Translation by Yehoshua Siskin
I am reminded each year of the following story regarding parashat Shoftim: I was 14 years old and was invited to a relgious event. The rabbi opened with the following words and I did not understand any of them: "'You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself at your gates.' We need to appoint judges and police at the gates that HaShem created for us. Look at our faces: the mouth, the eyes, the ears are the face's gates. We must pay attention to what we allow into our bodies when we eat and what we allow to go outside of them when we speak. And we must pay attention to what we allow into our minds - what we hear, see, and read."
As I said, I did not understand a word of this. A girl sitting next to me whispered the following explanation: "The rabbi took the first verse of the weekly Torah portion, parashat Shoftim: 'You shall set up judges and law enforcement officials for yourself at your gates.' What the rabb is saying is commentary. The verse states that we need to appoint actual judges and police. But this is only the 'pshat' or simple explanation. The rabbi gives an interpretation to 'gates,' comparing them to the openings in our faces for which 'judges and police' are needed. In short ,he means to say to the teenagers gathered here that they should not watch a lot of television during summer vacation."
Wow, I thought. I did not know that the weekly Torah portion was parashat Shoftim, but everyone else who was there knew that. Unlike them, I was not familiar with that Torah verse, nor did I understand the first dvar Torah that I ever heard.
I did not know that we could jump from the simple meaning of the verse to the significnce of it's message in our daily lives.
Each year I am reminded of that same 14-year-old teenage girl when I hear the Shoftim Torah portion and the wonderful idea contained in its first verse.