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February 12, 2017 / conservadox

Dvar Torah- Yitro

This week’s Torah portion begins with Yitro’s advice to Moshe about judging.  Moshe is resolving disputes and teaching Torah, and Yitro tells him that the former function is wearing him out.  He accordingly suggests that Moshe appoint judges for “minor matters” but that “When any major matter arises, they will bring it to you.” (Exodus 18:22).  Moshe concurs, but the Torah suggests that he slightly altered Yitro’s idea, stating that “They would bring any difficult case to Moses.” (18: 26)

What’s the difference between a “major” case and a “difficult” case? Miller suggests that major cases involve large sums of money, while “difficult” cases are complicated ones.  Moshe thought he should judge only the latter cases rather than focusing on high-value cases (which would presumably be more likely to involve wealthy individuals).

How does the U.S. court system resolve this tension? The highest courts (both federal and state) review cases at their discretion.  I think the unspoken norm is that, like Moses, they should focus on legally difficult issues rather than high-dollar ones.  So here we seem to have borrowed from the Torah- rightly so, I think.


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