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The Piety of Procedure

01/23/2020 11:25:07 AM

Jan23

Witnessing is so important, our Torah capitalized it. Although big letters are few and far between in the Torah, there is one verse which boasts two big letters:

שמע ישראל יהוה אלהינו יהוה אחד

Listen up, Israel, LORD, our God, LORD is one (Dt. 6:4).

In every Torah scroll, the ayin and the dalet are larger than the surrounding letters. Rabbi Eleazar of Worms, a 12th/13th-century sage from Worms (in modern-day Germany), was the first to comment that when those letters are read together they form the word eid, witness. Since the verse proclaims the unity of God, Rabbi Eleazar was suggesting that proclaiming divine oneness without witnessing divine oneness through our behavior is incomplete. If we talk the talk, we need to walk the walk. That’s why loving the Lord (Dt. 6:5), the following verse, is understood by the Rabbis as engaging in the commandments lovingly.

According to the Rabbis, a legal system is just as obligatory for gentiles as for Jews, although the specific laws are different. Nevertheless, it is forbidden to undermine the rule of law in either system. Jewish legal procedure requires at least two witnesses to convict anyone of a crime. Thus, the Torah obligates testimony from those who have relevant information (Lev. 5:1). The Talmud praises judges who probe witnesses to determine if their testimony withstands scrutiny. The idea of suppressing testimony is un-Jewish. The question before the U.S. Senate is whether it is unconstitutional. The question before each of us is whether it is un-American.

Wed, April 8 2020 14 Nisan 5780