Mishpatim: Sweetness in Judgment

“Now these are the judgments which you shall set before them…” (Exodus 21:1). According to a famous midrash, though God contemplated creating the world with the attribute of strict justice alone, knowing that such a world could not sustain mankind and his sins, He tempered strict justice with the attribute of mercy and created the world with a synthesis of both. If God had created a world of pure justice and no mercy, could any of us live up to such a standard? Rather, while God desires justice, His mercy allows us to strive toward a state of righteousness through a process of challenges and choices, successes and failures, and the inevitable necessity to rise from our failures in order to scale new heights of greatness. In keeping with the directive to come close to God through emulating His ways, even the judgments of the Torah call for mercy in their fulfillment. For example, the Torah’s call for “an eye for an eye” appears an extremely harsh pronouncement, but in actual fulfillment, the guilty party pays only the monetary value of an eye. Also, before judging a case to determine the obligation of either party, the judicial process actually calls for an attempt to have the two opposing litigants reach a compromise with one another rather than hand down judgment. And so on. The Torah, even in the realm of justice, incorporates a measure of mercy to sweeten the strictness of the judgment. In the merit of increasing our mercy in any measure of judgment, may God extend His mercy upon us, and may we merit to see His salvation speedily in our days.

Based on Shla”h, Parshas Mishpatim

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