Joseph Isaac Korf
Joseph Isaac Korf

Truth, Justice, Torah and the American Way

In this week’s Parsha we read the highlight of Jewish history and life; the Revelation at Mount Sinai and the Covenant that made us a “…precious treasure for Me more than all other nations…to be to Me a kingdom of ministers and a holy nation…” (Exodus 19:5-6) with a pledge of allegiance and obedience to His Law.

To underscore the aspect of law and its enforcement the Torah relates an anecdote that actually took place well after the Giving of the Torah while recording it in the Parsha prior to the actual event. The principle being that ein mukdam u’m’uchar ba’Torah –Torah does not [always] follow chronological order– being that it’s not a history book per-se but a book of law and instruction. Nevertheless, when Torah eschews chronology it does so for a reason, which is the lesson it is trying to impart. As there’s no willy-nilly in Torah either.

Jethro, Moses’ father-in-law and recent convert to Judaism, a wise old man to boot (Moses didn’t just take anyone as a wife or a father-in-law), sees Moses doing his job; teaching, instructing and judging his people being the faithful servant of G-d that he was. He is meting out justice from morning till night. Non-stop, no rest and no time for himself. It’s obviously an impossible task even for Moses. Jethro warns him this is going to be impossible and that he’s going to have to change the paradigm and start appointing judges and teachers on his behalf to assist him in leading the nation and only that “…which is of major consequence they shall bring to you but all minor matters they shall judge on their own…” (Ibid 18:22) thus, “it will make it easier for you and they will bear the burden with you.” (Ibid).

He further counsels him the type of men he should choose to serve: “…men of wealth, who are G-d fearing, men of integrity, who despise [illicit] monetary gain…” (Ibid 21). Ultimately he promises Moses “If you do this thing and G-d so commands you (agrees with this setup) you will then be able to manage all these people too and will find their places in tranquility” (Ibid 23).

In this day and age the lesson is truly prescient and stark. We’ve become a nation of “fake news” emotion and three second blurbs. It comes at us from all sides and political persuasions. No one is immune and everyone is affected. Intellect and rationale is completely ignored. No one is willing to dialogue with sensible and quiet intelligence. Law is disrespected and the world is on fire.

Torah teaches us this week, as we’re about to become G-d’s Chosen Nation and a light unto the nations, that without the authority of law and objective judges necessary to enforce it we will descend into the abyss and self-destruct. The only way to keep civilization strong and keep the American experiment alive is to follow the prescription recorded in our Holy Bible. In the Mishnah Ethic of our Fathers (1:18) makes this very clear when it states: “Upon three things does civilization [the “world”] endure; justice, truth and harmony…” It was plagiarized millennia later by the old black and white Superman TV series (a show I used to love as a kid when I’d have the chance to watch it by friends) when they’d begin with “truth justice and the American way!” As time passed this has melted away. So has morality, loyalty, truth and patriotism! We’re left today with “…each man would do whatever seemed proper in his eyes” (Judges 21:25).

In the end it is only objective rational law that must reign supreme. We may not always agree but we must obey the law if we’re to have a civilized country. So too must we be assured that interpretation, enforcement and legislation of the law is beyond reproach. If our judges are subjective and allow politics and emotion to creep into their deliberations we lose our ability to govern no less than not having courts to begin with.

Both go hand in hand!! And both are necessary to establish law and order, peace and tranquility and equality for all.

Whatever happens I hope America rights itself and its ship. I hope, regardless of disagreement and confusion we come soon to a point of mutual respect between one another and acceptance of the law which protects us all.

About the Author
Graduate of the Rabbinical College of Greater Miami and Central Lubavitch Yeshivah in NY. Rabbi in Hollywood, FL leading its community as the Chabad Emissary and member of Florida Friends of Lubavitch for over 25 years. "Father and grandfather is something I'm most proud of and strive to get better."
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