Yitro's Advice

The Midianite has concerns about the well-being of the Israelites and their leader Moses.

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Resulting in Corruption

Serious corruption is the predictable result of such a morass, with nearly 50 percent of Indian households involved in judicial proceedings reporting that they have paid bribes.  Nearly a quarter of these payments were made to obtain a favorable outcome; astonishingly, the same percentage of bribes was paid simply to speed up the judicial process. Indeed, inordinate delay is cited as the primary reason for rampant corruption, with a former Indian Chief Justice best summarizing the consequences: "Delay erodes the rule of law and promotes resort to extra-judicial remedies with criminalization of society…Speedy justice alone is the remedy for the malaise."

Judicial corruption is destructive for all who seek justice, but it is particularly debilitating for the poor and powerless--those unable to pay for the protection and stability that any legal system should minimally provide. Advocating for the world's 4 billion impoverished who lack access to legal protection, a UN Commission recently insisted on the recognition of "a basic, but often overlooked, truth: law-induced exclusion and poverty go hand in hand, yet neither is inevitable."

It is surely significant that the episode recounting overhaul of the Israelites' proto-judiciary appears immediately before the covenant at Sinai. In its sequence, our parashah seems to imply that there is something essentially prior to the law's substance and content, as revealed in all its glorious pomp. The law's processes, its institutional infrastructure, the fair and efficient functioning of this staid human system--so earthly in its unremarkable mundanity--just may be the necessary prerequisite to Divine Revelation.

Perhaps it is thus that we can understand the words of our contemporary sages, eager for justice to finally be done: "[T]he rule of law is not a mere adornment to development; it is a vital source of progress. It creates an environment in which the full spectrum of human creativity can flourish, and prosperity can be built."

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Rachel Farbiarz

Rachel Farbiarz is a graduate of Harvard College and Yale Law. Rachel worked as a clerk for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, after which she practiced law focusing on the civil rights and humane treatment of prisoners.