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Mishpatim: Noam Elimelech: Majority Rules: Mitzvah 67 – Concept 542

“Do not be a follower of the majority for evil, and do not respond to a grievance by yielding to the majority to pervert the law.” (Exodus 23:2) The courts should decide by majority in cases of disagreement. (Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrin – The Laws of The Sanhedrin)

A man once called my father to ask him to speak to the man’s 90 year old father who was refusing to listen to his doctor’s instructions to stop working a full day and to sleep more. The 90 year old had never been sick a day in his life, and his visit to the doctor for heart palpitations was his first visit to a doctor since he was a little boy.

“Did you hear what that meshugenne said ti me,” he asked my father in Yiddish. “I have never missed a day of work in my life and I should start now!”

My father said, “Well, he is a prominent doctor and he seems to know what he’s talking about. The whole world listens to doctors.”

The old man looked at my father and said, “and the whole world believes that God has a son! Should I listen to the whole world?”

The Midrash (Vayikra Rabbah 4) quotes a gentile who asked, “If the Torah instructs you to follow the majority, why do you not follow the majority of the world that rejects your God?”

The Pardes Yosef on this week’s portion offers a number of answers. One is from the Noam Elimelech on Bamidbar who says that the Torah compares Israel to the stars in the sky, which outnumber the people of the earth. We are the majority,” he says.

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