Devarim 5769

Posted on March 23, 2011

by Joshua Seed

July 25, 2009/4 Menahem Av 5769

This week we begin reading the last of five books of the Torah with Parashat Devarim. One of the important messages presented within this parashah is the need for equality before the law.

The verse reads, “I commanded your magistrates at that time as follows, “Hear out your fellow men, and decide justly between any man and a fellow Israelite or a stranger. You shall not be partial in judgment: hear out great and small alike. Fear no man, for judgment is God’s” (Deuteronomy 1:16-17).

The words “Hear out great and small alike” can be understood in two ways. The Targum or Aramaic translation has its own explanation of the words. “You shall hearken to the words of the small as to those of the great,” that you should not say: This is a poor man and his opponent is rich and it is a mitzvah to support him. I will find in favor of the poor man, and he will consequently obtain some support in a respectable fashion.

Additionally, Rashi has his own explanation of the words. “How can I offend against the honor of this rich man because of one dinar? (a dinar was a unit of money). I will for the moment decide in his favor and when he goes outside [leaves the court], I will say to him, ‘Give it to him [the plaintiff] because in fact you owe it to him.’”

Rashi’s explanation is one that exemplifies Jewish law’s great concern for objective judgment in courts of law by saying that everyone is equal regardless of how much they earn, what they dress like or any other external factor. Do you think other nations were so strict? Why do you think Jewish law is so strict? Why is favoritism of any kind so bad? How would you apply this to our law and government today?

Did you know …
… that the purpose of the prayer Ein Keloheinu was to further a Jew’s opportunity to recite 100 blessings in one day? Each line would count as four blessings, for a total of 20.