Rabbi Reuven Mann
Written by student
“Do not curse the deaf and before the blind do not place a stumbling block, and you shall fear your God, I am God.” (Leviticus, 19:14 )Why would a person commit these two sins, and what is the relationship between these sins, and the verse’s conclusion, that we should “fear God”? Are we not to fear God as a reason for ALL of the commands?
We must appreciate why this person sins against the blind and the deaf. In both cases, no one else knows his sin: the deaf cannot hear his insults, and the blind do not know of his trap. But the flaw of such a transgressor is that he cares only about the social arena: if no man knows his error, he is content. He does not gauge his values based on God’s approval or disapproval, but on man’s. It is essential that our estimation of morality depend on objective truths, i.e., God’s Torah, and not on social approval. For this reason, this area concludes with “and you shall fear your God.” Man must be reminded of He, who is the true judge, and to whom man must answer to.
“Do not be crooked in judgment; do not favor the poor and do not adorn the wealthy; with righteousness judge your people.” (Leviticus, 19:15) What would motivate a judge – to whom this is addressed – to find someone innocent guilty, and vice versa?
Rashi says that a judge might be faced with a court case between a wealthy man and a poor man. And although the wealthy man is thought innocent by this judge, he may be prompted to consider that the wealthy man must give charity anyway, so he will invert the ruling, favoring the poor man – even though guilty – and he will force the innocent wealthy man to give the poor man money. We see that a judge may overstep his role – to seek exact justice – and feel he may play God. Since his role is justice, he may feel it is valid to achieve a good ends, through crooked means. But this is the lesson: a judge must act with justice, as the verse concludes, “with righteousness judge your people.” The judge has no rights to act outside of his designated role, and must be on guard to humble himself before God who limits his actions to Torah principles, and go no further. It may be a good intent to assist the poor, but not through crookedness in judgment.
The next case is where one might feel he wishes not to defame a rich man, so he too might alter the judgment in his favor to save face. This too is corrupt. But we wonder, may we derive anything from the order of these two cases? I believe the first case is placed first, as it is a greater corruption. For in this first case, the judge feels what he does is actually a ‘good’: he feels that the ends justify the means, and that he is justified in stealing from the rich to feed the poor. This is far worse than a judge who knows he errs, but does so. The former actually corrupts his thinking, not only his actions.