This week’s Parasha, Shoftim, begins with a discussion of the importance of justice, judges and their behavior.
The Torah states that Judges shall be appointed “b’chol sha’arecha” which the Eitz Chayim (and most chumashim) translates as “in all your cities or settlements.” Devarim 16:18. However, “b’chol sha’arecha” literally means that Judges should be appointed at “all of your gates.”
The commentators naturally go wild with this one.
Among the most beautiful understandings is the implicit message that while a community is obligated to appoint judges for what happens in the community, each of us is obligated to judge wisely what is entering the literal gates of our minds and bodies.
Just as judges stand at the sha’arey of a city, we are to be judicious about the gates of our bodies and souls: what our eyes see, our ears hear, our mouths speak, how we use our minds to judge situations and others, etc. You get the message. The role of judges in society is critical, but the way we govern ourselves is even more so.
There is also the concept that we will be judged by the Almighty the way that we judge others.
Our Sages teach us to be “Dan l’kaf zchut”, not to judge prematurely, to give each person the benefit of the doubt, and to judge each person favorably. We must assume that if we had been standing in such other person’s shoes, knowing what they know, experiencing what they experience and understanding what they understand, we might have acted similarly. Perhaps that other person is really doing the best they can or did the best they could. We must assume that we do not know all of the facts and therefore withhold judgment or judge favorably.
Rabbi Aaron Bergman likes to note and caution that we tend to judge ourselves by our intentions, but judge others by their actions. Think about that for a moment!
If pointed out to us, we excuse our own errors, faults, insensitivities, indifference and selfishness as completely inadvertent and unintended. Yet, we judge others to have acted with malice aforethought. We forgive ourselves, but have a hard time forgiving others. We ask for God’s mercy for ourselves, but strict justice for others.
If we want to be judged favorably, we must judge others as we wish to be judged or better yet, not judge at all and leave that to a higher power who may truly know all of the facts.
As we approach Rosh Hashanah we need to be mindful of being judged ourselves.
Rabbi Aaron Bergman leads our Shabbat Torah Study focused on a fascinating pasuk in Parashat Shoftim, that “…you shall not deviate from the word [of your duly recognized authority] that they will tell you, right or left.” Devarim 17:11. He calls his session, “Neither to the Right nor the Left. Jewish Views on Politics and Leadership.” You do not need me to explain the eternal relevance of those words of Torah today.
Please join us in the Shiffman Chapel at 9:45 a.m. Come as you are, stay as long as you like. We do not Judge. We just provide.
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