What I gained from jury duty

I had jury duty a few weeks ago. While I’m all for doing my part to help our country’s legal system, I also figured it would be a good time to make some progress in a few things that I have been learning. As I was trying to decide what reading material to take with me I ended up with really two choices: Rambam’s Hilchos Teshuva or the second volume of Bilvavi Mishkan Evneh. I was already on the 6th chapter of Hilchos Teshuva (I usually start learning it a few days before Elul, and sadly, in 12 years I have only finished it 3 times) and was on the 3rd chapter of the Bilvavi.

As I was past the half-way mark with Hilchos Teshuva I opted to bring that sefer. Arriving in the jury room and 9:30 am and remaining there until past 4:00pm (no, I wasn’t picked to be a juror) gave me ample time to really jump into the Rambam in a way that was much more fullfilling than my past attempts. The time also allowed me to look around at my fellow civic-minded citizens of Chicago and see what they were doing.

Many were reading, watching movies on laptops or their smartphones, listening to music, taking naps, and taking naps. One “youth minister” seated close to me was working Sunday school lesson plans. He actually asked me about “Joseph’s relationship with his brothers”. All the while, the words of a very wise and close friend of mine, echoed in my mind, “How we use our free time really defines the type of person that we are”.

I was very glad that I had chosen to attempt to learn. That gladness was supercharged when I read the following from the 10th chapter (halacha 2) of Hilchos Teshuva:

Anyone who serves out of love and occupies himself with Torah and mitzvot and follows the ways of wisdom should not do so for any earthly reason[s] or out of fear of the curses or to receive the blessings, but should fulfil the truth because it is the truth. Out of this he will receive goodness. This level is a very high one, and not every wise person attains it. This is the level of Abraham the Patriarch, whom God called His `friend’, for the reason that he served God solely out of love. This is a level which God commanded, via Moses, us [to attain], as it is written, “And you shall love the Lord your God”. Once a person loves God appropriately, he will fulfil the commandments out of love.

While probably obvious to most, I was amazingly joyful to read the words of the Rambam.  As I had almost reached the intersection between Cheshbon HaNefesh and “will my Teshuva be enough this year”, I found was reminded by the words of the Rambam something that I had forgotten along the way.  Advodas Hashem m’Ahava is really the best path to take.  As I reflect on this, it makes perfect sense.  I know that I’m more touched when my own children listen and do what is expected of them because they love me, instead of because they fear what might happen to them if they don’t.  Again, it’s a simple thought, but one that I needed to be reminded of.

As I go into the Yom HaDin, I’ll attempt to put a lot more Ahava into my Avodah! 

Kesiva v’chasima tova!

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