War, Peace, Law and Justice at the Synagogue

The Bible may be ancient but its writing is forever on the cutting edge of wisdom and justice.

Chabad SOLA, is the synagogue where I attend services; it is a place where treasure of wisdom can be found. I very often come home with a story in my head, either taken from the Biblical writing or Rabbi Zajac’s weekly Parsha or his Saturday morning sermon. This week, Saturday morning, was no difference, only that I think some of what I heard must be shared.

Judge's hammer
Judge’s hammer

This week, Saturday morning, was no difference, only that I think some of what I heard must be shared.

This week Jews read the book of Deuteronomy, subject/affair: Judges (Parasaht Shoftim). So we are dealing with judges and law enforcers, law and justice.

Law enforcers (The Rabbi’s sermon story):

A lawyer walks his dog but the dog is not in a leash. As they pass by a butcher shop, the dog makes his way into the shop, grabs a piece of steak and eats it. The dog’s owner walks into the shop looking for his dog and is confronted by the shop owner who seems to be very upset. The shop owner approaches the dog owner, the lawyer, and says, “I need to consult you, what is the law pertaining to a dog, not on a leash, that entered a meat shop, grabs a steak and eats it?”

The dog owner replies: “The owner has to pay for it.”

The butcher: “Good, then you owe me $18.50.”

The dog owner takes out the required cash and pays the butcher for the steak his dog grabbed and ate.

A week later the butcher received a bill for legal consultation…

Book of Deuteronomy, chapter 17:18

18 You shall assign judges and law enforcers in all your gates, which, G-d, the Lord, gives you, to your tribes; and they will judge the people by righteous justice.

What does it mean righteous justice? Is Tzedek-Justice, is also tzdakah, meaning charity? Judge for yourself (from the Rabbi’s sermon):

An old woman was caught stealing bread from a neighborhood shop. She was brought in front of a judge and in her defense she claimed that she stole the bread for her two hungry grandchildren or, they would have starved to death. Their mother, her daughter, abandoned them and being poor she was unable to buy the bread. The judge was facing a dilemma, justice or forgiveness under the circumstances.

The shop keeper claimed that his shop is in a poor neighborhood and he wanted justice under the law, because, if not, then others will think it is all right to steal and expect no punishment, rather steal with impunity. Yet, there is this poor woman who has difficult circumstances and mercy entered the equation of justice.

What transpire in the court room was a combination of justice and charity. According to the law, such crime is punishable with ten dollars fine, and the judge fined the woman ten dollars. In the court room was sitting the mayor of the town. He got up and in front of everyone he took ten dollars out of his pocket and gave it to the woman to pay her fine. He then faced the people attending the trial and said: I fine each and everyone in this room fifty cents for allowing an old and poor woman to get to the point of having to steal to feed her grandchildren. Everyone paid his/her share and the shopkeeper donated fifty cents, for his share. They raised enough money for several loaves of bread.

The moral of the story: unity and help the poor, which is one of the laws in Judaism.

And then in the same breath of judgment, in between the lines of Deuteronomy, subject/affair: Judges reading, we read how God instructed His children to defend themselves, with no political correctness, and inebriating laws, good instructions for the government of Israel to adopt fast:

[20] 1 If you go out to war against your enemies, and see a horse and chariot, a people (which appears to be) more numerous that you – you should not be afraid of them! For God is with you, your God Who brought you out of the land of Egypt: 2 Then, when you (have left your land and) are close to the battle, the (especially anointed) priest should approach and speak to the people: 3 he should say to them, “Hear, O’ Israel! Today you are coming close to the battle against your enemies. Do not let your hearts become faint, do not be afraid, do not panic and do not be terrified of them: 4 For God, your God, is going with you, to fight your enemies for you (and) to save you.” 10 If you approach a city to wage war against it, you should (first) make a peaceful proposal to it. 11 What will happen is: if it responds to you peacefully, and it opens (its gates) up to you, then all the people found in it should give you a (monetary) tribute, and serve you: 12 But if it does not make peace with you, it will (eventually) wage war against you. So you should besiege it, 13 and God, your God, will (eventually) deliver it into your hands.

One other lesson to learn: Judaism is one continuous life lesson full of wisdom and advice worthwhile taking a heed.

About the Author
Nurit is an advocate for Jews, Israel, the United States and the Free World in general and sees Israel and the United States, equally, as the last two forts of true democratic freedom. Since 2006, she has been writing about events in these two countries. From Southern California, Nurit believes that if you stand for nothing, you will fall for anything.