This week's Torah reading, as its name (Shoftim--"Judges") suggests, instructs us regarding judges and justice. Like everything else in the Torah, however, these ideas are reflected within the human psyche and can be applied to each and every one of us.

The story is told that when the modern State of Israel was set up in 1948, there was a proposal to try to create a Sanhedrin, the court of Sages which decided Jewish law in ancient times. There was concern as to where they would find 70 individuals who were not susceptible to bribery and corruption.

"Don't worry", somebody noted, "for money you can find anything!"

Unfortunately, bribery and corruption are rife. The Torah warns us how bribery "blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous."

We do not need to look so far to find bribery within our own lives. The human intellect is a fine thing which can come up with very rational and logical deductions, based on sound reasoning. The problem is, the data for the intellectual process is fed through a very subjective filter, namely our senses and emotions. As such, we are very susceptible to temptation and to misleading impressions. The "evil inclination" (Yetzer Hora) is well aware of this and will attempt to bribe us into thinking a particular idea or course of action is good for us when in reality this may well not be the case.

All very well, you may ask, but how do we avoid such bribery? The Torah tells us, in the very first words of this week¹s Torah portion to "place judges and officers over your gates." A gate is something which allows us to control who or what passes through it. Our senses are also "gates" to ourselves — we have to be discerning in what passes through our eyes, ears, nose etc. to avoid being blinded by false impressions and ideas. By safeguarding our "gates" and controlling what we allow to enter through them, we are far less vulnerable to the false claims of the evil inclination.

As anyone who ever had an unwanted guest will attest, it is a lot harder to get rid of somebody once they have their foot in the door, let alone their entire being, than to shut them out before they have a chance to enter.

The story is told of a disciple who came to his Rabbi asking for advice on how to conquer his temptations. The Rabbi told him to go visit a certain student in a certain place.

Having reached the student's house, on the edge of the town, the disciple knocked on the door. He waited until late into the night yet there was still no answer. He ended up spending the night, freezing cold, on the doorstep. When morning came, the student finally let the person in.

The disciple explained that he had come to find out how to control his temptations. The student explained to him "you see how I kept you waiting all night? This is my house — I decide when you come in, not you...

"This is how to control your animal nature — make sure that whatever comes in, does so because you wanted to let it, rather than sneaking in on its terms."

The story may be a little harsh but the message is clear. Yes, Ethics of our Fathers tells us "Who is wise? One who learns from every person" but we still need to be discerning about what we will and will not take "on board." Something which accepts from everyone and anyone all around, is called a trash can — not something we particularly want to emulate!