Ever meet someone who always seems angry? A person ready to bite at your every word? An individual before whom you need to walk on eggshells whenever you interact with them?
As we exit Purim and enter into Passover, we find ourselves in the season of redemption. In the words of the Talmud, we are ben geulah ligeulah (between redemptions).
Today I received a phone call from an 18-year-old named Steven. Steven and I were scheduled to meet at Starbucks in a few days, prior to his leaving for U.S. military service. He called to let me know that he could not keep our appointment as the Marine Corps insisted that he report for duty that very evening, two weeks ahead of schedule. I asked him for his Hebrew name (Shlomo Yakar ben Nechama) to add his name to our prayers recited each Shabbos on behalf of the entire American and Israeli Defense Forces.
"Judges and officers shall you appoint in all of your cities."
This divine commandment to establish a judicial system serves as the basis of all Western law; a fair system affording protection to each of its citizens and guests.
Though this is a communal responsibility, it is stated in the singular, lecha. Why? Why is God talking to each of us as individuals? What message lies in this portion dealing with judges for us, the non-judge community?
Society needs to feel there is an operative judicial system. Community, as we know it, can only run when there is a feeling of justice.