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    Training to be a judge – D’varim

    When I was a law student in Australia I took it for granted that if I succeeded as a lawyer I might one day be appointed a judge.

    I knew that in some countries being a judge didn’t just happen after years of legal experience but was a profession for which a person could be trained from the inception of their student career.

    In later life when I had the privilege of belonging to a Beth Din and adjudicating a range of cases, I asked myself which method Jewish law would prefer.

    I came to the conclusion that it was better to be specifically trained to be a judge, basing my view on the classical statement of judicial duty in today’s Torah portion, where Moses chose the judges and instructed them in their duty: “Hear the causes between your brethren and judge righteously between a man and his brother and the stranger that is with him. Do not respect persons in judgment; hear the small and the great alike; do not be afraid of the presence of any man, for the judgment is God’s. Bring to me any cause that is too hard for you, and I will hear it” (Deut. 1:16-17).

    The responsibilities of the judges are expounded and explained in later rabbinic literature and must be second nature to the trained dayyan. Why the reference to the judgment being God’s? Because “he who renders true judgment is a co-worker with God” (M’chilta to Ex. 18:13).

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