It is high time the gates of our “cities” are restored so that our eyes can focus on the good versus the bad, our ears can discern Divine harmony from earthly babbles, and amidst the boisterous noises of our society, our mouths can utter and sing the music of our souls.Rabbi Allouche
Here’s one of my favorite Chassidic stories:
The legendary Chassidic Master, Rabbi Levi Yitzchak of Berditchev, was once approached by a student who asked him for advice on how to conquer his temptations. The Rabbi instructed him to visit a certain person who “holds the keys to his question.”
Upon arrival, at a late evening hour, the student knocked on the door, time and again, but there was no answer… After a very long wait – in the harsh conditions of the cold night – the person finally opened the door and let the student in.
“Did you notice how I kept you waiting for so long?” the host asked his visitor. “I’ll tell you why. This is my house, so I decide when you come in. And this is how you can fight your temptations. You are the master of your own being, and you too can decide who and what comes into your mind and heart, and who and what comes out…”
In this week’s portion, G-d commands us to “appoint judges and officers in all your gates.” But what are those gates? According to our Sages, these gates are our eyes, our ears, and our mouths.
Just as a gate allows us to control who and what passes through it, so too do our eyes, ears, and mouths. Our eyes control what they see and focus on. Our ears control what they choose to hear. And our mouths control our spoken words. We must, therefore, place “judges and officers” at those gates to safeguard them and ensure that they forever remain pure, focused, and positive.
When I was just 16 years old, my beloved mentor, Rabbi Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz of blessed memory, pulled me aside, and he advised me, so poignantly: “Know that the greatest obstacle to me, Adin, is me. The greatest obstacle to you, Pinchas, is you. But once you learn to master yourself, you will not have any problem in mastering the entire world.”
This lesson holds particularly true in our age of generation that is constantly inundated by Tweeter tirades, Facebook rants and raves, real and fake news, uncensored song-lyrics, obscene gestures, emotional outbursts, and dramatic video-games. Have we lost this vital art of self-control? Have we no restraint? Have we no shame?
In the wise words of Rabbi Menachem Mendel Morgenstern, the Kotzer Rebbe: “All that is thought should not be said. All that is said should not be written. All that is written should not be published. All that is published should not be read.”
It is high time the gates of our “cities” are restored so that our eyes can focus on the good versus the bad, our ears can discern Divine harmony from earthly babbles, and amidst the boisterous noises of our society, our mouths can utter and sing the music of our souls.