Parashas Shoftim

In this week’s parashah, the Torah says (Devarim 18:13): “You shall be wholehearted with Hashem your God.” The Midrash remarks (Yalkut Shimoni, Torah 919): “When you are wholehearted, your portion is with Hashem your God.” To explain this Midrash, the Maggid builds on another Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 3:3):
It is written (Yeshayah 55:7): “Let the wicked abandon his way, and the crooked man his thoughts, and let him return to Hashem, and He will show him mercy, and to our God, for He is abundantly forgiving.” R. Yitzchak said: “Like a person who puts two planks next to each other and binds them together.” R. Yosi bar Chanina said: “Like a person who attaches two legs to a bed and thereby connects them.”
The Maggid explains the matter as follows. When we consider the process of attaching two items together, we can envision two scenarios: attaching two straight pieces together or attaching two curved pieces together. When attaching two curved pieces together, one must take great pains effort to work out how to fit the two curves together. When attaching two straight pieces, however, no great effort is needed, for the two pieces will fit together easily. These two scenarios represent two possible forms that a person’s relationship with Hashem can take. The Torah exhorts us to attach ourselves to Hashem (Devarim 11:22, 13:5, and 30:20), and we can understand this notion as being similar to two physical objects being attached to each other. David HaMelech, speaking of Hashem, says (Tehillim 18:26-27): “With the wholehearted You act wholeheartedly … and with the crooked You act contortedly.” To form a healthy relationship with Hashem, a person must make himself straight, and in so doing he automatically leads Hashem to be straight in his dealings with him. In order for a person to attach himself properly to Hashem, he must abandon whatever evil he commits and purge his mind of all crookedness. As David HaMelech puts it (Tehillim 18:24): “I was wholehearted with him, and I guarded myself against my sinning.” If a person is crooked, then Hashem must contort His ways, so to speak, in parallel with the person’s crookedness.
R. Yitzchak’s analogy of binding two planks together represents the ideal case of a person who makes himself straight on his own and thereby becomes easily attached to Hashem. R. Yosi bar Chanina’s analogy, on the other hand, represents the case of a crooked person for whom Hashem must take the initiative and employ forced measures to establish a connection, just as a degree of forcing is needed to put together the pieces of a bed. The Torah exhorts us to be straight so that Hashem can, so to speak, be straight along with us.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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