Tuesday, November 23, 2004

Rebbe Nachman's Advice For My Day Of Jury Duty

And retribution is exacted from a person with his knowledge and without his knowledge. (Pirkei Avos 3:16)

It is taught in the name of the Baal Shem Tov:

Before any Heavenly decree is passed against the world the whole world is gathered together and asked to endorse the judgment. Even the person against whom the judgment has been decreed is asked whether he concurs. Then the judgment is concluded.

If one were asked about himself, he would certainly protest and say that the judgment is not correct. However, they mislead him and ask him about a similar case. He passes judgment, and then they render their verdict concerning him.

This is like what we find in connection with King David, when Nathan the Prophet came to him and told him the story of the guest. King David declared, "As G-d lives, the man that has done this deserves to die. And he shall restore the lamb four-fold…" (II Shmuel 12:1-6). Then judgment was rendered against David according to this pronouncement. Thus the Mishnah states: "And retribution is exacted from a person with his knowledge…" That is, they ask him his opinion. And, nevertheless, it is "without his knowledge" for he does not know that the judgment is against himself.

The subject of how they ask every person is very deep. In all the conversations and stories one hears, high and lofty matters may be found. Therefore one must be very careful not to pass judgment until he has reviewed the facts a second and third time, for it may be a matter of life and death.

(Rebbe Nachman of Breslov)