Today is September 22, 2017 -
August 28, 2017
Dear TBT Family,
This past Shabbat, our first Shabbat in the Hebrew month of Elul, we read Parshat Shoftim! The name of the Parshah literally means “Judgments” and it talks about the rules for setting up justice and courts in a society. Given that we are in this month of preparing for Rosh HaShanah, I want to connect the Parshah’s judgments to our own judgments as we reflect on the past year. While it’s vital to make judgments of good or bad about specific actions, it’s just as vital to be careful about falling into the trap generalizing and judging an entire person (whether our selves, or others) as wrong, or bad. This is true on the level of society and personal reflection. In reflecting on crimes punishable by death, the *Rambam, offers a radical teaching. He writes that if the entire court (23 judges who are also jurors) is unanimous on the accused’s guilt, they are actually to be set free. Why? Perhaps, if not even one person in a group of 23 is able to find a reason to argue in defense of the accused, then they were not trying hard enough to look at all sides, and their verdict could not be objective.
Whatever we think of the death penalty, I want to suggest that this might apply in our day-to-day lives as we take stock of the year which has past. This is indeed a time to make judgments and distinctions about what we did well, and where we could have done much better, but it’s useful to try to do so with a good measure of compassion. The same is true of our judgments of others. Let us not sentence ourselves or others too quickly or harshly.
This Week’s Challenge: How can we work on improving our own behavior as well as holding others to an ethical standard, while also doing so with deep compassion and remembering that we are all “created in the image of G-d” and deserve to be treated as such.
*RaMBaM: Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, a 12th-century teacher, legal scholar, and physician, who lived in Spain and then Egypt. The teaching above comes from his Mishnah Torah, Laws of the Court, Chapter 9.