Word for the Herd: Torah from your favorite teacher
I am a little late writing about this parsha due to a car accident and broken hand. I was on 495 almost back in Manhattan where the lanes are tight and there is barely any shoulder. An 18 wheeler truck lost control, probably due to texting or falling asleep and slammed me between him and the median and dragged me along for about 300 ft. All my windows smashed. My windshield shattered. The car accordioned and lost two wheels. It was a mess and baruch hashem, all that I suffered is a broken hand, some cuts, bruises, and serious whiplash. The truck driver sped away from the accident. A few people stopped and helped me and gave statements to the police... but no one got his full license plate number. It was a hit and run. The police told me the accident wasn't my fualt at all, and this guy was a criminal. Shoftim is all about Moshe putting in place the ways to settle crimes and disputes between the Israelites. If there are two or more witnesses who testify the same thing, then a person can be convicted of a crime. We should always look for finding the truth of the situation and then using judgement to sentence or punish the person responsible. We, as Jews, need to hear proof and testimony. It is not enough to suspect someone of a crime. We have been exercising this kind of good judgment for over 3,000 years.
I was struck (seriously no pun intended), while in the trauma unit in North Shore Jewish Long Island Hospital, by the Parsha's most famous quote. I knew i wanted to write about "Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue" already--- but mostly because the word for justice is also righteousness. What is justice? Why is justice so important to God and to humanity? Is this a just world?
That the driver who hit me and then ran instantly became a criminal. I had more than two witnesses give testimony against him. He could have killed me, but he will maybe get away with his crime of driving recklessly, endangering others with a commercial vehicle and Hashem knows what-else. G-d forbid, he do it again, and the next person not be as lucky as I was.
While all of these people stopped to give testimony to the police, they were pursing justice. They had nothing to gain personally, but were helping the world be a better place. They were helping an innocent, hurt, scared young woman in a mangled car wreck. Their act of giving justice for justice's sake was a mitzvah, a real good deed, and an act of righteousness.
One of the men who stayed with me the whole time, Lazaro, came right to my smashed car and window. He called 911, tried keeping me calm while I was stuck, bleeding & crying, in my smoking car. He held my hand for a bit. He promised that I'd be ok, that none of this was my fault and that he'd be a witness to the police. I thanked him 100 times. By pursuing justice, he found righteousness. He helped me in a desperate time of need. True Gemilut Chassadim.
In fact many people gave of themselves during this time. My brother, Eli, leaving work, David-- one of the parents of my students came to the hospital in LI, Jordan taking an UBER to the hospital in LI, my parents taking the train up to NY from Washington DC, my brother-in-law and sister making shabbat dinner for the family, all the notes and flowers from friends and family..... In a time of injustice, I really feel like the world---and my community--- is full of righteousness. And it makes me trust in HaShem even more than I did before.