Why is a judge who judges a completely truthful judgement considered as if he became Hashem’s partner in the creation of the world?
(16,18) “Judges and officers you shall place for yourself in all of your gates which Hashem your G-d gives to you for your tribes, and they shall judge the people a righteous judgement.”
The gemora Shabbos 11a teaches that any judge who judges a completely truthful judgement is considered as if he became a partner to the Holy One, Blessed be He, in the creation of the world.
The explanation of this teaching is that there are two things which a judge needs in order to judge a completely truthful judgement - besides a very clear knowledge of the Torah he also has to be wise enough to discern which of the litigants is telling the truth and which of them is making false claims. Because otherwise even though he knows very well what the law says about the case, a liar might also know the claims that he needs to make in order to win the case. As a result the litigant who should have won the case is not placated by the decision of the judge and remains with a grievance in his heart, because he knows the falseness of his fellow litigant. Thus there will be no peace made with this judgement.
But if the judge possesses the second quality of being able to discern if the claims of the one who is winning the case are truthful, then the litigants will leave without any bad feelings towards each other, because the liar knows that he rightfully lost the case. Thus they will both feel that their case was justly adjudicated and peace will have been made.
This is what the posuk in Zechariah 8:16 means: “truth and judgement” - when the judgement is truthful, then “peace you shall judge in your cities”. And this is why the gemora teaches that a judge who judges a completely truthful judgement becomes like Hashem’s partner in the creation of the world, because the mishnah in Pirkei Avos 1:18 teaches that the world stands on three things - truth, judgement and peace, and thus he maintains half the world.
Which two types of wisdom does taking a bribe adversely affect?
(16,19) “Do not sway justice, do not show favoritism, and do not not take a bribe, because the bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and perverts the words of the righteous.”
Here it says “the bribe blinds the eyes of the wise (חבמים)”, but in parshas Mishpotim it says “the bribe blinds the sagacious (פקחים)” (Shemos 23:8). This is because a judge has to be wise in two ways. The first is to be wise in Torah - to know clearly the law in every matter, and the second to be wise in the ways of the world.
Because sometimes even though a judge knows what the law is in the case that he is judging, if he is wise in worldly matters and understands trickery he will know that the matter cannot be like the winning person is claiming. Like the gemora in Shevuos 30a teaches, if a judge discerns that the witnesses in a certain case are lying (or that some other trickery is being employed) he should not say to himself that he will declare judgement according to the facts of the case which were presented to him and let the responsibility for the perversion of justice be upon the perpetrators of the chicanery. (Rather, he has a responsibility to probe the matter thoroughly and prove the trickery or else recuse himself from the case).
And behold, whenever the Torah says (חבמים) it means wise in Torah, and whenever it says (פקחים) it means wise in the matters of the world. Thus when a judge takes a bribe it blinds the eyes of his intellect both in the wisdom of the Torah and in the matters of the world, and thus he will not know what the law should be.
This is also the explanation of the gemora Sanhedrin 7b, where one Amora learns from Yirmeyohu 21:12 “execute judgement in the morning” that only if the judgement is as clear to you as morning should you declare it, otherwise not, and another Amora learns a similar teaching from Mishlei 7:4 “Say to wisdom: You are my sister”, that only if the judgement is as clear to you as is the prohibition of marrying your sister should you declare it, otherwise not. The first teaching corresponds to the requirement that a judge needs to be wise in the matters of the world, and the second corresponds to the obligation to know the law in every matter.
How does this posuk allude to the law that the courts should be in session on Mondays and Thursdays?
(16,20) “Justice, justice (צֶדֶק צֶדֶק) you shall pursue, in order that you may live and possess the land which Hashem your G-d gives to you.”
The midrash says that from this posuk Chazal learned that the courts should be in session on the second and fifth days of the week. How does the midrash make this connection?!
But we can explain that the repetition of the word צֶדֶק corresponds to these two days of the week, because at night the order of the seven planets is כוכב צדק נוגה שבתאי חמה לבנה מאדים (Mercury, Jupiter, Venus, Saturn, Sun, Moon, Mars), and in the day the order of the seven planets is חמה לבנה מאדים כוכב צדק נוגה שבתאי. That is, the planet which exerts influence on the world at the beginning of the first night of the week is כוכב, the second night צדק, and so on. Thus the night of the second day of the week starts with צֶדֶק, and the day of the fifth day of the week also starts with צֶדֶק.
Thus the allusion of the posuk is “Justice [on the second day of the week, and] justice [on the fifth day of the week] you shall pursue.
Why is it better for the Rabbis not to explain the reason for their decrees?
(17,17) “And he shall not have too many wives so that his heart not turn away, and he shall not have too much silver and gold.”
The gemora Sanhedrin 21b writes that R. Isaac said: Why were the reasons for the Torah laws not revealed? Because behold, in two verses the reason was revealed, and one of the greatest men in the world stumbled in them. It says that a king “shall not have too many wives”, but Shlomo Hamelech said that he will have many wives and yet his heart will not turn away, and in the end it says that “when Shlomo became old, his wives turned away his heart after other gods” (Melachim Ⅰ 11:4).
According to this we can explain the gemora in Shabbos 12b which brings a baraissa which says: One must not read by the light of a lamp, perhaps he will tilt it (and thus will do an act which is forbidden on Shabbos). But R. Yishmael ben Elisha said: I will read by the light of a lamp and I will not tilt it. Once when he was reading he sought to tilt the lamp. He said: How great are the words of the Sages who said one must not read by the light of a lamp!
The explanation of this gemora is that the mishnah on daf 11a simply states “one must not read by the light of a lamp”, without giving a reason for the prohibition. But the baraissa on daf 12b does explain the reason: “one must not read by the light of a lamp because perhaps he will tilt it”. So when R. Yishmael saw the reason for the prohibition he thought to himself that he would be able to read without tilting the lamp, just like Shlomo Hamelech said “I will have many wives and yet my heart will not be turned away”.
Therefore in the end when R. Yishmael stumbled he declared: How great are the words of the Sages! Meaning, how great are the words of the Sages in the mishnah who said that one must not read by the light of a lamp but did not give the reason for the prohibition, because by giving the reason it provided an opening to make a mistake and stumble. But by not giving the reason it remains simply a decree of the Rabbis which must be followed irrespective of the reason behind the decree.
How does this posuk allude to the five things which require a Kohen?
(21,5) “And the Kohanim the sons of Levi shall come near, for Hashem your G-d has chosen them to serve Him and to bless in the name of Hashem, and by their mouth will be every dispute and every affliction.”
Behold, we find in the Torah five things that depend on the Kohanim - service in the Beis Hamikdash, the priestly blessing, the ritual of the eglah arufah (the slaughter of a calf when a dead person is found outside a city), the ritual of the sotah (a woman suspected of adultery), and the purification of the metzora (one who has been afflicted with a certain type of skin lesion).
And they are all included in this posuk: “And the Kohanim the sons of Levi shall come near, because Hashem your G-d has chosen them to serve him” - this refers to their service in the Beis Hamikdash, “and to bless in the name of Hashem” - this refers to the priestly blessing, “and by their mouth will be” - this refers to the eglah arufah (Rashi explains that after slaughtering the calf the kohanim say “forgive Your people Yisrael”), “every dispute” - this refers to the ritual of the sotah which involves a dispute between a man and his wife, “and every affliction” - this refers to the purification of the metzora.