Shabbat Shoftim 5779

If you are connected to Floridians on social media, you probably witnessed their emotional rollercoaster over the past week. As forecasts for Hurricane Dorian projected catastrophic wind and rain for the heavily-populated coast, several of my relatives and friends prepared for the worst. They shopped for supplies, arranged for shutters to protect their homes, and nervously shared updates of the slow-moving, threatening storm. 
Then, the path of the storm slowly shifted, and Florida residents seemed annoyed that they had spent all this money on securing their homes for nothing, and now they had all this bottled water and what could you ever do with so much water! The more sarcastic among my Facebook friends ruminated that maybe the Weather Channel was in cohoots with Publix and Home Depot to create an entire class of panicked shoppers. Meanwhile, residents of the Bahamas didn’t have a chance to complain about false alarms, as we have seen from the images of their devastated islands.
In this week’s Torah portion, Shoftim, we are instructed what to do when a legal case is too baffling for local authorities to decide. In such a situation, the Israelites are told to go to either the levitical priests or the magistrates in charge at the time, and then accept their rulings as binding. The Torah’s term for such a ‘baffling’ case is interesting: “Ki yipalei mimekha davar.” Yipalei comes from the word that often means “wondrous.” 
Even the best meteorologists would admit that weather patterns can be both wondrous and baffling. Given that reality, what lessons might we all learn from the saga of Dorian? I’ll share a few thoughts on Shabbat morning.
Wishing you a Shabbat Shalom,
Rabbi David Wise