It’s been a while, but I am sure it is coming — the jury summons. I have been called often and served once, and it was an amazing experience that everyone should have. They tell you to listen to the facts but also recognize that you bring your own experience and knowledge with you.
When I was waiting to see if I would be chosen, I thought that I probably should have told them that I am a Jewish educator, because so much of what Judaism teaches was relevant (it may have gotten me out of it?). So many of the middot that I teach were called into play in this process. Without going into details of the case, here are some “Jewish Values”:
• Dan L’Chaf Zechut — Give the benefit of the doubt: this is crucial in a court of law. Can you listen with an open mind or have you decided without hearing the facts?
• Emet — Truthfulness: The truth is always important, but how do you know if someone is being truthful? How do you determine the credibility of a witness? Combine that with giving the benefit of the doubt — what’s a person to do?
• Shmiat HaOzen — Being a good listener: On the jury we had to sit for many hours and listen. Can you be a good listener and not be quick to judge? Can you listen with your heart and mind as well as with your ears? Can you really hear another person?
• Ometz Lev — Courage: This courage is not to be brave in a fight, but to have inside courage to stand up for what is right. On a jury, it takes courage to stand up for what you think is the truth and is right. There are 11 others feeling just as strongly as you do. Can courage be about knowing when to argue and when to listen?
• Din V’Rachamim — Justice and mercy: These are probably the two middot most recognized in terms of courts of law. We put the two together because it is a matter of balance — you should not have one without the other. Then we must know which to give more “weight” to. Our rabbis guide us here as well. We are asked to think what would happen if the world were “ruled” by mercy alone? What would happen if the world were “ruled” by justice alone?
So, I brought all these thoughts to the jury room and, with 11 others, made a decision that affected many lives. Serving on a jury is our civic duty, it is an incredible experience, and it is an awesome responsibility.
Most people I talk with say they dread going, but when you aren’t chosen, you start to question why they didn’t choose you. When I come back to work after not being chosen, the children ask where I have been and I try to explain.
Concepts like courts and juries take time to understand — but you are never too young to beginning hearing about justice and mercy and courage and the importance of doing the right thing. I hope I don’t get called for a long while, but if called, I will go again and I will learn something new.