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    Judges who listen – D’varim

    Moses’ summing up of his life’s work commences with this sidra of D’varim. One of the principles he reiterates is how to be a judge.

    A judge must be wise, able, believing in God, pledged to the truth and incorruptible.

    Above all he must “hear out your fellow man and decide justly between any man and his fellow” (Deut. 1:16). The judge must hear a person out, not talk so much but listen, not interrupt but let the person finish what he has to say.

    To listen is indicated by shama, but what we have in this verse is not a command, Sh’ma!, but a participle, shamo’a.

    Rashi and Ibn Ezra explain that this is not a one-time duty but an on-going obligation. The judge must make a habit of listening and taking it all in.

    Not only in a case between Israelites. Giving a fair hearing is also due to a “stranger”, a member of another people or culture. There must be no bias. Everyone is to be treated properly.

    The prevention of bias goes the other way too – one must not favour an Israelite, nor should one favour an outsider.

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