Parsha Mitzvot: Shofetim: Mitzvah 491 – Concept 540 II
As a single footstep will not make a path on the earth, so a single thought will not make a pathway in the mind. To make a deep physical path, we walk again and again. To make a deep mental path, we must think over and over the kind of thoughts we wish to dominate our lives.
(Henry David Thoreau)
I have been a chaser, and I have been chased.
I have chased my dog down the street trying to get him safely back home to take his antibiotic.
I’ve been chased by my dog round and round the house as he tries to grab a bacon flavored treat from my hand.
I’ve chased insects from room to room in my house.
I’ve been chased by bees from room to room in my house.
I’ve chased one of my kids running down the concourse in a busy airport.
I’ve been chased by my kids as we played cops and robbers.
I have been a chaser and I have been chased, but neither is a path, physical or mental, that has taken shape or form. Or have they?
Some people have been chasing money for so long that they have made a deep mental pathway that directs their lives.
There are people who constantly chase after pleasure so that they know only that one path.
There are people who chase after wisdom and spiritual meaning so assiduously that the pathways of their minds pull them forward.
There are people who have chased after giving their children ‘everything,’ and are unable to pause and choose a path for themselves.
The Torah urges us to become chasers:
“Righteousness, righteousness shall you pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that God, your Lord, gives you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20) The verse is teaching us to pursue, or, in our context, chase righteousness.
It isn’t enough to live with righteousness; we must pursue it.
It isn’t enough to treat others with dignity; we must chase after a vision of the world in which all people treat each other with dignity.
It isn’t enough to act with integrity; we must chase after it. We must define integrity and teach and inspire others to live with it.
It isn’t enough to be compassionate to others; we must chase compassion. We must become involved in our communities to ensure that all are treated compassionately.
All the verses about appointing judges speak of the Land of Israel, but the process began long before the Children of Israel entered the Land; they had to first become Chasers after Righteousness. It was only as Chasers that they had learned the deep mental paths of righteousness they needed to find judges who would act with the righteousness we all desire.