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True Justice - In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z'L)
Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law, witnesses Moses judging the entire people and tells Moses, “This thing you’re doing is not good.  You will become worn out . . . You cannot do it alone . . . You must see among the nation men of valor, who fear G-d, men of truth, who hate money . . . and they will judge the nation . . . And Moses heard the voice of his father-in-law and did all that he said.” (Exodus: 17-24)

So, the Torah provides four characteristics of the ideal judge – A man of valor, which Rashi (Exodus 17:21; 1040-1105) explains is a man of wealth who won’t feel any need to give special regard to any party. Someone who fears G-d and will do his absolute best to render correct judgment to avoid divine retribution. A man of truth, i.e. someone with a trustworthy reputation so the people will accept his judgment. And someone who hates money?

That last qualification not only seems unnecessary but in conflict with Jewish values. We don’t “love” money and we certainly don’t worship it but there’s no tradition of hating money. On the contrary, many of our forefathers, from Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Joseph to the Generation of the Wilderness, were blessed, not cursed, with wealth.

Furthermore, once you have already selected men who are wealthy, trustworthy, and fear G-d, isn’t it obvious they wouldn’t subvert justice for financial gain?

Why look for someone who hates money?

Let’s take the following example.

A judge of great wealth and sterling reputation has gambled his entire fortune on a single venture that is about to be completed. Before him are two parties, neither of whom are involved in the deal. One of the parties secretly tells the judge he has a connection in the government who can stop the deal and cause its collapse.

Now, this is a relatively small case and, if the deal collapses, it will not only mean the judge’s livelihood but possibly hundreds of other families as well who will lose their jobs.

So, the judge considers simply ruling in the guilty party’s favor and then compensating the aggrieved party. But the judge can’t do that because then he would be guilty of rendering a false judgment. The judgment could be appealed but that wouldn’t cover any of the litigant’s losses during the interim. (See Sifsei Chachmim with a similar scenario; Exodus 17:21; A compilation of a super commentary on Rashi; Rabbi Shabsi ben Yosef, Amsterdam; 1645 – 1718))

In order for the judgment to be corrected and for the aggrieved party to not suffer any additional losses, the judge would have to be sued. But a judge who was appointed unanimously by Israel (as these were) cannot be sued for improper judgment unless it was shown he acted deliberately. (Shulchan Aruch: Choshen Mishpat 25: 1-2; Rabbi Yosef Karo, Safed, Israel; 1488-1575) He’d be disgraced!

Ah, but by then the deal would have been completed, everyone’s jobs would be saved, the proper judgment would be known to everyone, and nobody would have suffered any losses.

To prevent such a scenario, the Torah looks for a judge “who hates money”.

As the Sifsei Chochamim explains, “hatred of money” refers to those who would put fair judgment before their own money.

It’s not enough that a judge would be willing to personally cover any losses from improper judgment. It’s not enough that the judge would be willing to accept personal disgrace and ridicule to see proper judgment.

What is enough? When the parties can step before the judge and have absolute confidence that the judge will render G-d’s judgment. And, for that, the Torah seeks “men of valor, who fear G-d, men of truth, who hate money . . . and they will judge the nation.”

Mt. Sinai: Faith v. Knowledge - In Memoriam of Mr. David M. Warren (Menachem Dovid ben Harav Yosef Z'L)
G-d revealed himself in front of the whole nation of Israel with the words, “I am the Lord your G-d who took you out of Egypt, from the house of slavery.” (Exodus 20:2)

The Kli Yakar asks, Why didn't G-d say instead, “I am the Lord your G-d who created the world.”

The Kli Yakar (Rabbi Shlomo Ephraim Luntschitz, Prague; 1550 - 1619; 29:2) explains with a famous expression, “If you want to tell a lie, have your witnesses live far away.” The Jewish people did not witness creation. G-d declared his sovereignty with the exodus of Egypt because that is what the Israelites witnessed.

If the Children of Israel had just witnessed all the miracles in Egypt and at the Red Sea, why would that not be sufficient to believe G-d if He would say, “I created the world.” Furthermore, the Midrash Rabba (Compilation of Jewish Homiletic 400 CE - 600 CE; 29) explains that at Mount Sinai G-d opened up all the heavens, universes, and galaxies to show Israel that He was sovereign leader of the world. If so, Israel would be easily persuaded that He also created the world?

Even though G-d's authenticity would have never been questioned, Judaism is based on knowledge and not faith. G-d proved his sovereignty based on the knowledge of the eyewitnesses of three million people. Those three million people only witnessed the Exodus and not creation. G-d focused on the Exodus, proving his sovereignty from there because knowledge is ten-fold stronger than faith. This is true even if the faith comes directly from G-d.
Shabbat Shalom


 
   
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