Shoftim August 24, 2017

This week’s Torah portion is called “Shoftim.”  The word “shoftim” means “judges,” and this is the very first word of the parasha.  Moses is instructed to appoint judges and magistrates to settle matters between the people, giving over his own role and that of the elders he previously appointed, to a professional class of judges for the new era of settlement in the Land of Israel.  During the past year, I have considered the role of judges in our society more than ever as our son, Jonathan, has served as a judicial clerk in two federal courts.  How wise is our system of courts and judges and the legal system that undergirds them.  How complicated are the subjects they must consider.  How careful and precise is the work they undertake.  As early as Deuteronomy, our ancestors understood that the work of administering justice ought to be handled by professionals who have the skill and knowledge to judge the people with “mishpat tzedek,” “righteous judgment.”  (Deut. 16:18)