20 Aug Rabbi Hillel Skolnik’s Torah Spark for Shoftim 5775
This Shabbat we read from Parashat Shoftim as Moshe hones in on the concept of justice within his final speech to the Israelites. Among the many instructions is that of “You shall not judge unfairly…you shall not take bribes” (Deut. 16:19, NJPS). One of the questions that the rabbis often ask about commandments listed in the Torah is why does this need to be included in the first place? The unfortunate answer in this case seems to be that there were judges at the time, perhaps not Israelite but certainly out there in the world, who were known to both judge unfairly and to take bribes. Even more disappointing is that such practices are still prevalent in our society today. To be sure, many judges are paradigms of virtue who judge fairly and with a steady hand, but even today, judges and their judgments are too often bought and paid for. While we may not sit in a court room with a gavel in our hands, we all act as judges from time to time, whether it be in our home, at our place of work, or simply out in the world. Let us all remember to emulate the judges who do it right – who judge fairly without the influence of outside forces on their minds so that we might also be judged fairly when our time comes.
Rabbi Hillel Skolnik