I once heard a story of the late Rabbi Aaron Lichtenstein that demonstrated how far he would go to uphold his principles. He believed very much in the idea that a person should constantly act with “yashrus” (honesty, lit.-straight). One must be honest at all times. You are either honest or you are not. Apparently, he took this principle to the extreme even when it came to basketball, calling out a student who was “cherry picking” for not exhibiting “yashrus”. Even if you have the right to do it, it was not the right thing to do.
In this week’s Parsha, Parshat Ki Teitzei, we are given more mitzvot than in any other parsha. 74 of the 613 come in this week’s Torah reading. One of those, is the mitzvah to add a parapet/ma’akeh to the roof of a new house. We are commanded, “When you build a new house, you shall make a parapet for your roof, so that you should not bring blood on your house if anyone falls from it/.כי תבנה בית חדש ועשית מעקה לגגך ולא תשים דמים בביתך כי יפול הנופל ממנו”
The Chernobyler Rebbe teaches that just as the roof is essential to a house, given that it protects what is under it, so too, the mind is essential to us, and protects what is under it (i.e.-the body). Through the mind, one can become centered. We cannot always control what happens to us, but we can control how we react. As we continue through this month of Elul, marching towards Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, it is upon us to reflect on the past year. In doing a personal and spiritual audit, it is quite possible that we are reminded of things that have happened to us or that are still happening to us that bring us down. It is easy to be defensive and protect ourselves by any means necessary. Maybe we have repaid slights to us with our own lashes of the tongue. This mitzvah is the Torah’s way of teaching us to not stoop to lower levels even if we could. If we are careful to make sure that we do not descend from our holy level, and remember that God is with us all the time, hopefully it will be easier to accept what comes our way.
The ma’akeh is a reminder that we should take the high ground and stay there. This is not easy. I certainly have a hard time letting some things go and occasionally have an impulse to use every tool in my tool kit to make things even. This week, we pray to remain close to Hashem. We pray that we might receive divine help to remain our best selves, even when it is tempting not to be. If we keep our minds straight, then our actions will follow. Our yashrus will bring holiness to everything around us, knocking down obstacles and raising up those in need.
 Staying on the offensive end of the court while his team so was playing defense so when his team regained possession, they could pass to him for an easy basket.
 Deut. 22:8
 Rabbi Menachem Nochum Twersky of Chernobyl (born 1730, Norynsk, Volhynia - died 1787, Chernobyl, Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth) was the founder of the Chernobyl Hasidic dynasty. He was a disciple of the Baal Shem Tov and the Maggid of Mezritch, and published one of the first works of Hasidic thought.
 Me’or Einayim, Parshat Ki Teitzei
Rabbi Ezra Balser has been the rabbi at Temple Beth Sholom since July 1, 2016. He received his “smicha” (ordination) in June 2017 from Hebrew College while also earning a Master’s Degree in Jewish Studies. He has also received the iCenter's Certification in Israel Education.