Parsha Shoftim 5770: Israeli Governance: Justice in Judgement, or Subversion of Righteousness?

by Moshe Burt

The third posuk of our Parsha reads;

“Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof…” Righteousness, righteousness (also rendered Justice, Justice) you shall pursue that you may live and inherit the land which the Lord, your G’d gives you.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 16, posuk 20)

This posuk follows immediately after the opening of our Parsha in which Moshe Rabbeinu urges the B’nai Yisrael;

“Judges and officers shall you appoint in all of your cities — which Hashem …gives you — for your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgement. You shall not pervert judgement, you shall not respect persons, neither take a bribe, for a bribe binds the eyes of the wise, and perverts the words of the righteous.” (Sefer Devarim, Perek 16, p’sukim 18-19)

Rabbi Artscroll (The Stone Chumash, Parsha Shoftim, page 1024) cites a Rashi which indicates that the posuk emphasizes that judges must be appointed who qualified and righteous “so that they will judge honestly and correctly. Take notice of the loshen, of the phrase, “you shall not respect persons” — letting a person’s status, position or appearance affect judgement.

Doesn’t all of this just sound like Medinat Yisrael’s police force, civil law and justice system, as well as the “righteousness” of the Rabbanut? In all probability, rightly-aggreived parties who have dealt with and have suffered with, and at the hands of the above, would definitely NOT answer yes.

Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, in his Sefer “Torah Gems” notes:

“Justice alone is not enough, because there are many types of justice, just as there are many kinds of truth. Every regime has it’s own justice. The Torah therefore stresses ‘Justice, justice you shall pursue…’, namely the justice of justice, where both the means and the end are just.” (Torah Gems, Aharon Yaakov Greenberg, Volume 3, Parsha Shoftim page 257)

But, the Saperstein Edition of Chumash with Rashi’s commentary provides a jaw-dropping citing from Sifrei 144 and Sanhedrin 32b on the 3rd posuk of our parsha — “Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof…”:

“Shall you pursue” rather than “shall you judge” indicates that the verse is addressed to litigants, rather than the judges. Although they [litigants] may take their case to any competent court, they should make an effort to take it to a court which has the most learned and righteous judges. (Sefer Zikaron, Mesiach Ilmim, Gur Aryeh)

Perhaps this citing relates to today’s reality in litigating monetary matters before a Beit Din. An aggreived party takes another party to a Beit Din which he deems as most learned and righteous. But the party being sued in Beit Din says upon receipt of summons, “I’m not coming to your Beit Din, you come to mine.” By stating this, is the other party truly interested in acquiring judgement via the most learned and righteous judges? Or is his aim to bring the litigation to a Beit Din which he deems as apt rule his way? Is his aim to get off scot-free by virtue of influence, protexia, etc.? Again, does the reality of kavanah (intent) in litigation before a Beit Din bear any relationship what appears as the Divine concept expressed in the Rashi citing?

And maybe, at this time in Medinat Yisrael, we have to add emphasis to that term “officers.” For we see how the officers — Israel’s “Finest(sic)”, those who are charged with implementation and enforcement of “law”, i.e. apprehending wrong-doers, as well as the “Judges” of “law” who repeatedly pervert, subvert and bend the “law” through selective enforcement, selective apprehension, selective judgement — “justice” according to agenda. Such “justice” suits the needs of a regime under the control of a handful; the agendized elitists who dominate the ministerial bureaucracies, the universities, the print and electronic media and where the financial wealth of the nation is concentrated. These socialist, leftist agendized elite have their tenacles in every Israeli governmental, educational, media and economic institution — Top, bottom,
“upside down… inside out and round and round.”
And so these “officers” indoctrinate, brainwash and intimidate against both Torah and the spirit of Jewish justice.

Regarding the current generation of “judges and officers”, this author harkens back to the story conveyed in Parshat Pinchas about the unscrupulous “religious” lawyer who began by helping an oleh chadash to squash credit card company harrassment of an aged parent. This “help” evolved into the “frum” lawyer allegedly duping the oleh with a phony story of a “money-making idea”. And because the oleh believed in the lawyer’s veracity and failed to do due diligence; and because his case was heard before a judge who ignored the facts of the case and ruled merely on the basis that “America alway’s gets its man”, he (the oleh) now faces the strong possibility of extradition as his case goes for appeal to Israel’s “Supreme Court.”

And so, as this author asked back in Parshat Pinchas; how does a Jew defraud another Jew while passing himself off as religious? And what have national or local religious leadership done to facilitate standards as to how one Jew treats another bein adom l’chaveiro regarding the above-cited case, or regarding local racketeering, corruption, fraud, forgery, domestic contentiousness and abuse?

This author thinks a point of last week’s Parsha Re’eh; the subverted or seduced city (Ir HaNidachas), which serves as the basis for the final Mishne of Perek Cheilik of Gemora Tractate Sanhedrin, has a direct connection to the absense of “Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof…”; Righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue that you may live and inherit the land. That connection is between subversion of the governed and the application of judgement based on subverted law, rather than Torah law. In a post 2 1/2 years ago, this author pointed out;

The bottom-line; An honest, morally clean, straight-forward, self-respecting Jewish government would not maneuver itself into being controlled by the nations and would look after their national legacy. Instead, Israel’s corrupt and immoral leaders subject and subordinate themselves and the nation to the follies of others at our collective, dire peril. Thus, while the penalties of the subverted city don’t apply, it seems obvious that charges of treason may.

And at lower, local, communal levels, we tend toward litigiousness, often without “Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof…” Just look at the other guy cross-eyed and end up knee-jerk either before a Beis Din or in civil court, very often with someone’s reputation, good name, ability to earn a parnossa of any kind and other unforeseen consequences on the line. Often such litigation lacks conclusive evidence as well as forethought as to consequences for the other guy’s welfare and the implications for entire communities even should an accusation be proven false and the accusee vindicated. Such a cavalier attitude with someone else on the line seems revealing of the capsular Gush Katif — me first and my door and my protexia at all costs. The other guy is secondary.

It all runs counter to the overriding more’ which “Tzedek, Tzedek tierdof…” which seems meant to exemplify a spirit of “V’ahavtah, L’rei’echa Kamocha” — Want for your brother as you would want for yourself.

And so, are we as a collective, somehow, in some way unknowingly, subconsciously complicit in the apparent mida keneged mida of how the Lebanon conflict or Operation Cast Lead were conducted and turned out, or in how things have so severely degraded since these conflicts? And are we similarly unknowingly, subconsciously complicit in the terror rocket and mortar attacks upon Sderot, Ashkelon, etc. as a consequence of what we didn’t do to fight against the government’s expulsion of Jews from Gush Katif and the Shomron towns?

Perhaps justice and righteousness in judgement starts with us and with what we abide by or don’t abide by. Do we have strength of sufficient collective self-pride, self-esteem, principles, moral integrity and belief and trust in Hashem to wage a stubbornly righteous and tireless campaign for justice, righteousness in the state’s civil courts, the Rabbanut, Batei Dinim, between Jews and even regarding communal Rabbinic leadersahip? Do we have the solid personal conviction to go the extra mile, or miles for one’s brethren; for Am Yehudi and for Eretz Yisrael as one would for one’s self?

May we, the B’nai Yisrael be zocha that our brethren — the refugee families from Gush Katif be permanently settled and be made totally whole, that our dear brother Jonathan Pollard, captive Gilad Shalit and the other MIAs be liberated alive and returned to us in ways befitting Al Kiddush Hashem. May we have the courage to prevent the possibility of Chas V’Challila any future eviction of Jews from their homes and the handing of Jewish land over to enemies sworn to Israel’s and Judaism’s destruction and eradication. May we fulfill Hashem’s blueprint of B’nai Yisrael as a Unique people — an Am Segula, not to be reckoned with as with “the nations” and may we be zocha to see the Moshiach, the Ge’ula Shlaima, as Dov Shurin sings; “Ki Karov Yom Hashem V’Kol HaGoyim”, the Ultimate Redemption, bim hay v’yameinu — speedily, in our time”, — Achshav, Chik Chuk, Miyad, Etmol!!!

Good Shabbos!

Moshe Burt is an Oleh, writer and commentator on news and events in Eretz Yisrael. He is the founder and director ofThe Sefer Torah Recycling Network and lives in Ramat Beit Shemesh.