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Parshat Shofetim - Devarim (Deuteronomy) 16:18 - 21:9

Law and Order

by: Shmuel ben Shlomi

In the Torah HaShem has given to His people a total of 613 commandments. Of these, according to our sages of blessed memory, are 248 positive commandments and 365 negative commandments. By positive and negative it is not implied that the positive are good and the negative are bad. All the commandments, laws, statues, ordinances and mitzvah of HaShem are good. Positive and negative simply refer to those commandments that indicate “You shall do” and You shall not do.”

Parshat Shofetim opens with a positive commandment stating:

“You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all settlements that Adonai Eloheynu is giving you, and you shall govern the people with due justice.”

This is immediately followed by a negative commandment which says:

“You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just.”

This is followed by another positive commandment which will be the logical outcome if the first two are followed according to the words of Adonai:

“Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that Adonai Eloheynu is giving you.”

For any society, or civilization to succeed it must have a judicial system that is fair, just and one that stands on a balanced foundation of impartiality and a righteousness established by an authority greater than the judicial system itself and the human judges who render verdicts. Within Israel this judicial system became The Sanhedrin, the Supreme Court for the nation. [SEE: Numbers 11:16]

Down through the centuries it has been witnessed that any and every civilization that has allowed a corruption of their judicial system to the point that they render judgments in which they call evil good and good evil, was soon followed by a rapid decline in that civilization, nation or country. Its protective hedge is removed leaving its inhabitants at the mercy of unjust men, as well as nature’s wrath. [SEE: Isaiah Chapter 5]

Not keeping a nation’s courts free of judges willing to take bribes and render rulings and judgments based on personal gain renders that nation and its people compromised; with the generation(s) that follow being lost and unaware of what true justice and mercy is all about. A civilization in which injustice and criminal behavior become the accepted norm.

May we, regardless of the country we inhabit, reestablish the kind of judicial system ordained by HaShem in His Torah and may we and our future generations know the love, justice and mercy of Adonai.

Baruch HaShem — Shabbat Shalom!

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