Pirke Avot: Judgment

(א) משֶׁה קִבֵּל תּוֹרָה מִסִּינַי, וּמְסָרָהּ לִיהוֹשֻׁעַ, וִיהוֹשֻׁעַ לִזְקֵנִים, וּזְקֵנִים לִנְבִיאִים, וּנְבִיאִים מְסָרוּהָ לְאַנְשֵׁי כְנֶסֶת הַגְּדוֹלָה. הֵם אָמְרוּ שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים, הֱווּ מְתוּנִים בַּדִּין, וְהַעֲמִידוּ תַלְמִידִים הַרְבֵּה, וַעֲשׂוּ סְיָג לַתּוֹרָה:

(1) Moshe received the Torah from Sinai and transmitted it to Yehoshua, and Yehoshua to the Elders, and the Elders to the Prophets, and the Prophets transmitted it to the Men of the Great Assembly. They said three things: Be deliberate in judgment, raise up many disciples and make a fence for the Torah.

(ב) הוו מתונים בדין. שיאחרו לחתוך הדין ולא יפסיקוהו מהרה עד שיבינוהו שאפשר שיתגלו להם עניינים שלא היו נגלים בתחלת המחשבה:

(2) Be deliberate in judgment: That they should delay in reaching the verdict and not determine it quickly before they [fully] understand it. As it is possible that new matters will be revealed to their eyes that were not revealed at the beginning of [their] thought.

Ritva:

1. The term מתונים (be cautious) is closely associated with the word מתנה (gift). The inference is that if a judge wishes to avoid the temptation of bribery, let him think in terms of granting his decision as a gift to the litigants.

2. מתונים is also phonetically close to נתונים (to be placed). Here the inference is that the judges are required to be deliberate because it is very possible that they will find themselves in a position where instead of judging others they, themselves will be judged. Every jurist knows that he would like to be judged with exactitude and patience.

הִלֵּל אוֹמֵר, אַל תִּפְרֹשׁ מִן הַצִּבּוּר, וְאַל תַּאֲמִין בְּעַצְמְךָ עַד יוֹם מוֹתְךָ, וְאַל תָּדִין אֶת חֲבֵרְךָ עַד שֶׁתַּגִּיעַ לִמְקוֹמוֹ, וְאַל תֹּאמַר דָּבָר שֶׁאִי אֶפְשָׁר לִשְׁמֹעַ, שֶׁסּוֹפוֹ לְהִשָּׁמַע. וְאַל תֹּאמַר לִכְשֶׁאִפָּנֶה אֶשְׁנֶה, שֶׁמָּא לֹא תִפָּנֶה:

Hillel says: Do not separate yourself from the community. Do not believe in yourself until the day of your death. Do not judge your fellow until you come to his place. Do not say something that cannot be heard, for in the end it will be heard. Do not say, "When I will be available I will study [Torah]," lest you never become available.

(טו) ה' אֱלֹהִים, לְמֶלֶךְ שֶׁהָיוּ לוֹ כּוֹסוֹת רֵיקִים, אָמַר הַמֶּלֶךְ אִם אֲנִי נוֹתֵן לְתוֹכָן חַמִּין, הֵם מִתְבַּקְּעִין. צוֹנֵן, הֵם מַקְרִיסִין, וּמֶה עָשָׂה הַמֶּלֶךְ עֵרַב חֲמִין בְּצוֹנֵן וְנָתַן בָּהֶם וְעָמָדוּ. כָּךְ אָמַר הַקָּדוֹשׁ בָּרוּךְ הוּא אִם בּוֹרֵא אֲנִי אֶת הָעוֹלָם בְּמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, הֲוֵי חֶטְיָיה סַגִּיאִין. בְּמִדַּת הַדִּין, הָאֵיךְ הָעוֹלָם יָכוֹל לַעֲמֹד. אֶלָּא הֲרֵי אֲנִי בּוֹרֵא אוֹתוֹ בְּמִדַּת הַדִּין וּבְמִדַּת הָרַחֲמִים, וְהַלְּוַאי יַעֲמֹד.

God is imbued with both compassion and judgment. To what is this like? A king who had thin glasses. The king said "if I put hot water in them, then they will expand and break, and if I put cold water in them, they will contract and shatter. What did the king do? He mixed hot water with the cold water and put them in the glasses. So too did God create humankind with both the attributes of compassion and judgment. With the attribute of compassion alone, no one would be concerned with the consequences of their actions. With the attribute of judgment alone, it would shatter from the harshness of justice. So when god created the world, he did so with both judgment and compassion, and it stands firm.

(יח) רַבָּן שִׁמְעוֹן בֶּן גַּמְלִיאֵל אוֹמֵר, עַל שְׁלשָׁה דְבָרִים הָעוֹלָם עוֹמֵד, עַל הַדִּין וְעַל הָאֱמֶת וְעַל הַשָּׁלוֹם, שֶׁנֶּאֱמַר (זכריה ח) אֱמֶת וּמִשְׁפַּט שָׁלוֹם שִׁפְטוּ בְּשַׁעֲרֵיכֶם:

(18) Rabban Shimon ben Gamliel says, "On three things the world stands: on judgment, on truth and on peace, as it is said (Zachariah 8:16), 'Judge truth and the justice of peace in your gates.'"

(ו) יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה וְנִתַּאי הָאַרְבֵּלִי קִבְּלוּ מֵהֶם. יְהוֹשֻׁעַ בֶּן פְּרַחְיָה אוֹמֵר, עֲשֵׂה לְךָ רַב, וּקְנֵה לְךָ חָבֵר, וֶהֱוֵי דָן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת:

(6) Yehoshua ben Perachiah and Nitai of Arbel received from them. Yehoshua ben Perachia says, "Make for yourself a mentor, acquire for yourself a friend and judge every person according to their own merit."

(ג) וֶהֱוֵי דָן אֶת כָּל הָאָדָם לְכַף זְכוּת. כְּשֶׁהַדָּבָר בְּכַף מֹאזְנַיִם וְאֵין לוֹ הֶכְרֵעַ לְכָאן וּלְכָאן, כְּגוֹן אָדָם שֶׁאֵין אָנוּ יוֹדְעִים מִמַּעֲשָׂיו אִם צַדִּיק אִם רָשָׁע וְעָשָׂה מַעֲשֶׂה שֶׁאֶפְשָׁר לְדוּנוֹ לִזְכוּת וְאֶפְשָׁר לְדוּנוֹ לְחוֹבָה, מִדַּת חֲסִידוּת הִיא לְדוּנוֹ לְכַף זְכוּת. אֲבָל אָדָם שֶׁהֻחְזַק בְּרָשָׁע, מֻתָּר לְדוּנוֹ לְחוֹבָה, שֶׁלֹּא אָמְרוּ אֶלָּא הַחוֹשֵׁד בִּכְשֵׁרִים לוֹקֶה בְּגוּפוֹ (שבת צז.), מִכְּלָל שֶׁהַחוֹשֵׁד בִּרְשָׁעִים אֵינוֹ לוֹקֶה:

(3) "and judge every person as meritorious": when the matter is hanging in the balance and there is no way to decide it in this way or that way. For example, a man from whose actions we do not know if he is righteous or wicked, who preforms an act that is possible to judge favorably and possible to judge unfavorably, it is pious to judge him favorably. But it is permissible to judge a man who is established to be evil unfavorably. As they only stated (Shabbat 97), “one who suspects righteous people is afflicted on his body” - [and so] it is implied [from this] that one who suspects evildoers is not afflicted.

(טז) אָ֣ז תָּבֹ֗אנָה שְׁתַּ֛יִם נָשִׁ֥ים זֹנ֖וֹת אֶל־הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ וַֽתַּעֲמֹ֖דְנָה לְפָנָֽיו׃ (יז) וַתֹּ֜אמֶר הָאִשָּׁ֤ה הָֽאַחַת֙ בִּ֣י אֲדֹנִ֔י אֲנִי֙ וְהָאִשָּׁ֣ה הַזֹּ֔את יֹשְׁבֹ֖ת בְּבַ֣יִת אֶחָ֑ד וָאֵלֵ֥ד עִמָּ֖הּ בַּבָּֽיִת׃ (יח) וַיְהִ֞י בַּיּ֤וֹם הַשְּׁלִישִׁי֙ לְלִדְתִּ֔י וַתֵּ֖לֶד גַּם־הָאִשָּׁ֣ה הַזֹּ֑את וַאֲנַ֣חְנוּ יַחְדָּ֗ו אֵֽין־זָ֤ר אִתָּ֙נוּ֙ בַּבַּ֔יִת זוּלָתִ֥י שְׁתַּֽיִם־אֲנַ֖חְנוּ בַּבָּֽיִת׃ (יט) וַיָּ֛מָת בֶּן־הָאִשָּׁ֥ה הַזֹּ֖את לָ֑יְלָה אֲשֶׁ֥ר שָׁכְבָ֖ה עָלָֽיו׃ (כ) וַתָּקָם֩ בְּת֨וֹךְ הַלַּ֜יְלָה וַתִּקַּ֧ח אֶת־בְּנִ֣י מֵֽאֶצְלִ֗י וַאֲמָֽתְךָ֙ יְשֵׁנָ֔ה וַתַּשְׁכִּיבֵ֖הוּ בְּחֵיקָ֑הּ וְאֶת־בְּנָ֥הּ הַמֵּ֖ת הִשְׁכִּ֥יבָה בְחֵיקִֽי׃ (כא) וָאָקֻ֥ם בַּבֹּ֛קֶר לְהֵינִ֥יק אֶת־בְּנִ֖י וְהִנֵּה־מֵ֑ת וָאֶתְבּוֹנֵ֤ן אֵלָיו֙ בַּבֹּ֔קֶר וְהִנֵּ֛ה לֹֽא־הָיָ֥ה בְנִ֖י אֲשֶׁ֥ר יָלָֽדְתִּי׃ (כב) וַתֹּאמֶר֩ הָאִשָּׁ֨ה הָאַחֶ֜רֶת לֹ֣א כִ֗י בְּנִ֤י הַחַי֙ וּבְנֵ֣ךְ הַמֵּ֔ת וְזֹ֤את אֹמֶ֙רֶת֙ לֹ֣א כִ֔י בְּנֵ֥ךְ הַמֵּ֖ת וּבְנִ֣י הֶחָ֑י וַתְּדַבֵּ֖רְנָה לִפְנֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (כג) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ זֹ֣את אֹמֶ֔רֶת זֶה־בְּנִ֥י הַחַ֖י וּבְנֵ֣ךְ הַמֵּ֑ת וְזֹ֤את אֹמֶ֙רֶת֙ לֹ֣א כִ֔י בְּנֵ֥ךְ הַמֵּ֖ת וּבְנִ֥י הֶחָֽי׃ (פ) (כד) וַיֹּ֥אמֶר הַמֶּ֖לֶךְ קְח֣וּ לִי־חָ֑רֶב וַיָּבִ֥אוּ הַחֶ֖רֶב לִפְנֵ֥י הַמֶּֽלֶךְ׃ (כה) וַיֹּ֣אמֶר הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ גִּזְר֛וּ אֶת־הַיֶּ֥לֶד הַחַ֖י לִשְׁנָ֑יִם וּתְנ֤וּ אֶֽת־הַחֲצִי֙ לְאַחַ֔ת וְאֶֽת־הַחֲצִ֖י לְאֶחָֽת׃ (כו) וַתֹּ֣אמֶר הָאִשָּׁה֩ אֲשֶׁר־בְּנָ֨הּ הַחַ֜י אֶל־הַמֶּ֗לֶךְ כִּֽי־נִכְמְר֣וּ רַחֲמֶיהָ֮ עַל־בְּנָהּ֒ וַתֹּ֣אמֶר ׀ בִּ֣י אֲדֹנִ֗י תְּנוּ־לָהּ֙ אֶת־הַיָּל֣וּד הַחַ֔י וְהָמֵ֖ת אַל־תְּמִיתֻ֑הוּ וְזֹ֣את אֹמֶ֗רֶת גַּם־לִ֥י גַם־לָ֛ךְ לֹ֥א יִהְיֶ֖ה גְּזֹֽרוּ׃ (כז) וַיַּ֨עַן הַמֶּ֜לֶךְ וַיֹּ֗אמֶר תְּנוּ־לָהּ֙ אֶת־הַיָּל֣וּד הַחַ֔י וְהָמֵ֖ת לֹ֣א תְמִיתֻ֑הוּ הִ֖יא אִמּֽוֹ׃ (כח) וַיִּשְׁמְע֣וּ כָל־יִשְׂרָאֵ֗ל אֶת־הַמִּשְׁפָּט֙ אֲשֶׁ֣ר שָׁפַ֣ט הַמֶּ֔לֶךְ וַיִּֽרְא֖וּ מִפְּנֵ֣י הַמֶּ֑לֶךְ כִּ֣י רָא֔וּ כִּֽי־חָכְמַ֧ת אֱלֹהִ֛ים בְּקִרְבּ֖וֹ לַעֲשׂ֥וֹת מִשְׁפָּֽט׃ (ס)
(16) Later two prostitutes came to the king and stood before him. (17) The first woman said, “Please, my lord! This woman and I live in the same house; and I gave birth to a child while she was in the house. (18) On the third day after I was delivered, this woman also gave birth to a child. We were alone; there was no one else with us in the house, just the two of us in the house. (19) During the night this woman’s child died, because she lay on it. (20) She arose in the night and took my son from my side while your maidservant was asleep, and laid him in her bosom; and she laid her dead son in my bosom. (21) When I arose in the morning to nurse my son, there he was, dead; but when I looked at him closely in the morning, it was not the son I had borne.” (22) The other woman spoke up, “No, the live one is my son, and the dead one is yours!” But the first insisted, “No, the dead boy is yours; mine is the live one!” And they went on arguing before the king. (23) The king said, “One says, ‘This is my son, the live one, and the dead one is yours’; and the other says, ‘No, the dead boy is yours, mine is the live one.’ (24) So the king gave the order, “Fetch me a sword.” A sword was brought before the king, (25) and the king said, “Cut the live child in two, and give half to one and half to the other.” (26) But the woman whose son was the live one pleaded with the king, for she was overcome with compassion for her son. “Please, my lord,” she cried, “give her the live child; only don’t kill it!” The other insisted, “It shall be neither yours nor mine; cut it in two!” (27) Then the king spoke up. “Give the live child to her,” he said, “and do not put it to death; she is its mother.” (28) When all Israel heard the decision that the king had rendered, they stood in awe of the king; for they saw that he possessed divine wisdom to execute justice.
(ג) ובמדרש צדקה ממני, יצתה בת קול ואמרה ממני ומאתי יצאו הדברים. ודרשו רז"ל בשלהי מסכת מכות א"ר אלעזר בשלשה מקומות הופיע רוח הקדש, בבית דינו של שם ובית דינו של שמואל ובבית דינו של שלמה. בית דינו של שם, יהודה אמר צדקה ורוח הקדש אמרה ממני. בית דינו של שמואל שנאמר (ש"א יב) עד ה' בכם ועד משיחו היום הזה, ויאמר עד, היה לו לומר ויאמרו אלא רוח הקדש משיבה עד. בית דינו של שלמה שנאמר (מלכים א ג) תנו לה את הילוד החי והמת לא תמיתהו ורוח הקודש משיבה אליו היא אמו.
(3) According to a Midrashic approach found in Makkot 23 after Yehudah had said צדקה, “she is righteous,” a heavenly voice was heard adding the word ממני, “from Me;” i.e. G’d informed the judges and Tamar that He had guided matters in such a way that Tamar would become pregnant by Yehudah. In that connection the Talmud goes on to say that we know of only three instances where the Holy spirit took an active part in judicial proceedings of a terrestrial court to assure a certain outcome. One was the court founded by Shem; the second was the court presided over by the prophet Samuel; the third was the court presided over by King Solomon. In the case of the court founded by Shem and known as “his court” hundreds of years later, the Holy Spirit intervened clearing Tamar of all guilt. The Holy Spirit again intervened in the court of Samuel as we know from Samuel I 12,5 “G’d is witness, and His anointed is witness, to your admission this day that you found nothing in my possession.” [Samuel had challenged the people to list any wrong he had committed against anyone of them or whose property he had made use of by citing his authority as ruling judge. Ed.] In that paragraph the answer should have been in the plural, i.e. the people should have been quoted as saying: “we are witness.” The fact that the author of the Book of Samuel refers to the singular is proof that it was G’d answering on behalf of the people. The third time the Holy Spirit interfered in the deliberations by a terrestrial court was when Solomon heard the case of two women each of whom claimed the surviving baby as her own (Kings I 3,26). At that time the Book of Kings has the mother of one of the babies call out: “give the surviving baby to her, do not kill it, for she is its mother.” The words “she is its mother,“ were added by the Heavenly Voice, whereas the baby’s true mother only said the words “give the surviving baby to her and do not kill it.”

Malcom Gladwell:

I think we are innately suspicious of this kind of rapid cognition. We live in a world that assumes that the quality of a decision is directly related to the time and effort that went into making it. When doctors are faced with a difficult diagnosis, they order more tests, and when we are uncertain about what we hear, we ask for a second opinion. And what do we tell our children? Haste makes waste. Look before you leap. Stop and think. Don’t judge a book by its cover. We believe that we are always better off gathering as much information as possible and spending as much time as possible in deliberation. We really only trust conscious decision making. But there are moments, particularly in times of stress, when haste does not make waste, when our snap judgments and first impressions can offer a much better means of making sense of the world. The first task of Blink is to convince you of a simple fact: decisions made very quickly can be every bit as good as decisions made cautiously and deliberately.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (p. 14). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

Malcom Gladwell

One of the questions that I’ve been asked over and over again since Blink came out is, When should we trust our instincts, and when should we consciously think things through? Well, here is a partial answer. On straightforward choices, deliberate analysis is best. When questions of analysis and personal choice start to get complicated—when we have to juggle many different variables—then our unconscious thought processes may be superior. Now, I realize that this is exactly contrary to conventional wisdom. We typically regard our snap judgment as best on immediate trivial questions. Is that person attractive? Do I want that candy bar? But . . . maybe that big computer in our brain that handles our unconscious is at its best when it has to juggle many competing variables.

Gladwell, Malcolm. Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking (p. 245). Little, Brown and Company. Kindle Edition.

“When making a decision of minor importance, I have always found it advantageous to consider all the pros and cons. In vital matters, however, such as the choice of a mate or a profession, the decision should come from the unconscious, from somewhere within ourselves. In the important decisions of personal life, we should be governed, I think, by the deep inner needs of our nature.” –– Sigmund Freud

When confronted with a problem— choosing a chess move or deciding whether to invest in a stock— the machinery of intuitive thought does the best it can. If the individual has relevant expertise, she will recognize the situation, and the intuitive solution that comes to her mind is likely to be correct. This is what happens when a chess master looks at a complex position: the few moves that immediately occur to him are all strong. When the question is difficult and a skilled solution is not available, intuition still has a shot: an answer may come to mind quickly— but it is not an answer to the original question. The question that the executive faced (should I invest in Ford stock?) was difficult, but the answer to an easier and related question (do I like Ford cars?) came readily to his mind and determined his choice. This is the essence of intuitive heuristics: when faced with a difficult question, we often answer an easier one instead, usually without noticing the substitution.

The spontaneous search for an intuitive solution sometimes fails— neither an expert solution nor a heuristic answer comes to mind. In such cases we often find ourselves switching to a slower, more deliberate and effortful form of thinking. This is the slow thinking of the title. Fast thinking includes both variants of intuitive thought— the expert and the heuristic— as well as the entirely automatic mental activities of perception and memory, the operations that enable you to know there is a lamp on your desk or retrieve the name of the capital of Russia.

Kahneman, Daniel. Thinking, Fast and Slow (pp. 12-13). Farrar, Straus and Giroux. Kindle Edition.

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