Parshat Devarim


לֹא-תַכִּירוּ פָנִים בַּמִּשְׁפָּט, כַּקָּטֹן כַּגָּדֹל תִּשְׁמָעוּן

You shall not be partial in judgment: hear out low and high alike.

This verse from this week’s parshah is one of the numerous Torah lines requiring us to judge others fairly – see also Shemot 23:3 or Vayikra 19:15 for instance. Our Sages and later commentators have written extensively about our obligations regarding this aspect of Jewish law and its implications.

Thus in Journey to Virtue: The Laws of Interpersonal Relationships, in Business, Home and Society, Rabbi Avrohom Ehrman warns that we should use the same sympathetic standards in judging strangers than we use in judging someone close to us.

Conversely in A Code of Jewish Ethics, Rabbi Joseph Telushkin notes that some people tend to judge those closest to them most harshly.

If you fall into such a category, resolve to treat your family with the same courtesy and fairness you extend to others.

Regarding judging others fairly, I have always been made to feel uneasy when in some classes our administration refuses to punish students on the basis that they come from difficult backgrounds or have problems.

A remark last week by Moussa Nabati – a Jewish psychonalysist – on the French TV led me to understand my reaction. He contends that by judging each man fairly, whatever their personal circumstances, society acknowledges the equal dignity of all its citizens. Furthermore Nabati firmly believes that such a treatment enables most offenders to leave their shady past behind and regain the self-respect they need to consider the future more serenely.

Leora examines another aspect of this week’s portion