In this week’s parsha we read, “Do not show favoritism in justice.” Rashi explains that a judge should not say to himself, “Reuven is in court against Shimon. Reuven is wealthy and Shimon is poor. There is a Mitzva to support the poor. Therefore, I will find Reuven guilty and he will be doing the Mitzva of tzedaka.” Similarly, the judge should not say to himself, “Reuven is wealthy and it would be a disgrace to him if he lost this case to the poor Shimon. So, I will rule in favor of Reuven.” Rather, judges must hear the entire case and rule based upon the evidence brought to the court. If the evidence favors Reuven, he wins. If the evidence favors Shimon, he wins. One’s social status is not supposed to figure into the outcome.
Besides the law that the Torah is teaching us – judge the case honestly and properly – there is another lesson the Torah is teaching us. The end does not justify the means. If a person is poor, that does not mean that I can be like Robin Hood and steal from the rich to give Tzedaka. Just because I want to give tzedaka, does not mean that I can earn the money in a dishonest manner. The Talmud teaches us that one who steals a Lulav and uses it for the Mitzva has not fulfilled the Mitzva. A Mitzva that comes about through a sin is not a Mitzva.
It seems that the Torah is teaching us a law for judges. However, the Torah is also speaking to the individual. We all witness events or hear stories that seem to indicate a wrongdoing and we are often quick to criticize. But, do we really know the whole story?
We should not jump to conclusions – even if it might be the only exercise that we get during the day. It could lead to animosity, hurt feelings, ruined friendships, etc. Hurting others was the cause of the destruction of the 2nd Bais Hamikdash. Just as a judge must analyze the entire case before reaching his decision, so should everybody else analyze an incident before deciding what happened. Our Rabbis teach us that one who judges others favorably, will also be judged favorably by G-d. Judging others favorably has only upside potential. Why not take advantage?