Parshas Shoftim
Deuteronomy 16:18 - 21:9

Shopping for the Favorable Answer...©

By Dr. Akiva G. Belk

This study of the weekly parsha is dedicated in the loving memory of Mr. Paul Sakash, may he rest in we will do this for a gift of Chai, $18.00 American dollars.

A convicted felon logs on to the internet. He types in the words "JUSTICE {and} OPINION." Then he begins searching through thousands of opinions for A FAVORABLE OPINION. He is looking for a judge that looks favorably on rape... A judge that questions, "Is rape even possible?"... A judge that believes the victim of such a hideous crime is guilty of enticement... A judge who may give him legal grounds to have his case retried...

A property investor needs a place to establish a shopping center. He needs a favorable piece of land approximately 200 acres just outside the reach of big city government... a few blocks from their rules, regulations, requirements and taxes but close enough for police, fire and emergency services... He inquires as to which county close to the big city is, so to speak, laid back, less stringent, more flexible, needing serious capital and willing to look the other way, to bend a few rules...

Why all this commotion about convicted felons and property investors needing a favorable answer?

In our parsha the Torah states, "If a matter of law is too abstruse for you -- between blood and blood, between decision and decision, and between leprosy and leprosy matters under dispute in your city, you shall rise and ascend to the place that Hashem your G-d, will have chosen. You are to come before the Kohanim - Levium and the judges officiating during those days; you will inquire and they will tell you the legal decision. You are to act according to the word that they tell you from that place that Hashem will have chosen; you are to be careful to fulfill exactly as they instruct you and upon the law that they state to you, are you to act; do not deviate from the word they tell you, neither right nor left." Deuteronomy 17:8-11

Dear reader, is it all right to poke around for a favorable answer? Is it acceptable to formulate a dozen different ways that one can ask a question? Is it all right to have one's friends, peers, associates or subordinates ask around until they strike gold? Is it a process of using others to search until they find the rabbinical source willing to give the answer that you are searching for? Can one manipulate the system? Is it acceptable for one to manipulate the system? Are such practices honest? Do such practices represent the intent of Torah Justice? Is black actually black or maybe just three shades of gray including some white?

One must consider, What is the Torah's intention is here? Is the Torah's intention to show us some way to avert justice by how we word the question, by how we ask the question or to whom we direct the question? Is the Torah's intention for our friends or subordinates to fish around for us so we can ask the exact question to the favorable judge in order to receive the answer we are searching for?

Has modern communication created a distortion of the Torah's intention of one seeking an answer? Has modern communication averted the authority of the local Rav? Does the Torah allow Rabbium within a community to disregard the authority of the local Rav? Does the Torah exempt the head of a Yeshiva, a high school, a kollel or a day school from submitting to the authority of the local Rav?

Rabbi Elie Munk comments, "Jews visiting Jerusalem three times a year would see the impressive array of scholars assembled from the far reaches of the nation {Yisrael}. Thus, they would appreciate how many were competent to decide important legal cases and religious questions, and yet this sidrah tells them, they are still obligated to chose qualified people from their own villages to judge them."

Holy readers, the Torah impresses upon all Jews that there is a central authority for both legal and religious cases right within their own community that MUST BE ADHERED TO. Yet so many consider themselves above answering to the local community Rav who was selected by all the people including the great rabbium of the community!

What type of message are community rabbium sending the local congregants when they subvert the authority of the community Rav? Are their actions teaching the community it is acceptable to ignore the authority of the community Rav? Are they saying, 'I {as in a Dean of a yeshiva or high school, etc.} am above the community Rav's opinions but everyone else is not'? Holy friends, this is not how the Torah reads.... How can Jews living in the twenty-first century respect leaders who fail to respect leadership that they are commanded by the Torah to submit to?

Now if you like you may choose to subvert the Torah's intent by challenging with the comment, 'We are living outside of Eretz Yisroel' or 'We do not have a sitting Bais Din,' etc... Yet the Torah's intention is clear! If rabbium subvert the Torah system they are encouraging a breakdown of the very system and tradition they claim to uphold! THIS MUST STOP!

Dear reader, aren't you just charged with excitement about Judaism when you are taught to do one thing but observe the local leadership doing the exact opposite?!

Dear reader, the Torah commands, "Do Not Display Favoritism." According to Rashi, "This prohibits the judge from being gentle with one but harsh with the other, or from requiring one to stand while the other is seated..." In other words a community Rav who is selected by the people MUST BE THE JUDGE OF ALL THE PEOPLE and not just of the humble few that submit or of the great rabbium who choose to submit when the answer is favorable!

So the point is, how can we call Yidden to the Torah when we cannot call the leaders of the Torah to the Torah? How can we impress upon the Yidden to follow and observe the Torah when we their leaders choose not to follow and observe the Torah? As we, G-d willing, walk towards Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it is time for our leadership to do some clear soul searching on G-d's playing field! ...NOT OUR OWN!! It is time for all Jews to humbly acknowledge and forsake our sins! NO HUMAN IS EXEMPT FROM SIN!

Wishing you the best,

Dr. Akiva G. Belk


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