Emor – The Focus of Life in This World

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The Shulchan Aruch in Choshen Mishpat 26:2 enumerate ways of how and when a Jew is allowed to use non-Jewish courts to settle a case in distinctive circumstances. There is, however, a very important lesson that we must appreciate at the end of this week’s Torah portion of Emor regarding the ideal state the Jews should be able to live.
The Torah states: “And one who injures an animal shall pay for it. And one who strikes a person shall be put to death. One judgement shall be exacted for you, convert and resident alike, for I am the Lord, your God” (Vayikra 24:21, 22).

Rabbeinu Bachye says in pasuk 21 that the reason why “one judgement shall be exacted” was placed next to the previous pasuk is to teach us that the same laws for cross-examining witnesses apply for both capital punishment and monetary cases. He goes on to say that “one judgement shall be exacted” means the judgement of The One, The Holy One Blessed Be He. That judgement, which was given to you at Har Sinai, [shall be used]; they are not like the judgements of the non-Jews and their courts.

Then, on pasuk 22, Rabbeinu Bachye says: “For I am the Lord, your G-D” is only if you do His judgement, ‘I am the Lord, your G-D.’ We can infer from the positive the negative; for anyone that does not act according to His judgements it is as if he excludes himself from His G-dliness, and denies Hashem. This is because it is a known thing that all the beliefs of the nations and their judgements are offshoots of the Torah, while the judgements of the Torah are the main part of the Torah. When we are not engrossed in them, it creates a chillul Hashem, a profanity of Hashem’s Holy Name. Those that can protest, and don’t, also create a chillul Hashem. Those who delegate honor to non-Jews are making a chillul Hashem, disgrace the Torah that was given to us through Moshe Rabbeinu, and they waste Jewish money. The whole world is dependent on laws, and Hashem only gave laws to the Jewish people, as it says: “He relates His word to Yaakov, His statutes and judgements to Israel. He did not do so for any other nation, such judgements, they know them not. Hallelukah” (Tehillim 147:19, 20, the end of the second Hallelukah in Pesukei DiZimra). (Click here for Hebrew text.)
Based on these two pesukim there is a very strong stance against Jews resolving their issues in non-Jewish court. Rabbeinu Bachye lists some reasons why it is a problem; you might cause your fellow Jew a bigger financial loss than he deserves; you are showing more respect to non-Jews than to Jews; you are disgracing Hashem’s Torah. However, the first thing, and what seems to be the most important factor mentioned, is the chillul Hashem of us not being engrossed in Torah. What does that have to do with taking a case to the non-Jewish courts, and why is that the biggest issue and greatest disgrace of Hashem’s name?

We see from here that the ultimate purpose of existence and the greatest sanctifier of Hashem’s Holy Name is the in-depth study and proliferation of Torah. By deferring to the non-Jewish courts, one is causing Jewish judges to lose the opportunity to be engrossed in Hashem’s Torah through deliberating judgement, which is a chillul Hashem!  

By going to Jewish courts and causing the Jewish judges to be engrossed in the nuances of Torah in order to figure out the correct halacha one is making a Kiddush Hashem. What this also means is through just fully observing the mitzvos anyone can make a Kiddush Hashem by being engrossed in Torah learning in order to be sure he is observing them correctly.

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