What could be the grandest gift we share? Greater than jewelry, exceptional art or fine clothing- the greatest of all gifts is the knowledge that someone loves you, cares for you and respects you. We all enjoy opening a nicely-wrapped package and it means a great deal to be remembered but we appreciate most of all the caring that accompanies the gift. The gift serves to convey love, honor and concern.
This week’s Torah reading opens with an unusual word. Normally rendered “establish”, the first verse typically reads ‘Establish for you judges and officers’. Part of Moses’s speech, this sentence compels the Israelites to establish courts of law upon entering the Promised Land. It is noteworthy that a jurisprudential system presages the call for regulations governing the establishment of the army. (That takes place in next week's parshah.)
Strikingly, the Hebrew word associated with establishing courts of law is “tee-tayn” which literally means “give”. Profoundly, Torah commands Israel to see itself as giving itself a means to enforce law and hold all citizens to a common standard, daily living a life of justice. The famous verse, “Justice, justice you shall pursue” immediately follows.
Lest we think such a perspective is old-fashioned or irrelevant let’s consider the headlines of this past week during which we learned that the entire West Virginia Supreme Court has been impeached for inappropriate use of funds for personal gain! Outlandish! Four sitting justices and one, who recently retired, from that highest state court, will be on trial for illegally misusing public funds. These justices have forgotten the cardinal rule of being a judge; to cherish the gift of trust. All of us must employ our energies to maintain trust between ourselves and each other. We should all be mindful of earning someone’s trust and, having earned that trust, keeping it. If we do our jobs right others will learn from us.