Parshas Shoftim
Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9

What Does It Mean To Pursue Great Righteousness ©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Samuel and Mrs. Miriam Goodman, may they rest in peace.

In the Torah we read, "Great righteousness pursue so that [you may have] rebirth and inherit the land that Hashem your G-d is giving you." Deuteronomy 16:20 Some translations may say " that you will have life.."

What does it mean to pursue righteousness? How does one pursue righteousness?

Story: Watching A Colorado Mountain Lion Pursuing Its Desired Meal
When I think of the word pursue I think of a mountain lion stocking, overtaking, capturing and killing its prey. During one mountain Chol Ha Moed between the first and last days of Pesach after morning prayers, my youngest son and I observed a herd of bighorn sheep on the side of the mountain acting skittish. We were standing on our patio watching them. They were less than a city block away from us, just up the mountainside and a little to the north. They were very nervous. We decided to walk towards them with our camera. They were very large, majestic bighorn sheep. We took several pictures. As we were walking towards them we went into the forest about two hundred yards behind our home hoping to circle around them for an excellent picture opportunity. As we were doing this we walked upon a lean mountain lion. I believe it was a young female. We couldn't be certain. However what was certain was she was after a meal. She was pursuing the herd of bighorn sheep. It brought back memories of years earlier when my brother and I observed a full grown Colorado mountain lion pursuing a small herd of elk.

Well, dear reader, when I read the Torah's directive, "Great righteousness pursue so that [you may have] rebirth," these thoughts come back to me. I think, 'What if each of us Jews was so to speak lean and hungry like that mountain lion was? What if we pursued Torah like she pursued her prey? What would happen?

Story: Million Dollar Deal
There was this dear Yiddela in our community. He and his wife were our dear, dear neighbors. We spent many Shabbosim together. When he thought maybe I was slipping a bit... when he felt that I was considering taking the lower road, he would come to me and say, "Akiva, tomorrow morning if you were going to make a million dollar deal you would get up very early. You wouldn't oversleep. You would make the deal even if you were very tired!" He was right. My dear friend was saying, 'Akiva, you would carefully pursue the deal. You would take the higher road!' He was right. Since then, on those mornings when an important transaction is about to happen I am up very early even if I am extremely tired!

Chassidim, we must heed the words of my dear friend Rabbi Laibel Kohn. Each of us MUST pursue righteousness as if we were pursing a million or a billion or a trillion dollars. We must stalk righteousness like the mother mountain lion seeking food for her young. We must make every effort to overtake righteousness and capture it in our lives. The idea here is NOT TO JUST SQUEAK THROUGH THE DOOR. It is NOT to just pass the exam. It is to obtain the best grade possible! Because the word Tzadek occurs twice in this passage instead of saying "Righteous righteous pursue" we say, "Great righteousness pursue." Why? It is because Tzadek is repeated. That being the situation it places emphasis upon Tzadek, "RIGHTEOUS". It is not just righteous / righteousness but because of the second Tzadek it becomes 'GREAT" righteous / righteousness!

Dear readers, this has profound meaning for all of us. The message that is intended here is, do more than just enough.

May Hashem bless us in our pursuit of Great righteousness!

Good Shabbos!

Dr. Akiva G. Belk


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