Court of the Patriarchs


לשכנו תדרשו

Seeking the Holy Presence in Our Holy Land

“ואלה המשפטים אשר תשים לפניהם”

“Return our judges as of old, and our advisors as of yore… and rule upon us speedily, You our God alone, with kindness and with judgment…” One of the primary aspirations of our People is the return of Torah’s proper justice system to be applied in all parts of life, and especially in the Land of Israel.  So halacha teaches us, that specifically in the Land of Israel are we commanded to establish Torah courts in every city. Not only in the establishment of the court system is the Land of Israel emphasized, but also in the nature of these courts’ jurisdiction. Last week we gave a few examples of the unique connection Torah’s justice system has with the Land of Israel, and this week we shall explore a bit more in depth one of these examples. Last week, we mentioned that there are a number of laws that may only be ruled by those ordained with “special ordination” (mumhim) in the Land of Israel. These laws are Torah’s penal laws, such as charging a double-payment in case of theft, or special charges on human assault, and other special charges.  What is left for the jurisdiction of the Diaspora’s courts are the charges for payment of loans, monetary admission, and their like, which are not considered penalty payments. Nevertheless, even these charges rendered applicable in the Diaspora receive their power only in merit of being ruled by Diaspora’s courts as “messengers of the courts in the Land of Israel”. As such, courts of the Diaspora are only given permission to rule on common issues such as loans, etc., but do not have jurisdiction on uncommon cases such as livestock damaging another’s livestock, etc. Furthermore, even common issues, if they are not considered costly matters are also not under the jurisdiction of the Diaspora’s courts. In fact, if one studies this concept in our halachic sources, one will come to the conclusion that a great deal of the laws discussed in this week’s parsha cannot be applied today because of the lacks in Torah’s judicial system in the Land of Israel today. That said, we can find some solace in the rejuvenated connection we have to Hebron today. A Torah court is comprised of three judges, and we find in the teachings of our Sages that Hashem so-to-speak confers with our three Patriarchs as if they are a court to so-to-speak make a “just ruling” in merit of Israel. Indeed, just as the Divine Presence rests with a Torah court, so too it rests with our Patriarchs in Hebron. By this concept we understand more why our Patriarchs play such an important role in “ruling” our future redemption – “and He remembers the kindness of Fathers and brings a redeemer for the sake of His Name with love.”

Real Stories from the Holy Land #54: “Once I was asked by a student in Hebron to use my fax machine for his personal needs. I gave him my permission, but asked him why he does not use other methods of communication such as e-mail etc. The very next day, when I tried to contact a certain company, I was told that they cannot be contacted by e-mail, etc. – only by fax…”

Sources: Rambam Sanhedrin 1, 2 and 5, 8-17, Shabbat 89b, Sanhedrin 6b, Zohar Bo, Avot 3, 6

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