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Parashat Shoftim - 5774

My friends,

This Shabbat we read the portion of Shoftim (Judges). Moses commands the children of Israel that, upon entering the Promised Land, they should appoint magistrates and officers in all the cities among all the tribes, and that these judges and officers govern the people with due justice. It describes the responsibilities of the judges - to be fair, impartial, and to never take any bribe.

This Parasha contains the famous words, "Tzedek, Tzedek Tirdof" - "Justice, justice you shall pursue." Our sages explain the repetition of the word "Tzedek" to emphasize that even in the pursuit of justice, only just means should be used.

This parasha contains many other laws (73 in total), almost all devoted to the theme of justice - from the obligations of judges to limitations on their power and even on the powers of the king.

While me might think that this Parasha applies only to people in power, who must have all these qualities of fairness, impartiality, patience and integrity, Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, of blessed memory, explains that because the Torah says "Lecha" - "for you", these laws apply to every one of us in our daily lives. The first verse states, "Shoftim veShotrim Titten Lecha, bekhol Sheareicha" - "Judges and officers you shall appoint for yourself (Lecha) wherever you are." It commands us to set limits and boundaries on our activities and to be fair, just, etc, in how we live our life, as well as in our dealings with others. This applies to all places and circumstances.

May we be privileged to use good judgement in all our endeavors.

Shabbat Shalom,

Avram