Every day we are hearing about more trials and even listening to the actual Derek Chauvin trial as it happens. I thought it might be a good time to talk about Judaism and judging. I was chosen once for a jury and it was an amazing learning experience, and now I recommend that we should go with the goal to be chosen. I was surprised I was chosen because I told them that I am a Jewish educator; however, in reality Judaism teaches so much about justice that maybe I was a good choice. 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 the inner 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. Many of you have had the experience of serving but as you watch this week, think about how hard it is to be the one to make decisions but also how important it is. I hope I don’t get called again for a long while, but if called, I will go again AND I will learn something new but perhaps I will tell them I’m a camp director — maybe that will get me on the jury!
Shalom…from the Shabbat Lady.
Laura Seymour is director of camping services at the Aaron Family Jewish Community Center.