This week’s parsha-post is in the merit for a blessing for Chaya Liana Esther bas Mazal.
This week, for the second week in a row, we have a double parsha! This week we delve into the Torah portion of Acahrei-Kedoshim!
The first parsha of this week’s reading, is Acharei-Mot, in which the Torah transmits to us the order of the Yom Kippur service in the Mishkan (Tabernacle), and later, the Bais haMikdash; the consequences for one who shechts (ritually slaughters) an animal for a korban off of the Mishkan’s holy premises; and the mitzvah to distinguish our lifestyles from those of the nations surrounding us, especially with laws pertaining to how we must guard our personal holiness, and prohibitions for inappropriate intimacies.
Kedoshim is very dense with a variety of mitzvos, from sprinklings of the Aseret haDibrot, and strict rules governing the conduct of a judge, to leaving grain in your field for the poor to collect, and many civil and interpersonal laws, to commandments against unkosher foods and sorcery, to highlight a few!
Right now, we’ll explore a mitzvah-rich pasuk found in Kedoshim:
“Lo ta’asu avel bamishpat lo-tisah p’nai-dal v’lo tehdar p’nai gadol b’tzedek tishpat amitecha – You shall not render an unfair judgement: Do not favor the poor or show deference to the rich; judge your fellow with righteousness.” (Vayikra 19:15)
The Ralbag teaches: Lo ta’asu avel b’mishpat – you shall not render an unfair judgement:
There are two different ways to pervert justice:
~1.) When the judges pass a judgement, in which a litigant is judged improperly (ie: incorrectly or unfairly). (The reason for this is rather obvious…)
~2.) When the judges don’t really complete their case, but instead drag it out for too long. (It is crucial that the case be carried out in a timely fashion.)
Both types of complications are usually intentionally created by the judge himself, for he might base his decisions on his personal opinions and feelings. For example (Rashi actually explains the following idea), a merciful judgement for the impoverished man, just because he’s poor, or similarly, absolve all the guilt of a wealthy man, for fear of embarrassing him despite his social prominence. As the pasuk stresses: “Lo tisah p’nai-dal v’lo tehdar p’nei gadol – You should not favor the poor, or show deference to the rich.”
When a case is unnecessarily dragged out, the chance for playing around, and developing incorrect conclusions, dangerously grows. This is a step closer to perverting the judgement.
A judge must maintain his impartiality, as Yehudah ben Tabbai, in Pirkei Avos 1:8 teaches: “When the litigants stand before you, consider them both as ‘guilty’, and when they leave from your presence, consider them both as innocent, provided that they’ve accepted the judgement.” He also teaches us ‘that we shouldn’t act as lawyers’– meaning, we mustn’t, when playing judge, simultaneously advocate for a litigant (and prosecute the other).
The Ralbag continues (and I paraphrase):
When the injustice is committed to mar the chances of a favorable judgement for one litigant, in favor of the other, the judge has transgressed the deorayisa (right from the Torah) mitzvah, a grave transgression.
There are times in all of our lives, that we may play as judge. We don’t need to be presiding over a large civil council with a group of witnesses, or a Beis Din determining complicated halachic matters. We may be trying to solve an argument between younger siblings, or help make peace with two feuding friends. You might even be watching a stranger, and judging their actions in your mind. In any case, these laws can apply to you too, but perhaps in slightly different ways…
It is a critical lesson, to be objective, when trying to break up fights or establish peace. Everyone has their own reasons and justifications for doing what they do, but you have to bring them to awareness of what’s truly right.
Every person is precious, even when their integrity has been put to the test. We have to remind ourselves that each person has a unique mind, unique traits, and a unique neshama, even when we’re playing judge. We must find the beauty in each person. It is important, during the argument, to create a sense of unity. The unity will enforce the sense of equality needed to work out the problem.
We have to realize that every person must be treated equally, regardless of their social standing, or if everyone thinks the person is the ‘good guy’ or ‘bad guy’, for everyone is in charge of their precious mind and soul. Everyone has free choice, and must use it wisely, and is responsible for their actions.
Teach them what’s right, but don’t forget to give benefit of the doubt, as the third part of the pasuk goes: “B’tzedek tishpat amitecha – With righteousness shall you judge your fellow.”
We must follow the laws and instruction the Torah sets down for us, for it provides the clarity and wisdom we need to make decisions or determine the validity of others’ actions. With these valuable tools and knowledge, we’ll have the correct mentality for a judge, that Hashem desires.
It’s up to every single one of us to increase the justice in the world, for it is one of the 3 pillars that supports our world, as Pirkei Avos also explains, along with truth and peace. We have the power to communicate, teach, and enact what’s just and true in our chaotic world, and inspire others to do the same.
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbos, filled with light and peace, and prayers for a world of fairness,
The Messenger Bird