Friday, September 5, 2008

Justice Twined with Humility

I figured that since it is my birthday parshah, I had better say a few words. No more excuses!

As evidenced by its name, Parshah Shoftim details the judicial infrastructure: the three levels of courts, kingship, ariyeh miklot, sorcery/witchcraft, warfare, and the eglah arufah. Moreover, each of these concepts concern defining justice in relation to compassion. That is, whereas one's natural inclination may be to spare an individual, ultimately true justice and mercy dictate that one should destroy the evil that the individual represents, so that the common good can prevail.

Interestingly, the key to creating and maintaining the judicial infrastructure al pi halacha is humility. Both judges and kings must be tzaddikim who fear only Hashem and His laws, else the temptation to veer from halacha could result, thereby leading the way for spiritual and physical downfall/destruction. We consequently see how justice requires the judges to ensure easy passage to ariyeh miklot by maintaining the roads and signage thereto, and implies their guilt if a solitary passenger falls near their given city. The implication, in other words, is that the leadership of the nation sets the spiritual tone of the nation, and forgetting even momentarily that the leadership is responsible for its members can result in an omission that can result in bloodshed.

Last week, we learned that the wayward city must be burned to the ground and its inhabitants slain. The purpose for this destruction is to atone for having been complacent when increasing numbers of inhabitants were turning to prohibited practices. Because we failed, chasve shalom, to do kiruv, to speak up against those practices, the inhabitants sinned. Our omission therefore lead to an entire city being destroyed. Similarly we learn this week how the leaders of Klal Yisroel are instructed remain humble in order to be perennially vigilant against deviating from the Torah and Hashem's delineation of justice.

Justice must always be tempered then by humility, not vanity, ego, or other by-products of the yatzer hara. It is only by intertwining humility with leadership that true justice can prevail.

Good Shabbos!

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