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Building a Moral Compass

Friday, 9 September, 2016 - 3:33 pm

CareIn a world where we are overloaded with info, news, ideas, conversations, gossip and so much more, do we just sit back and absorb it all, or do we exercise a degree of choice in what we choose to absorb and expose ourselves to?

Is every conversation a good thing, or is gossip and slander not a good choice? What about food, there are untold amounts of choices for every food possible, there are Kosher options and non-Kosher options, there is over indulgence and there is healthy eating, there are eating choices that factor in the environment and ones that do not. Do we just take it all or do we choose what is right?

Guards at your Gates

In this week's Torah portion of Shoftim, it states in the beginning that "you must appoint judges and officers at all your gates of your cities". Aside from the literal idea of creating a fair and very honest justice system which is discussed in detail in this week's portion, there is also a beautiful metaphorical teaching by the famous sage from the 16th century, Rabbi Shabtai Hakohen, otherwise known as the Shach.

He explains that we also have gateways that control what we absorb in our own internal city of our life and body and soul, These gates are the gateways of how we absorb stuff including eating, hearing, seeing, speaking and so on. He writes that just like we have to create a fair justice system of judges and officers who enforce the law, so too, we must create an inner internal system that will calibrate our decisions and help us make right choices as to what is a positive experience and what is not. This internal moral compass, can help us decide as to what is good to eat and what is not good to eat, what is good to speak about and what kind of talk and slander is not good to talk about,  and so too with hearing and seeing. This is not to say that one should not listen to another person's opinion, but in terms of appropriate behavior we should learn to exercise a thoughtful and moral set of choices that will help better ourselves and better those around us.

Building an Internal Moral Compass

Taking this idea one step further, one needs to have an internal judgement system that actually knows what is right, it is quite easy to become biased towards ourselves and then make choices that are incorrect. Thus a healthy moral compass, takes learning, reflection, and a process of internalizing these ideas, Yet in  addition to the compass, one also needs to develop a strong will power to follow through on those choices and enforcing your own decisions, which is easier said than done.

This teaching and idea which was written hundreds of years ago based on a verse that was written thousands of years ago, continues to be extremely relevant and pertinent in today's world. In fact, perhaps in today's dynamic and fast paced world, it is even more relevant than ever before.

So as we enjoy the last few weeks of the Jewish year and the month of Elul, a time that is typically used for reflection and spiritual growth, perhaps this profound teaching can play a great role in helping us think about our choices in life. For example, how much time do we spend with our children and spouse, versus the TV and Sports, how much cellphone and texting time we have for ourselves and our children and is it getting in the way of meaningful relationships, and what kind of conversations are ones that we want to be able to look back and be pleased that we were a part of and which ones not, and perhaps look at our diet and think about our healthy choices and our Kosher choices and is there anything that we can upgrade as we prepare to begin a new year.

Good Shabbos & Shabbat Shalom 


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