Devarim (Pisqa'ot 1-25)

17 Study Questions

Questions to Consider: Pisqa’ 17


1. Why is the choice of a judge so important?

2. This teaching gives five different inappropriate reasons why someone might appoint a particular judge. It is easy to think of cynical reasons why someone night use these criterion to pick a judge. Can you think of positive reasons why someone might use these criterion to pick a judge? (For example, if someone lends me money, I might assume that this person knows a lot about business and is a knowledgeable and savvy person.)

3. Why, in spite of even these potentially positive reasons, does the teaching assume that these are not appropriate criterion?

4. In the opinion of the text, it appears that the main thing that matters is that the judge know the law. Do you agree?

5. What are the consequences in a legal system if there is a perception of favor, even if there is no intention of favor?

6. If you live in a place where judges are elected, how do you decide who to vote for? How could this teaching guide you in the future when you vote for judges?

7. There are those who argue that one of the most important jobs of a US President is to pick judges. Do you agree? If so, why do you think it is rarely mentioned on the campaign trail?


1. What does this text teach about the obligation of the rich to support the poor? Do you agree?

2. This text may be reminding us that there is a difference between receiving compensation in an unfairly judged lawsuit versus receiving tzedakah money. There is also a difference between paying money to a poor person as a result of an unfairly judged lawsuit versus giving tzedakah. How is the dignity of the needy person impacted in each case? The dignity of the wealthy person?

3. In the second section, what is the danger of ruling against a generous, well-respected wealthy person in the community? Why not just take care of the matter quietly without damaging the reputation of the wealthy person? Isn’t it true that by destroying a well-respected community leader, the community will suffer? Why do you think the text is so clear that this is not OK? Why is it so important for a judicial system to be impartial? Why is it so hard for humans to have a truly impartial judicial system?


1. In the Talmud (Yevamot 65b) we learn that “just as it is a mitzvah to say something that will be heard, so too is it a mitzvah not to say something that won’t be heard.” How might this be related (or not) to our teaching?

2. Why is initial silence so important for a judge?

3. Why is it so hard for anyone (including judges who are, after all, human) not to make assumptions?

4. This text gives a judge the option of recusing him or herself from a case when the judge is “unable [definitively] to acquit the innocent or to sentence the guilty.” Why do you think that this is an important option for a judge?

5. It appears that compromise is not a good thing in this text. Here compromise seems to mean something about putting people in judicial positions that aren’t appropriate for them, perhaps to keep those in power satisfied or happy (or with a job!) According to this text, when judges are improperly appointed, the one who people will learn not to trust is the Creator (God) of the judge. Why would people blame God if the appointment of judges appears unfair or even “just” if judges rule in a way that appears unfair?