by Dr. Avigdor Bonchek
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Parashas Shoftim (71)Deut. 16:19
You shall not pervert judgment, you shall not show favoritism; you shall not take a bribe for the bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and distorts the words of the righteous.
You shall not pervert judgment: Rashi: [To be understood] as its plain meaning.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Rashi is telling us that we are to understand the words "do not pervert judgment" to mean simply "do not pervert judgment"!
What would you ask here?
A Question: Why does Rashi need to tell us that which should be self-understood - that we should understand these words just as they are?
Hint: See the next Rashi
The next Rashi says:
You shall not show favoritism: Rashi: Even during the time of the claims (and counterclaims), it is a warning to the judge not to go easy with one [of the claimants] and harsh with the other; one stands while the other [is allowed to] sit. Because when he sees that the judge honors his opponent, this inhibits him in his defense.
WHAT IS RASHI SAYING?
Rashi tells us that the favoritism which is prohibited in this verse is not just favoritism in the final stage of the court case - when the decision is made. That is a judge should not distort the decision by favoring one claimant over another. But Rashi says the forbidden favoritism begins even earlier - when the two disputants stand before the judge and explain their case. Even then the judge should not show favor to one over the other.
What is your question on this comment?
A Question: Why doesn't Rashi understand the verse simply - which would mean: Don't decide a case by showing favor to one over the other, even if that is not fair decision?
What's bothering Rashi?
Hint: See the beginning of this verse.
WHAT IS BOTHERING RASHI?
An Answer: Our verse begins with "You shall not pervert judgment" this would cover perverting justice by showing favoritism. So, since the Torah would not repeat itself redundantly, Rashi sought another meaning to the words: You shall not show favoritism.
By giving these words a broader meaning, Rashi has shown how this is not a repetition of the prohibition to pervert judgment".
This law shows the Torah's sensitivity to justice - by a judge giving more honor to one of the disputants, the other person feels the cards are stacked against him and this itself damages his ability to defend himself adequately.
A RETURN TO OUR FIRST QUESTION
Why Does Rashi have to tell us to interpret the words "You shall not pervert judgment" in their simple sense?
Rashi will frequently make such an apparently 'self-understood" comment when other words in the verse are NOT interpreted simply. So since in our verse Rashi interprets "You shall not show favoritism" in a non simple way, he saw the need to let us know that these words are to be interpreted in its simple sense.
"What's Bothering Rashi?" is produced by the Institute for the Study of Rashi and Early Commentaries. The five volume set of "What's Bothering Rashi?" is available at all Judaica bookstores.
This article is provided as part of Shema Yisrael Torah Network
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