The judge has to be a person of integrity and independence, beholden to nobody and unsusceptible to flattery or bribes. No-one must be able to point a finger at him or suggest that his judiciousness is flawed. A judicial system which does not insist on uncompromisintg standards has a great deal to answer for and will take a long time to regain its credibility.
Maybe that is why the Psalm for the day for Tuesday says, “God stands in the assembly of the judges: in the midst of the judges does He judge” (Psalm 82:1). It is not that He is a mere equal member of a judicial assembly, but that wherever and whoever the judges are, He is with them as their conscience – the Judge who judges the judges.
To say this is axiomatic in Judaism is no news: but it is not always axiomatic in other legal systems, and woe betide a litigant faces a judge who lacks the instinct to know what God requires.
We spend countless hours these days in Jewish communal life asking how to guarantee Jewish continuity and survival. It is an important question. But even more important is the question of why Judaism should survive.
There are many possible answers. But amongst them is the simple fact that the world needs Judaism. Our ethical tradition is said to be the foundation of western civilisation.
In theory this is true. But the realistic fact is that we have to continue to be there to keep reminding human beings of the ideals they should follow, and to continue trying to be a light unto the nations to show the way to attain the goal.