Kenneth Cohen

Proper Judges

Moshe Rabbeinu’s father in-law, Yitro, is attributed with helping his son in-law, carry the burden of leading the Jewish people.

He advises Moshe to set up a system of judges, who will handle the less problematic cases. Only the most difficult cases will be brought to him.

The key to the success of this judicial system, was to make sure that all of the judges chosen, on all levels, must be of the highest level. They needed to show excellence in character, and they needed to be Torah scholars.
There are many things said by the Rabbis, regarding this point. The Keli Yakar makes it clear that in order for the world to exist, there must be proper judges. When a judge successfully judges a case truthfully, he becomes a partner with Hashem in מעשה בראשית, the act of creation.

The Talmud in Avoda Zara says that putting an inappropriate or unfit person in a position of judging, is like planting an Asheira, a tree god. This is especially true when a Talmid Chacham, a Torah scholar, could have been taken for the same position.

The Shulchan Aruch is emphatic about this point. Even if the unfit judge is a very nice person, and is very pleasant and likable, he must not judge. Without an understanding of the Torah, and possessing חכמה אלוקית, Divine wisdom, he will not be able to arrive at the right decision.

In order for the Redemption to come, we must be led by G-d fearing, Torah scholars as judges. The current system must change. The State of Israel cannot have admitted atheists in our Supreme Court, or on any level. The system started by Yitro, must be maintained.

About the Author
Rabbi Cohen has been a Torah instructor at Machon Meir, Jerusalem, for over twenty years while also teaching a Talmud class in the Shtieblach of Old Katamon. Before coming to Israel, he was the founding rabbi of Young Israel of Century City, Los Angeles. He recently published a series of Hebrew language-learning apps, which are available at