I recently experienced an “Aha” moment at the airport. Having just returned from overseas, I passed through yet another metal detector. And then, it happened! I set off an alarm and was politely escorted aside. After a thorough but discreet body scan, I was good to go. But this brief inconvenience taught me a lasting lesson.

This week’s Torah portion speaks of establishing judicial systems throughout the Land of Israel: “Judges and officers you should appoint for yourself in all of your gates.”1 These judges must be knowledgeable of the Torah’s laws and live by them.

My “aha” moment related to another aspect of this verse, pertaining to personal and spiritual growth. We each possess “entry points” through which impressions of the world around us are received. Our eyes and ears take in continuous stimuli and information. Things enter and exit through the mouth.

We can learn a lesson from airport security. While TSA is concerned with threats of physical harm, we must also be vigilant regarding threats to our spiritual safety. Most of us safeguard our computers from contracting harmful viruses, but are we as concerned about our own spiritual contamination? We’re charged to be the soul’s “gatekeepers.” What does this mean?

In addition to setting up justice systems, “Judges and officers you should appoint for yourself in all of your gates”2 teaches us that we are responsible for ensuring that only positive and kosher influences enter our bodies.

Every county has police to patrol and protect its cities. Likewise, every person is like a small city to him/herself. The Tanya refers to the body as a “small city.”3 Our thoughts, speech and actions serve as outlets and means of expression for the soul. They are the soul’s “garments.” What we think about, where we place our focus in life, and from where we derive pleasure affect who we are and who we are becoming.

Directing one’s focus to spiritual matters refines the soul, allowing it to be aligned with the Divine. The opposite is true with exposure to course, vulgar stimuli. In time, one’s perceptions become desensitized. Allowing your eyes and ears exposure to that which diminishes spiritually is self-sabotaging.

Just imagine what your soul may be trying to tell you. Perhaps, this could be its message:

Hello (your name). This is your soul. I’ve been trying to get in touch with you, but you haven’t responded to my messages. Yes, I realize how busy you are, so this won’t take long. But please shut off your phone, so it’s just you and me. Thanks.

Basically, you’re a good person. You haven’t murdered anyone or stolen anything. But is that enough of a reason to be proud of yourself? We’ve got what it takes to accomplish more. Let’s work together, as a team. Of course, we must involve our eyes, ears and mouth equally in this team initiative. We need to communicate throughout the day to coordinate our group efforts. I’ll be sending you daily briefings, but you need to stay in touch with me, as well.

By the way, it’s come to my attention that your mouth isn’t feeling valued. You’ve been using it to gossip about others. Don’t make excuses; just come clean and take responsibility. Now you know why I’ve been trying to reach you. We both realize that you’re much better than this. Use your gifts positively for better quality communication.

Once again, this is your soul calling you. Please get in touch with me.

That airport experience was an eye-opener. It helped me appreciate the importance of checkpoints and the need to create my own “gatekeepers.” Now I’m trying to be mindful that my eyes, ears and speech are the means through which my soul and I interact with the world. The more that I internalize this realization, the greater my desire to be part of the team effort to protect my own “small city.”

Making It Relevant

  1. Keep in contact with your soul and make the effort to internalize its messages.
  2. Pick a set hour of the day during which you concentrate on making sure not to speak or listen to gossip or negative comments about another person. Once you have mastered this, add another hour. Continue adding time to this “no negative speech” period.
  3. Listen attentively to words of Torah and wisdom, but close your ears to gossip and negative, harmful speech.
  4. Use your sight to admire the beauty in the world and not to envy others’ “stuff.”
  5. Train yourself to speak kind, encouraging and constructive words.