Scratching. Squeaking. Crashing.

Those were the noises we were hearing last fall from our rooftop, on top of our bedroom. Little feet were scratching against the roof tiles, quickly scurrying across. Just as I would be falling into a deep sleep, I’d waken to the sound of crashing. The noise was incessant and began to seriously interfere with my sleep pattern. Were nocturnal animals taking shelter in my attic?

After some investigating, my husband and I discovered the culprit: squirrels. They had made a playful path across our roof. The crashing sound was the result of the nuts and acorns they were hoarding before the onset of winter.

Squirrels are a common sight in my backyard and neighborhood. From afar, these animals with their fluffy tails look cute and harmless. But once they get too close to your home, they become a real nuisance. Aside from the noise, squirrels can chew their way into attics to make a nest for their young. Worse, they gnaw on power chords, which can ruin your electrical system and potentially cause a fire.

Apparently, we had a real squirrel problem that we needed to deal with before our health and house became compromised.

It turns out that the squirrels were not actually living in our attic but just using our roof space as their playground, reaching it from nearby trees. After cutting off some branches, we waited to see if the problem would be solved. That was the first night in many that I finally fell into a deep and uninterrupted sleep.

Shoftim, means judges, and it opens with the command to “appoint judges in all your city gates.” These words teach us that we need to appoint judges and law-enforcement officials to ensure a just and civil society.

But these words also hint to trespassers of a different kind.

Siftei Kohen elaborates: “The human body is a city with seven gates—seven portals to the outside world: the two eyes, two ears, two nostrils, and the mouth. Here, too, it is incumbent upon us to place internal ‘judges’ to discriminate and regulate what should be admitted and what should be kept out, and ‘officers’ to enforce the judges’ decisions . . . ”

The gates to access our soul are our eyes and ears and mouths. We need to supervise closely what we allow to gain entry into our home and environment. We need to fill our minds with meaningful, uplifting thoughts by making sure we block out ideas and practices that compromise our spiritual welfare.

Some behaviors, mannerisms, and lifestyles may seem appealing from afar, but aren’t conducive to our emotional, intellectual, or spiritual growth. These are better left outdoors, barred from entering our inner sanctums.

As it turns out, even squirrels aren’t innocuous after all.