Shoftim, Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9, Parshat Hashavua for Shabbat, September 3, 2022

We live in a time when our most fundamental national institutions are being questioned:the conduct of free and fair elections, the veracity of the press, and even our courts. When a judge makes a ruling these days, the media will often specify which president appointed them. As if that explains a bias that might disqualify them from ruling. Our Torah suggests that the foundations of a society is a free and fair system of justice. “Justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that your God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20) Commenting on this verse Rashi (12th Century Germany) wrote, “The appointment of honest judges is sufficient merit to keep Israel in life and to settle them in security in their land.” To him, the foundational institution of society is a fair system of justice. It provides security because trust in the fairness of the judicial system builds social cohesion. Commenting on the repetition of the word justice, Ibn Ezra (14th Century Spain) writes, “Moses repeats the word justice to indicate that one should pursue justice justly, whether one gains or loses.” Our Torah is teaching us that fairness is the basis of social stability. Regardless of our personal benefit or loss, we attack these institutions at our own peril. Our leaders should take note.