Shabbat Nugget: Parashat Shoftim

This week’s Torah portion begins with various laws pertaining to a judge.  One of the laws the Torah brings is that “They shall judge the people righteous justice.”  Maimonides interprets this verse to mean that the judge should always attempt to look at the case he is judging in a positive light and judge the litigant favorably.

This idea is further expanded on in Pirkei Avos (Ethics of our Fathers) to include all people in their social interactions.  That we should always attempt to look at wrongdoings of other people in a positive light and try to consider a redeeming factor that led to their wrongdoing, thereby mitigating the extent of their wrongdoing.

This law has an incredible underlying premise of how the Torah views people.  If in most cases there was not some sort of redeeming factor to a person’s wrongdoing, the Torah would not tell us to fool ourselves and believe that there is in fact a redeeming factor.  Since the Torah tells us to believe that it is likely that a redeeming factor did play a part in the person’s wrong doing, this shows us that the Torah views us as inherently and essentially good, with wrongdoings being distant from our truest self.  Therefore, if a person does in fact do the wrong thing, you can safely believe that there was some out of the ordinary factor which led him astray.

As we prepare for the new year, let us improve our relationships by viewing those that faulted us in a more positive light.

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About Rabbi Pesach Scheiner

Rabbi Pesach Scheiner is the Rabbi of Boulder County Center for Judaism. In addition, he teaches extensively throughout Boulder County and is the author of "Finding the Joy in Everyday Living," a book of short chapters explaining the ways to access happiness through appreciation, gratitude, and a sense of purpose.

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