The Fairest Judge
Rabbi Yonah Burr
Parsha Ha’azinu, which we will be reading this Shabbos Shuva, contains a message for the Yomim Noraim, as well.
The Rock! - perfect is His work, for all His paths are justice; a G-d of faith without iniquity, righteous and fair is He. (Devarim 32:4)
Rabbi Yisroel Salanter, of blessed memory, explained this verse beautifully. In our imperfect world, if a person is convicted of a crime, he is punished based on the severity of his sin. The earthly court cannot consider the needs of the criminal’s family, neighbors, or friends. Imagine if someone found guilty of bank robbery got off "scot-free" merely because he has a wife and kids at home or an elderly neighbor who enjoys his company! These considerations would be endless and beyond the scope of any judge to contemplate. They are "collateral damage" and therefore must suffer for sins they did not commit.
However, G-d’s wisdom is infinite and beyond our comprehension. His ways are perfect. Righteous and fair is He! G-d can fully grasp the situation, taking everything into account. He can mete out punishment in the fairest of ways. The one deserving punishment can receive his due in a way that does not impact the innocents at all. The fact that the bank robber has a family who rely on him is considered fully and the punishment is altered to accommodate everyone. This is something that only G-d, in his infinite wisdom, can do.
As we experience the ‘Days of Awe’, we would all like to be inscribed for a sweet new year. But what if, perhaps, we don’t deserve it in our own merits? Is there anything we can do to secure our future?
Yes! We can use the lesson Rabbi Yisroel Salanter has taught us! We can make ourselves needed by others by helping people, involving ourselves in others’ lives, and making a difference. The more we are part of a "greater whole" and the more indispensable we are to our families, friends and community, the more needed we are. And if we truly make a difference, G-d will arrange everything perfectly so that we can continue our important work. The Jewish Nation is eternal and the more a part of that nation we are, the more we share in its eternity.
May we all be inscribed in the book of life, for a happy, healthy, and productive new year!