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Rush Not to Judgment

by Ozer Bergman

Generally speaking, we don’t think to connect the end of one parshah (weekly Torah reading) with the beginning of the next. The Midrash, however, does. The end of Parshat Yitro teaches us that the mizbeach (Altar) was to be ascended by a ramp rather than by steps. The beginning of Parshat Mishpatim begins with, and deals throughout, with civil and criminal law. Life being what it is, both will require learned judgment for mishpat (justice) to be served. What lesson is to be learned from the juxtaposition of these disparate areas of Torah-life?

The Midrash (Tanchuma, Mishpatim #6) tells us that walking up (or down) a ramp takes more time than walking steps. Just as walking a ramp is slower and takes more patience than walking stairs, so too, judges must be patient and deliberate before deciding the verdict in a court case.

And each of us as well, in the courtroom of his mind, needs to be careful and deliberate before making a judgment about himself or a fellow Jew.

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