18 Aug Rabbi Hillel Skolnik’s Torah Spark for Parashat Shof’tim 5777
This Shabbat we read from Parashat Shoftim, one which is appropriately named since shoftim means “judges” and this parasha contains many laws about the appropriate ways of judging other people. One such rule is that in order for a person to be convicted of a crime, there must be at least two witnesses. No matter the severity of the crime, be it murder or theft, if only one witness can be found then the accused cannot be convicted. Additionally, as we learn in the Talmud, the testimony of the witnesses must be virtually identical so that the judges may be sure that a conviction is a correct one. In reality, the process of convicting someone is an arduous one with the burden squarely on the shoulders of the accuser. What we learn from this is that we must be extraordinarily careful to reserve judgment until all sides have been properly heard. Too often in our society do we assume a person is guilty simply because they have been accused of a crime. While of course they often are, and from time to time the guilty do walk free, we must continue to be extremely careful that an innocent person is never punished for a crime they did not commit.
Rabbi Hillel Skolnik