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Parsha Mitzvot: Shofetim: Mitzvah 491 – Concept 540

“Judges and officers shall you appoint in all your cities, which God, your Lord, gives you, for your tribes; and they shall judge the people with righteous judgment.” (Deuteronomy 16:18) We are commanded to appoint judges. (Rambam, Hilchot Sanhedrin – The Laws of the Sanhedrin and The Punishments Within Their Jurisdiction)

“He judges the universe with equity.” (Psalms 96:13) Tradition teaches us that Moses composed this psalm. The Kabbalists (Zohar III 198) understand the word ‘equity,’ in this verse as referring to the Celestial Court. According to the Talmud, (Beitzah 16) this court decides on Rosh Hashana each individual’s livelihood for the coming year. Accordingly, if a terrestrial judge decides between two litigants on the basis of Torah law he merely publicizes a decision already made in the Celestial Court, as any decision not based on Torah law would upset the judgment made by the Celestial Court concerning this individual’s livelihood. The words, “They shall judge the people with righteous judgment,” mean that these judges hand down to the people the decisions made by the Heavenly Tribunal. (Or Hachaim HaKadosh)

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