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Rabbi's Week In Review - 11/22/2021

11/22/2021 04:27:59 PM


This past week challenged our perspective on whether our system of justice is truly just. I know there are varying views on the jury’s verdict in the Kyle Rittenhouse case. Among these views is that the judge in the case put his thumb on the scale of justice inappropriately in favor of the defendant. Also, a recent poll came out in which, by a large majority, the U.S. Supreme Court was seen to be driven by politics, and not approaching cases solely with an unbiased eye toward the law.

The defendants in the Ahmaud Arbery case continue their trial for murder this week. Both the Rittenhouse case and the Arbery trial concern a citizen or citizens (read: not trained as police officers or with any authority as law-enforcement officials) inserting themselves with weapons into positions that we understand to be the responsibility of our police. The question confronted is whether we should ever be OK with vigilantes asserting positions of legal authority. Police go through months of training to do a very difficult job. Should those with little to no training be in a position that we expect to be the purview of police?

Mark McCloskey, running for U.S. senator in Missouri, and his wife, Patricia McCloskey, showed up in Kenosha, Wisconsin, to support Kyle Rittenhouse. Mark and Patricia McCloskey, who pleaded guilty to assault and harassment against nonviolent protesters in St. Louis, happen to be backyard neighbors to Central Reform Congregation, a congregation with which our leadership spent a Shabbat together a few years ago. They are not good neighbors to our Jewish allies in St. Louis. Mark McCloskey was photographed with two men flashing white-supremacist signs — not the first time this has happened.

In Devarim/Deuteronomy 16:18, as a means of defining what it means to pursue justice, the Torah points to our obligation to appoint good judges and police. We have understood since antiquity that for communities and societies to function well and to act with justice, we need to have judges and police of strong moral character. Nowhere in the Torah does it advocate for vigilantes to be arbiters of what is just or to enforce our laws. For Jews and others, this is not just an abstract theory, but rather essential to maintaining our ability to live safely in peaceful communities, and to live lives of moral integrity.

Mon, November 29 2021 25 Kislev 5782