something gets past our scrutiny and slips in or out, it is our responsibility to correct it. Although what we digest physically or metaphorically becomes part of us, we need to excise it and undergo a transition. Become a new person. Maimonides wrote that there was a custom to change the name of the penitent. It was a way of saying, he has changed. He is someone else now.


About the Author
Rabbi Lazer Gurkow, a renowned lecturer, serves as Rabbi to Congregation Beth Tefilah in London Ontario. He is a member of the curriculum development team at Rohr Jewish Learning Institute and is the author of two books and nearly a thousand online essays. You can find his work at
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