By Rabbi Benjamin Krausz
Former Rosh Kollel in Perth (2008-12)
Currently a teacher and educator in “Nativ”
Our Parashah– Ki Tetze is famous for including the largest number of Mitzvot in the Torah. There is a very wide variety of Mitzvot, and one of the Mitzvot mentioned is not to pervert Judgment – ” You shall not pervert the judgment of a stranger or an orphan”
If we look back to the beginning of the previous Parashah – Shoftim, we will find an identical Mitzvah – ” You shall not pervert justice; you shall not show favoritism, and you shall not take a bribe…” Why does the Torah repeat this Mitzvah again?This is explained by Rashi, basing himself on the Sifri
“And concerning a wealthy person, [meaning anyone, not necessarily poor], one has already been warned, “You shall not pervert justice” (Deut. 16:19). However, [Scripture] repeats this prohibition here in reference to the poor man to [make one] transgress two negative commandments [for perverting the justice due a poor man]. Since it is easier to pervert the judgment of a poor man than that of a rich man, [Scripture] admonishes and then repeats [the admonition].”
Rashi explains that this repetition is connected to the context of the warning – it refers to a stranger or an orphan – the weaker part of society, that Rashi refers to as the “poor man”.
This repetition of the warning of perverting justice of the poor, comes from a concern that the judge is liable to pervert the justice in the case of a poor man, more than in the case of a rich man. Judges naturally belong to the stronger elements of society, and that is the group they identify with. When encountering someone from a different group of society, there is a greater risk of not being sensitive to his suffering, and not performing justice towards him. This is the point the Torah is emphasizing through this repetition.
But besides this concern the Torah teaches us we need to have for the poor, and the sensitivity we need to cultivate towards him, the Torah is teaching us something concerning ourselves – our inner world.
But how can we overcome such natural inclinations? How do you overcome inclinations that lead us to negative actions? We do not want to eliminate these inclinations, since they are basically positive. The answer to this is by being aware of them. Creating awareness to our weaknesses, and not persuading ourselves that they do not exist, will bring us to a position where we will not be lead by them to problematic regions.
The Torah, by repeating this warning of perverting judgment, and emphasizing this warning towards the orphan -is creating the awareness to this weakness, and by that is creating the possibility not to err and create a perversion of justice. This principle of the need to be aware of our weaknesses, applies to each and everyone of us, not just to the judges. The awareness itself is the way to prevent our inclinations leading us astray.
For more Divrei Torah on the parsha click here