Impartial Judgement (Parsha Devarim)

This weeks Torah parsha is Devarim (Deut. 1:1-3:22) and includes Moshe’s admonition to judges:

[16] And I charged your judges at that time, saying, Hear the causes between your brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother, and the stranger that is with him.
[17] Ye shall not respect persons in judgment; but ye shall hear the small as well as the great; ye shall not be afraid of the face of man; for the judgment is God’s: and the cause that is too hard for you, bring it unto me, and I will hear it.
(Deut. 1:16-17 KJV)

The righteous judge, should judge impartially, without regard to who the parties who are before him are. Philo of Alexandria writes of this admonition:

(70) The third commandment given to a judge is to investigate the transactions themselves, in preference to showing any regard to the parties to the suit; and to attempt, in every imaginable manner, to separate himself from all respect of persons; constraining himself to an ignorance and forgetfulness of all those things of which he has any knowledge or recollection; such as relations, friends, countrymen or foreigners, enemies or hereditary connections, so that neither affection nor hatred may overshadow his knowledge of justice; for he must stumble like a blind man, who is advancing without a staff, and who has no one to guide him in whom he can rely firmly. (71) For which reason it is fitting that a righteous judge should have it even concealed from him who the parties to the suit are, and that he should look at the undisguised, simple nature of the transactions themselves; so as not to be liable to judge in accordance with random opinion, but according to real truth, and to be guided by such an opinion as this, that judgment is of God; (Deut. 1:17.) and that the judge is the minister and steward of his judgment; and a steward is not allowed to give away the things of his master, as he has received as a pledge the most excellent of all the things which exist in human life, from the most excellent of all beings.
(Special Laws IV 70-71)

Here the Torah is teaching us a very important Torah principle of objective thinking. Just as the righteous judge should judge impartially, based solely on “simple nature of the transactions themselvesaccording to real truth” and not “random opinion“, the man of virtue should be guided by his rational mind and not his or her emotions. We must judge a matter according to reason (the Logos) thru that spark of the Logos within us, that judgment is of God. As Philo writes elsewhere:

“It is best, therefore, to trust in God, and not in uncertain reasoning, or unsure conjectures. “Abraham trusted in the Lord, and it was counted to him for Righteousness” (Gen. 15:6) And Moses governed the people, being testified to that he was faithful with his whole house. But if we distrust our own reason (LOGOS, Word), we shall prepare and build ourselves a city of the mind which will destroy the truth.”
(Philo of Alexandria; Allegorical Interpretation, III, 228)

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