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The Dishonest Judge

The Dishonest Judge

Ethics 1:18

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Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel said: "The world endures because of three things: justice, truth, and peace." (Avot 1:18)

"Reaching under her cloak, she pulled out a beautiful golden lamp…"
"Reaching under her cloak, she pulled out a beautiful golden lamp…"
Once, in the time of Rabban Gamliel, there was a wicked judge who wanted to undermine the authority of the Rabbis. He spread stories everywhere about how honest and fair he was, so that the Jews would come to him to have their cases tried, rather than go to the courts of the Sages.

Rabban Gamliel said to his sister, “We must prove that this man is a fake. I am sure he will take bribes, if he thinks he can get away with it. Listen. I have a plan.”

That night, the judge was surprised to hear a knock at his door. It was the sister of Rabban Gamliel.

“Welcome to my home,” he said with surprise. “Why have you come?”

“I have a case that I wish you to judge,” she answered. “My father recently passed away, and my brother, Rabban Gamliel, has taken all the money and property for himself. I have received nothing. It is not fair.”

“Why don’t you go to the Jewish courts?” asked the judge.

“I would surely lose,” she answered. “My brother is a very important person, and according to the Torah a daughter does not inherit anything if there are sons.”

“So how can I help?” asked the gentile.

Reaching under her cloak, she pulled out a beautiful golden lamp and placed it in front of the judge. “I want you to summon my brother to your court. I know I can rely on you that justice will be done.”

“Go in peace,” said the judge. “I will see to it that justice is done.”

The next day, Rabban Gamliel received a summons to appear in court with his sister. A large crowd of Jews and non-Jews gathered to witness the case.

“Rabban Gamliel,” said the judge, “why do you not give your sister a share of your father’s inheritance?”

“Our Torah states that a daughter does not inherit if there are sons,” Rabban Gamliel answered.

“Since your Temple was destroyed, Torah law is no longer the law of the land,” the judge declared. “Roman law must be obeyed now. By Roman law sons and daughters divide the inheritance equally.”

Rabban Gamliel was very serious. His sister looked very happy.

The next day, the judge again heard a knock at his door. This time it was Rabban Gamliel.

“Good morning,” said the judge with surprise. “Why have you come today?”

“Please accompany me to the courtyard,” said Rabban Gamliel. “I want to show you a wonderful Libyan donkey which I inherited from my father. It is truly a beauty, without an equal in the world! I would like you to have it as a gift. Perhaps you will find a way to reconsider the ruling you handed down yesterday.”

The judge could see that the animal was indeed very expensive, and he was more than pleased to receive it as a gift. But then he remembered the golden lamp he had already accepted. “I will have to study the law again,” he said. “Perhaps I will find a solution.”

A few hours later, the servants of the judge summoned Rabban Gamliel and his sister to court again.

Quickly word spread through town of this unusual turn of events, and an even larger crowd than before came to see the case.

Everyone took their places in the court. Then the judge entered the room. Everyone was silent. The judge cleared his throat. “I have been studying all the law books about this case,” he said. “I have found it written at the end of one book, ‘We cannot add or take away anything from the law of Moses.’ In light of this, I must take back my original ruling, and decide in favor of Rabban Gamliel, who says that according to the Torah daughters have no claim on their father’s estates.”

Cries of astonishment filled the air.

“Judge, judge,” cried out Rabban Gamliel’s sister. “Let the wisdom of your ruling shine like the golden lamp I gave you!”

Rabban Gamliel smiled, “That is impossible, my dear sister. I gave the judge a beautiful donkey which kicked over your golden lamp!”

Everybody started laughing. The judge turned red as a beet, and ran out of the courtroom in shame.

From then on, no one had further thoughts about going to his court for justice.

Courtesy of Tzivos Hashem and the archives of The Moshiach Times children's magazine. If you would like to subscribe to The Moshiach Times, click here to contact Tzivos Hashem.
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RN Brooklyn, NY December 3, 2008

Nice Again a very nice story.
I really enjoyed reading it.

Thanks for your wonderful work. Reply

Ethics of the Fathers is a tractate of the Mishna that details the Torah's views on ethics and interpersonal relationships. Enjoy insights, audio classes and stories on these fascinating topics.