Rabbi Raymond Beyda
It's His Call
“Do not be after the majority to do bad” [Shemot 23:2]
The portion of Mishpatim contains a wide variety of commandments
with laws between man and man regarding lending, charity and damages.
Criminal law is also a subject of many of the laws taught to our
the Parasha. Judges are instructed as to how to meet out justice in
matters of crime and punishment.
An interesting situation arises in regard to the verse cited, which
instructs the courts to follow the majority in deciding its verdict.
Concerning matters where the court has the power to inflict the death
penalty on a guilty party, the rule is that if the entire ruling body
votes to convict, the accused is acquitted. The Torah demands that the
case involve a side that wants to convict and one that wants to save
accused and so unanimity –even to convict –is ruled an acquittal.
The Ohr Hahayim Hakadosh zt’l –Rabenu Hayim Ben Attar –asks, ”What
a judge do if he is last to cast his vote, where all those who
him voted to convict and he feels the accused is NOT guilty? If he
his vote as he feels the truth of the matter i.e. not guilty, he will
overruled by the overwhelming majority and the person who he feels is
innocent will be convicted. If, however, he votes to convict, even
he feels the party is guiltless, the vote will be unanimous against
defendant and the Torah rule will require an acquittal. By voting
he will acquit the man and by voting innocent he will give the court
power to execute. Should he vote to achieve the RESULT he believes is
right or should he vote, as he believes -- although the outcome would
opposite what he thinks is the correct verdict? How should he vote?”
Ohr Hayim says he must vote the way he feels is true without regard to
practical result, which will result from his vote. “Do not go after
majority to do bad and don’t calculate the outcome because G-d is the
We might have thought it would be better to vote in a way that would
the innocent party from the “injustice” our colleagues were going to
inflict upon him erroneously. The Torah, however, expects a person to
totally honest and follow the truth in all that one does without
our calculations. A Jew must believe that if one is supposed to live
will find a way to save that person and if one is supposed to die
are many messengers available to G-d to bring about the correct
fact, there is nothing one can do to change Hashem’s Heavenly verdict
life or for death.
The King Hizkiyahu saw in prophetic vision that his offspring would be
wicked and lead the Jewish people towards forbidden idol worship. He
decided he would prevent tragedy from befalling his people by not
and by not doing the misvah of piru urbu—having children. Hashem
judgment of death upon the well-intentioned King. When the prophet
Yeshayahu came to rebuke Hizkiyahu he explained his position. The
said to him,” Do not mix in the business of Heaven.” He had a Torah
commandment to perform and it is not his concern as to the outcome.
The lesson is clear. Our G-d has given us a set of guidelines by which
must live in His holy Torah. Our concern is to study and to understand
what Hashem wants us to do and then we must do our best to observe the
commandments. Calculating as to the good or bad results of our
of misvot is beyond the scope of our duties. We are expected to do our
trusting that G-d knows what is best and no harm can come from our
commitment to Torah only blessing and good.
TABLE TALK –QUESTION FROM THE PARASHA
“One who strikes one’s father or one’s mother shall surely die –by
choking… and one who curses one’s father or one’s mother shall surely die – by
stoning.” [Shemot 21,15]
How come one who curses one’s parent suffers the more stringent death
stoning than the one who strikes one’s parent who is killed by the
stringent method of choking?
The Vilna Gaon says the sin of hitting is less severe because a
blow heals but hurt caused by hash words never goes away, therefore,
punishment for verbal abuse is more severe than that for physical
Rabbi Yehonatan Eibshitz says that one who hits a parent is behaving
way that demonstrates the person’s lack of belief in G-d’s
That person feels he or she can behave as he or she wishes without
consequences. The punishment is severe –death – because the behavior
expresses feelings of heresy. However, he one who curses invokes the
of G-d’s name, -- demonstrating our Lord’s power over human matters.
one who curses with G-d’s name invokes Hashem’s assistance to achieve
or her evil purpose. This is much more serious than plain heresy and
therefore, punished accordingly.
Raymond J Beyda
Text Copyright © 2004 Rabbi Raymond Beyda and Torah.org