Torah.org Home Subscribe Services Support Us
 
Print Version

Email this article to a friend

Parshas Shoftim

Laws and Louisiana

A lawless society is the worst of all curses. The rabbis in Avot cautioned us to pray for the welfare of government for without the presence of its restraints and police powers, “one person would swallow the other person, whole and alive.” The current chaos and unspeakable tragedies visiting the people and city of New Orleans, Louisiana, testify to the accuracy of this comment upon human nature by the rabbis of Avot. Tragedies often bring about the revelation of the most exalted and noble of human instincts. But they invariably bring into focus the worst and most base elements of human behavior - looting, price gouging, violence and cruelty. Those who campaign on the platform of no government – anarchists and the like - in times of dire emergency are forced to plead for governmental intervention and help. They and we are witness to the somewhat depressing fact that technology may advance and progress but the dark side of human nature has never really changed over the thousands of years of human civilization. Therefore the opening words of this week’s parsha that admonishes the Jewish society to establish an effective and efficient system of police powers and judicial decision is most relevant to our society, as it has been relevant to all previous generations of our people as well. Without effective policing and institutions that defend the rule of law, civilized societal life as we know it would cease to exist. Eventually, Torah and the performance of mitzvot will also disappear in a lawless atmosphere and a society of chaos and anarchy.

However, police and courts also must be restricted in their powers. Mussolini made the trains run on time and there was little non-governmental lawlessness in Hitler’s Germany or Stalin’s Soviet Union. In fact, all totalitarian regimes are the model of law and order, but unfortunately of an evil type of law and order. The Torah therefore limits the powers of the police, the courts, of government itself, by demanding that their actions and policies conform to the oft-stated standards of righteousness, compassion, fairness and tolerance that the Torah emphatically espouses. Moral inhibitions are the brake against enslaving others in a totalitarian world of all-powerful police and courts. The rabbis of the Talmud enjoined us to pursue the finding of a fair, equitable, wise, “beautiful” court – beit din – before which our disputes should be resolved. The “beautiful” beit din is in reality a metaphor for the entire society and its government. The pursuit of righteousness, of fairness and incorruptibility, both in the private and public sectors of Jewish life is a commandment of the Torah. It is a lofty goal to achieve, but the mere attempt to do so already introduces into our society the presence of those moral forces that can inhibit totalitarian behavior by government, police and courts. In the balanced view of life and society that the Torah always provides us with, the necessity for police, courts and government is emphasized. But side-by-side with this, the Torah’s moral inhibitions on power and base human nature are clearly spelled out and defined. “For its ways are ways of pleasantness and all its paths lead to peace and harmony.”

Shabat shalom.
Rabbi Berel Wein


Text Copyright © 2005 by Rabbi Berel Wein and Torah.org


 






ARTICLES ON NETZAVIM AND VAYEILECH:

View Complete List

Family Values
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5769

Being Serious
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5773

Parshios Netzavim & Vayeilech
Shlomo Katz - 5771

Frumster - Orthodox Jewish Dating

The Ends of Heaven
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5771

Standing By The Covenant
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5765

Even Hashem Repents
Shlomo Katz - 5764

> Standing Still and Moving Up
Rabbi Pinchas Winston - 5760

It's Already in Your Mouth
Rabbi Label Lam - 5760

Follow Your Conscience, Not Your Heart
Rabbi Yaakov Menken - 5756

Looking for a Chavrusah?

Vested Interest
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5762

Not Hiding, But Seek
Shlomo Katz - 5773

Our Doting Father
Rabbi Pinchas Avruch - 5766

ArtScroll

An Urge to Be Even Better
Rabbi Label Lam - 5764

Of Blandisments and Seductions
Rabbi Naftali Reich - 5770

Moshe Went, but Never Left
Rabbi Berel Wein - 5766

Can the Sun Just Not Rise?
Rabbi Yisroel Ciner - 5758



Project Genesis

Torah.org Home


Torah Portion

Jewish Law

Ethics

Texts

Learn the Basics

Seasons

Features

TORAHAUDIO

Ask The Rabbi

Knowledge Base




Help

About Us

Contact Us



Free Book on Geulah!




Torah.org Home
Torah.org HomeCapalon.com Copyright Information