Rabbi Avi Weinstein

Archive for the ‘Supreme Court’ Category

What Would Make a Justice Truly Supreme?

In empathy, justice, Rabban Gamliel, Rabbi Yehoshua, Supreme Court on May 1, 2009 at 10:31 pm

The Most famous dispute between rabbis in the Talmud has to be the controversy between Rabbi Yehoshua and Rabban Gamliel. Rabban Gamliel is the head of the court and Rabbi Yehoshua is the brilliant thorn in Rabban Gamliel’s side–representing the proverbial incisive dissenting opinion. It is Rabban Gamliel’s humiliation of Rabbi Yehoshua that causes Gamliel to be deposed. When R. Gamliel realizes that he is in trouble, he walks over to R. Yehoshua’s house to mollify him. Rabban Gamliel, a patrician, is surprised by Rabbi Yehoshua’s poverty.

Rabban Gamliel: I see by the black walls of your house that you make coal for a living.

Rabbi Yehoshua: Woe to the leader of a generation who is not aware of how his sages suffer for how they make a living, and how they earn their keep. (B. Talmud, Brachot 28a)

President Obama, a constitutional scholar himself, has made empathy a primary criterion for his selection of a supreme court nominee. He said he’s looking for someone who can relate to the every day struggles of ordinary Americans. I believe the sages would concur. Certainly, Rabbi Yehoshua would.

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