Back to Main Page

And Justice for All

By: Mrs Malka Hubscher

This week we begin the last book of the Torah, Sefer Devarim. It is known as Moshe’s farewell speech to his beloved people. He reminisces, rebukes and warns the people of the challenges that lie ahead in the land of Israel.

In the beginning of the Parsha, Moshe reflects back to the start of their journey as a nation in the wilderness. Moshe felt overwhelmed and burdened with the responsibility of leading and judging a large nation on his own. As so, with the guidance of Hashem, Moshe appoints judges and creates a well-organized judicial system. Moshe identifies leaders of outstanding character and exceptional brilliance and they are charged with the mission of assisting Moshe in maintaining justice and order amongst the people.

Moshe describes the “pep talk” he had with the newly appointed judges (Devarim 1 16-18):

“And I charged your judges at that time, saying: 'Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between a man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him. 17 Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; ye shall hear the small and the great alike; ye shall not be afraid of the face of any man; for the judgment is God's; and the cause that is too hard for you ye shall bring unto me, and I will hear it.' 18 And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do.”

In Moshe’s training of the judges he reminds them of the importance of honesty, impartiality and humility.

The last pasuk of the section (18) is both vague and very general. Who is Moshe speaking to, the people or the judges? And what exactly is included in “all the things which you should do”? Rashi, quoting the Midrash Halacha, suggests that this pasuk is directed towards the judges teaching them the ten things that distinguish monetary cases from capital cases.

It is interesting that Moshe in his reflection of the events of the past thirty nine years chooses to begin his speech detailing the appointment and instructions to the judges. This is really only relevant to a very small percentage of the population. Perhaps, Moshe had a very specific lesson he was trying to impart to the people. The last pasuk: “And I commanded you at that time all the things which ye should do”, may be directed specifically at the people (not the judges like Rashi’s opionion) telling them that they, too, must learn the rules that apply to the judges. While the average Jew is not a formal judge in a court of law, the messages that Moshe told the newly appointed dayanim, are very same ones that every Jew must internalize in their everyday life.

 “Hear the causes between your brethren” - We must learn to actually listen to each other. Pay attention to the details and the words that people share.

“…and judge righteously between a man and his brother“ - We must learn not to jump to conclusions, and investigate each and every situations fully and carefully.

“Ye shall hear the small and the great alike” - We must give respect to the young and old. We must honor the poor and simple with the same respect that we treat the wealthy and influential people.

“…for the judgment is God's” - And finally, we must live our lives with yirat shamayim, striving always towards honesty and authenticity.

So while Moshe was recalling the historical event of appointing a judicial system, he was in essence teaching all the people that the qualities which exemplify a judge and leader are the very same qualities that every Jew should strive to achieve. It is with these very attributes that the people will be able to create an honest and just society as they enter into Eretz Yisrael.

Shabbat Shalom




Back to top