No Justice No Place
Volume 3 Issue 17
by Rabbi Mordechai Kamenetzky
The Jewish judicial system was brought into existence after Moshe's
father-in-law Yisro criticized the system he felt was wrought with confusion
and delay. In that system, Moshe bore the brunt of every minor complaint
and grievance. He ruled on everything, and it was too much for him. His
father-in-law would no longer allow it.
"What you are doing is no good." cried Yisro. "You and the entire nation
will wither from exhaustion." (Exodus 18:17)
Yisro devised a plan in which judges were appointed on many levels. The
simple cases would be presented to the lower judges, and the more difficult
cases would work their way up the system until they finally reached Moshe.
It was a workable plan that was received enthusiastically by Moshe and the
leadership. It was the foundation for every judicial system from that time on.
Yisro ends his ingenious instruction with a blessing and an assurance. "If
you do this thing -- with G-d's consent, then you will endure and the entire
nation will arrive at their place in peace." (Exodus 18:23)
They are very encouraging words. But they are difficult to relate to. What
does expedient adjudication have to do with arriving at one's destination or
finding one's place? What could Yisro mean by stating that if you mete out
justice everyone will arrive at his place in peace? He should have said,
"and the entire nation will live together in peace." The words "arrive at
his place in peace" seem to have little meaning.
Rabbi Chaim Kreisworth, the Chief Rabbi of Antwerp, Belgium, tells of a
member of his congregation who approached him obviously quite upset.
"Rabbi," he exclaimed, "I just don't understand." My friend Yankel and I
began businesses of the same type at approximately the same time. He is
doing remarkably well, while I am just floundering!."
"Are you working as hard as he is?" Rabbi Kreisworth asked.
"I sure am!" came the reply. "My place is right down the block from his, and
I never close my shop until I see his car pull away!"
"Perhaps he has more employees?"
"Can't be. I checked with his manager, and I have recently added two more
than he has!"
"Perhaps the decor of his store is more attractive to consumers?"
"It just can't be that, Rabbi. He remodeled last year, I checked the
lighting, square footage, display cases -- and on each count I outdid him
when I remodeled a month later!"
At this point Rabbi Kreisworth smiled, "I have it all figured out. The
reason Yankel is doing so much better than you is because he is only
concerned in running his business. You, my friend, are running two! If you
would just stay in your own place, you will also become a success."
One of the Jewish people's greatest assets is their ability to watch their
own place. "How glorious are your tents, Jacob" is a reference to the
dessert tents whose doorways did not face each other. When Jews argue and
there is no justice, each one looks at the other: "what is he doing with my
money?" However, when quick and fair justice is meted, each party can go
home satisfied and ready to proceed with their own life. Yisro stated it
with an exact certainty "and the entire nation will arrive at their place in
peace." If you have justice then everyone will truly arrive at his place in
peace. No one will be interested in someone else's place! And in that
manner they all can find a place in peace.