Pirkei Avot 1:8

 Rabbi Philip Weintraub

Congregation B’nai Israel

December 11, 2020

Pirkei Avot 1:8

יְהוּדָה בֶן טַבַּאי וְשִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן שָׁטָח קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם. 

יְהוּדָה בֶן טַבַּאי אוֹמֵר, אַל תַּעַשׂ עַצְמְךָ כְעוֹרְכֵי הַדַּיָּנִין. 

וּכְשֶׁיִּהְיוּ בַעֲלֵי דִינִין עוֹמְדִים לְפָנֶיךָ, יִהְיוּ בְעֵינֶיךָ כִרְשָׁעִים. 

וּכְשֶׁנִּפְטָרִים מִלְּפָנֶיךָ, יִהְיוּ בְעֵינֶיךָ כְזַכָּאִין, כְּשֶׁקִּבְּלוּ עֲלֵיהֶם אֶת הַדִּין

Judah ben Tabbai and Shimon ben Shetach received [the oral tradition] from them. 

Judah ben Tabbai said: do not [as a judge] play the part of an advocate; 

and when the litigants are standing before you, look upon them as if they were [both] guilty; 

and when they leave your presence, look upon them as if they were [both] innocent, when they have accepted the judgement.

Understanding this section of the Mishnah requires us to know that Judges on a Beit Din also act somewhat like lawyers and advocates.  When two are standing in judgement, the court is trying to weigh which individual is correct.  Testimony is taken.  Judges take sides to expound the arguments and determine truth.

In the courtroom, the judges should be suspicious.  To find truth, they first assume that each side is trying to take advantage of the other.  As the facts are determined, the judgment can be rendered.

Once the case is complete, the parties return to full trustworthiness.  Once their case is resolved, the judges should not acknowledge past misdeeds outside the courtroom.  This allows for better relations in the community.

Interesting and perhaps relevant for this highly charged moment--this is only true when all parties have accepted the judgement of the court.  If a party has NOT accepted it, the court has no obligation to remain neutral.  In fact they must remain oppositional until their authority is accepted.  This is a reminder from our tradition that “Truth will out!” 

My D'var Torah is at 26:50.