This Shabbat begins with the start of a new month, Eloul.
Eloul is a month in which we are encouraged to take a heshbon nefesh, an accounting of our souls. We must look inward and become self-critical of ourselves and the year that has passed.
Are we growing in Torah and misvot?
Are we attending classes?
Is our religiosity greater or less than this time last year?
Parashat Shofetim gives us one definition of blessing in life that helps us evaluate where we have come from and where we are going.
This description of a life well-lived, ironically, comes at a point in the parashah which delineates the protocol in a state of war. The Torah tells us that the Kohen must approach the soldiers and allay their fears. He must give them confidence that Hashem will help them in battle. In addition, the Kohen is to say:
"Moreover, the officers are to say to the people. Who among you has built a new house and not dedicated it? He should return home, lest he die in battle and someone else dedicate it. And who among you has planted a vineyard and not benefited from it? He should go home, lest he die in battle and another benefit from it. And who among you has become engaged to a woman but has not married her? He should return home, lest he die in battle and another marry her."
Why does the Torah choose these three aspects as the definition of a blessed life?
Each of these facets has the concept of qiddushin – sanctification- specifically, the sanctification of place, time, and people respectively. To build one's home is to sanctify a place. Second, our passage speaks of harvesting one's vineyard. We use wine to mark every sacred day with Qiddush. Finally, the Torah alludes to the act of qiddushin, between two individuals. For it is through this act that two individuals stand under a huppah (the symbol of the home they will build together) and declare their uniqueness to each other. The potential for Godliness endows the moment as the couple thinks of promises that the future holds for them in building a family together.
The Torah's primary concern is that of realization and completion. Acts of holiness and sanctification are to be completed. The Torah encourages us (before risking our lives on behalf of others) that if we have begun any of these acts of qiddushin, we must endeavor to complete them. We must choose a life that is endowed with a recognition of holiness in all that we do. Let us remember this as we accept a month of inner-exploration and teshouba.