Sunday, April 8, 2018

Ponderings of the Perkei Avot 1:7-9

RaYBaSH’s Ponderings of the Perkei Avot
Chapter 1:7-9
By: Yehudah ben Shomeyr

7. Nitai the Arbelite would say: Distance yourself from a bad neighbor, do not cleave to a wicked person, and do not abandon belief in retribution.
8. Judah the son of Tabbai and Shimon the son of Shotach received from them. Judah the son of Tabbai would say: When sitting in judgment, do not act as a counselor-at-law. When the litigants stand before you, consider them both guilty; and when they leave your courtroom, having accepted the judgment, regard them as equally righteous.
9. Shimon the son of Shotach would say: Increasingly cross-examine the witnesses. Be careful with your words, lest they learn from them how to lie.
Some of the texts are so straight forward goes without saying; some is in the realm of religious common sense if you will.

Verse seven is to help one avoid being guilty by association. And that no matter how long it takes God will give the wicked their just reward of punishment. The Scriptures do say that vengeance belongs to ADONAI and that He will repay.

Verse eight is interesting in that it goes the opposite of the U.S. justice system that says “Innocent until proven guilty” whereas the Rabbis say “Guilty until proven innocent.” I suppose both are a call to stay impartial as a judge and as a religious leader who has to settle disputes and be an arbitrator.

All these Perkei Avot verses above cautions thorough investigation in any case, religious or secular, and at this time Rabbi’s dealt also with secular disputes among the Jewish people rather than sending them to Gentile courts.

The commentary for verse nine states:

“Speak carefully to witnesses and litigants, lest the direction of your interrogation give them a hint on how to fabricate their testimony to tell you what they think you are looking for.”

-- Yehudah ben Shomeyr