Don’t judge unfairly …
Don’t show partiality …
Don’t take any bribes —
You shall appoint judges and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that Adonai your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice. 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.
These verses concern judges and other officials who will be appointed by the people. But the rules are addressed to all the people – “you shall not” rather than “the judges shall not.” According to the JPS Torah Commentary, “Moses may want to indicate that all Israelites are responsible for ensuring that the judges act fairly.”
The next verse (Deuteronomy 16:20) begins will the well-known phrase, “Justice, justice shall you pursue.” This reinforces the idea that we cannot simply assign the task of justice to others. We, the people, select judges and other leaders. But we cannot then sit back and assume those we choose will act justly.
We must continue to pursue justice. We must speak up and take action when judges or other leaders fail to meet their responsibility to act fairly or in the best interests of the community.
As the election campaign heats up in the United States, these words of Torah remind us that, when selecting leaders, we should strive to make choices that we believe will serve the pursuit of justice.
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The Torah In Haiku