This week we read Parshat Shoftim. In the middle of the parsha, we are told of certain wartime procedures. When we are about to go out to war, we will be given an inspirational speech by the priest. “Before you engage in battle, the priest shall come forward and speak to the troops, and shall say to them: ‘Hear, O Israel! Today you are drawing near to do battle against your enemies. Do not lose heart, or be afraid, or panic/flee, or be in dread of them; for it is the Lord your God who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to give you victory’/ וְהָיָה כְּקָרָבְכֶם אֶל־הַמִּלְחָמָה וְנִגַּשׁ הַכֹּהֵן וְדִבֶּר אֶל־הָעָם׃ וְאָמַר אֲלֵהֶם שְׁמַע יִשְׂרָאֵל אַתֶּם קְרֵבִים הַיּוֹם לַמִּלְחָמָה עַל־אֹיְבֵיכֶם אַל־יֵרַךְ לְבַבְכֶם אַל־תִּירְאוּ וְאַל־תַּחְפְּזוּ וְאַל־תַּעַרְצוּ מִפְּנֵיהֶם׃ כִּי ה' אֱלֹקיכֶם הַהֹלֵךְ עִמָּכֶם לְהִלָּחֵם לָכֶם עִם־אֹיְבֵיכֶם לְהוֹשִׁיעַ אֶתְכֶם.”
Rashi explains through Rabbinic tradition what the priest is trying to tell us. He explains that we are not to be afraid of various tactics employed by the enemy that are used to scare us. Rashi notes that “do not panic/flee” refers to the trumpets or horns that the opposing armies would use to instill fear in our troops. These horns would call out to us, and we are told to ignore them, that their sound is meaningless. It is just a trick.
This past week we welcomed in the month of Elul, the month that precedes Rosh HaShana and Yom Kippur. Everyday this month we take up the Shofar and blast it. According to Maimonides, the sound of the Shofar is saying, “Wake up you sleepy ones from your sleep and you who slumber, arise. Inspect your deeds, repent, remember your Creator.” It is interesting that during this time of year we are using the Shofar to wake us up to the possibility of real change, while at the same time we are told that there are some noises that we simply need to ignore.
It is often difficult to distinguish between the two sounds. That is why the priest first implores us to listen. Shma Yisrael! The Sfas Emes teaches that following sin, the only way to fix it is specifically through listening. If we can shut out everything else, and focus on what we are hearing, we will able to ignore the sounds that tell us to run in the wrong direction and we will be able to hear the sounds that remind us of the correct path to travel down. This, of course, takes practice to develop a good ear. This is why we have all of Elul to attune our hearing to the sound of the Shofar. May we have a good month of hearing our spiritual alarm clock. And may our New Year begin with the sweet ringing of Torah in our ears.
 Deut. 20:2-4
 Shlomo Yitzchaki (Hebrew: רבי שלמה יצחקי; Latin: Salomon Isaacides; French: Salomon de Troyes, 22 February 1040 – 13 July 1105), today generally known by the acronym Rashi (Hebrew: רש"י, RAbbi SHlomo Itzhaki), was a medieval French rabbi and author of a comprehensive commentary on the Talmud and commentary on the Tanakh. Acclaimed for his ability to present the basic meaning of the text in a concise and lucid fashion, Rashi appeals to both learned scholars and beginner students, and his works remain a centerpiece of contemporary Jewish study.
 Except for the morning before Rosh HaShana
 Rabbi Moses ben Maimon (1135-1204) (Hebrew: מֹשֶׁה בֶּן־מַימוֹן Mōšeh bēn-Maymōn), commonly known as Maimonides), and also referred to by the acronym Rambam / (רמב״ם, for Rabbeinu Mōšeh bēn Maimon, "Our Rabbi Moses son of Maimon"), was a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. In his time, he was also a preeminent astronomer and physician.
 Laws of Repentance 3:4
 Yehudah Aryeh Leib Alter (Hebrew יהודה אריה ליב אלתר, 15 April 1847 – 11 January 1905), also known by the title of his main work, the Sfas Emes (Yiddish) or Sefat Emet שפת אמת (Hebrew), was a Hasidic rabbi who succeeded his grandfather, Rabbi Yitzchak Meir Alter, as the Av beis din (head of the rabbinical court) and Rav of Góra Kalwaria, Poland (known in Yiddish as the town of Ger), and succeeded Rabbi Chanokh Heynekh HaKohen Levin of Aleksander as Rebbe of the Gerrer Hasidim
 Sfas Emes 5:77
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.