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Appointing Justice

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According to Jewish tradition, God created the world employing the attributes of both rachamim (mercy) and din (justice). Since God is constantly renewing the act of creation, it is with these two attributes that He views the world.

All of humankind is expected to strive for creating a just world. The judicial system is discussed numerous times in the Torah, and setting up a system of courts is expected not only of Jews, but is one of the Seven Noahide laws

as well. And although humankind cannot realize absolutely perfect justice as can God (He being omniscient), it is expected that we try.

In order for proper justice to prevail, the judge cannot be bribed, may not be swayed by the personal status of the litigants, and, of course, must be fully and competently versed in the law.

In fact, it is written in the Talmud that “Resh Lakish said: He who appoints an incompetent judge over the Community is as though he had planted an asherah (a tree “sacred” to idolators) in Israel, for it is written (Deuteronomy 16:18), ‘You shall appoint judges and officers over you,’ and immediately after it is written (Deuteronomy 16:19): ‘You will not plant for yourself an asherah of any kind of idolatrous tree’” (Sanhedrin 7b).

It seems odd to compare appointing an unqualified judge to setting up an idol! But both injustice and idolatry pervert the world as God expects it to be. And while it would be easy to blame such an appointment on carelessness or ignorance, one who can’t be bothered to properly vet the appointee, demonstrates a total disregard for truth and justice.

Copyright © 2011 National Jewish Outreach Program. All rights reserved.

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