A Judge-y Parsha!

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A WEEKLY TORAH THOUGHT FROM RABBI MORDY

This week’s Parsha, Shoftim, which literally means “Judges,” contains many laws relating to, you may have guessed, judges or judgments. One well known verse found in the Parsha is “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof, ” which translates to mean “Justice, Justice, you shall pursue.” In teaching the laws of judges and justice there is a lesson for of us (after all, being judgmental is something that almost all of us need to work on). There is one specific command about judges not taking bribes. Duh. You’d think that rule #1 of being a judge is to not take a bribe. However, this clarification teaches us something deeper, something we all can appreciate: We need to be completely objective in how we treat others and, particularly, when we give advice. Someone asks you something and often your first reaction is to give them advice that also, perhaps, impacts you. It may be sound advice for this person but we must acknowledge to ourselves that we are not completely objective. There is a Talmudic story told about a judge who was entering the court and the door was held for him by a fellow who turned out to be the subject of his next case. The judge recused himself, knowing he could not look at this case objectively because of his warm feelings for the simple kindness extended towards him. A bit extreme? Maybe. But the lesson for us is obvious. We must recognize our own biases with regard to judging others. before we judge others. How often do we pass a ruling on a story—in the news, about someone we know, or anywhere else—with our preconceived notions. “Oh, I never trusted him,” or “I’ve known her for years and she would never do that.” Yes, sometimes the facts are what they are but, very often, “the case is closed” on a person due to opinions of who the person is or what the circumstances are. We need to realize that this law against taking bribes applies to all of us because we can all be “bribed” by our own self-interest, opinions, etc. We should strive to judge others favorably, mindful that our own perspective is not truly objective. Good Shabbos!

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