For the Sake of Heaven

Rabbi Haggai Lundin: Hang on a tall tree

True Torah followers conduct their public and private struggles for the sake of heaven. They do not personally hate - not the Arabs, in contrast - not the anarchists and not those who blocked their parking

(Photo: YouTube Ramat Gan Yeshiva)

Between one news broadcast and another that report on the revelations of violence in the State of Israel, this upcoming Shabbat, we will hear the story of the portion "Ki Teitzei".

The portion deals with addressing various social issues, and it contains a well-known verse: "If a man has committed a sin worthy of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree." When there is no choice but to execute a sinner "on the tree" for the sake of deterrence – so that people will see and fear – his body is not left hanging in disgrace for all to see; why? "For a hanged person is accursed by God." Even when a person fails and there is no alternative but to take his life – his God-given image is not taken from him. The punishment of the sinner is not administered out of personal animosity – it's nothing personal – the transgressor will receive his full punishment, but with a sense of respect and in safeguarding human dignity.

The reason good people are afraid to engage in struggles is due to the fear of "getting their hands dirty." The fear that involvement will ferment the negative aspects within us ("I'm not built for this" and so on). True Torah scholars manage their public and private struggles for the sake of heaven. They don't harbor personal animosity – not towards Arabs, to differentiate – not towards anarchists, nor towards those who block their parking spots. They simply battle against harm while honoring the divine image within them, and their struggle will also reflect accordingly.

This principle also applies to the spiritual work of the month of Elul, during which we "hang on the tree" our sins. We do not give up on ourselves, but we are cautious "not to leave our corpse hanging"; not to throw out the baby with the bathwater and decide that we are inherently corrupt and in a hopeless state. While we have indeed sinned, the divine image within us always remains, and there is always room for correction; in this world or the next.

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