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The Crown of Halacha

Mishpatim 5778 | Rabbi Channen

A Fair Trial

“Do not pervert the judgment of the destitute in his grievance.” (23:6)

The Sforno explains, a judge may not speak harshly to one litigant and respectfully to another, nor may he let one party sit and the other stand.  In addition the case cannot begin if one side is dressed in a fine suit and the other is dressed in rags lest the judge be influenced by the pleasing appearance of the rich man. Therefore, the halacha is that the “balai machlokes” are told “either the poor person should be given a suit or the rich person should remove his expensive clothing

Choshen Mishpat 17:1

In order to enact proper judgments, we need proper judges. There are laws that one must follow in order to act as a true and righteous judge.  This halacha, must be followed by all judges, no matter how great they are because chazal is aware of how influential appearances are and how easily we are deceived by them.

Admit it; You Act Like a Judge (But are you Fair?)

One doesn’t have to preside in an official court to be a judge. In fact, we are acting as judges   continually throughout our lives.  And who are the “balai machlokes” that come before us? They are the Yeitzer Hara and the Yeitzer Hatov!

The Yeitzer Hara is all Dressed Up and Very Convincing

The Yeitzer Hara appeals to our senses, giving us a pleasurable feeling which is very seductive. We feel compelled to let it win because it is pleasing to us and we want to associate ourselves with what impresses us and evokes positive responses.

The Yeitzer Hatov is Dressed in Plain Clothes With not Much to Offer

The Yeitzer Tov comes before us and we have to work harder to see its worth. Often the right thing seems less glamorous and less appealing. We are not naturally drawn to something that doesn’t   automatically arouse a sensation of pleasure.

It’s So Easy to be Blinded by Self-Righteousness

Before we can make a correct decision we must understand how easily we are led by appearances. It may seem to us that we are impartial when it comes to making the right decision but we must take into consideration that we are susceptible to the side that pulls at us naturally. The Yeitzer Hara knows our weaknesses and he has the power to deliver what he promises. To beat him we must ‘dress down’ his appearance and take the ‘hot air’ out of his words.

The Tzadik in Simple Clothing

To make a solid judgement we must dress up the Yeitzer Hatov, “Yes, it will cost me money, but my children will be well educated. It’s true that it will cost me time, but it’s very important to honor one’s parents. Ok, I have to give up my kovod, however the shalom that comes out of it is much greater.” And so on.

Only when probing questions are asked, pros and cons can be discerned, and the outcome will be rendered carefully. Most of all, if we are truly committed to complete transparency then making a decision based on truth we will be helped by siata d’shmya to arrive at a righteous conclusion.

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