The portion Shoftim always falls in the month of Elul, which means that all the lessons in it have to do with the important work we need to be doing during this month. So, the portion begins by saying, “You should place judges and officers in all of your gates.” And there are endless amounts of explanations from the kabbalists about what those words mean. But I want to focus on one thing that we learn from this teaching that has a practical application to the work we need to be doing not only in this month, but really, throughout our lives.
The kabbalists teach that when it says, “In all of your gates,” it hints to the fact that when we are doing well, when we are growing, when we are in a good spiritual space, yes, it is good to have a teacher, but it is more important to have a teacher when a person is falling, when a person is in a dark and negative place, either physically or spiritually. And one of the most important teachings to know, and this is something we have spoken about before, is that the Light of the Creator is with us even in the lowest place.
There is a verse in Tehillim, Psalms, that says, “When I elevate to the heavens, there You are, When I am in the lowest depths, there You are.” Those two parts of the verse are not separate teachings, but rather, are dependent on each other; it is telling us that a person can always elevate, even when he is in the darkest and lowest place, because even when he is there, the Light of the Creator shines just as brightly.
The Negative Side wants us to think that the Light of the Creator is with us only when we are feeling inspired or are elevated, and that when we make a mistake, have fallen, feel uninspired, or are in a dark place, the Light of the Creator does not shine as brightly. But the reality is – and this is an important understanding - the Light of the Creator does not care. Elevation and falling are all illusions that we experience; the Creator does not pay attention to elevation or falling, because the Light of the Creator exists completely in every one of those stages. Just as It does in the highest elevation, the Light of the Creator shines in the lowest state. But to know this is to know something that the Negative Side wants to hide from us.
And one of the most important purposes of a teacher, or even a friend or the environment we put ourselves in, is to remind us that even when we are in the lowest state, either physically or spiritually, the Light of the Creator is shining to us in Its most complete form, just as it does when we feel the most elevated, are seeing the miracles, and are having the clarity.
Therefore, if you want to know if you are in the right environment, if you want to know if your teacher is right for you, then when you are in a dark place, ask this question: is my teacher, my friend, or my environment awakening within me the consciousness that right now in this low and dark place, I have certainty the Light of the Creator is shining as completely as It ever does? Because as far as the Light of the Creator is concerned, there is no difference between when we are feeling inspired and elevated and when we are feeling low. The Light of the Creator shines everywhere. And it is an incredibly important purpose of a teacher, friend, and the environment we put ourselves in to awaken that consciousness in us.
Whatever gate we are in - the highest or the lowest – we need to have clarity and certainty that the Light of the Creator is shining there completely. It is important that we never lose this understanding. It is the secret of what King David is saying inPsalms; because we know with certainty that even in the lowest steps, the Light of the Creator is shining to us completely, we therefore can elevate to the highest states. It is one of the most important understandings of this portion: we need to have the clarity - which either comes from inside, or from a teacher, friend, or our environment - that the Light of the Creator never stops shining, even in the lowest place.