Forgiveness Without Atonement

One can only envy the heavenly mills of justice on high, which grind quickly. In the higher judicial instances, unlike those below, there are no drawn-out legal proceedings.

During the next two days, judgment will be passed: "Who will live and who will die, who is at his end and who is not at his end." Appeals can still be submitted through next Friday - What do you have to say in your defense? - and appealing is even recommended. They say that the Judge of the world rises from the seat of judgment during the 10 Days of Penitence and sits on the seat of mercy, and those who repent will be shown mercy.

One can only envy the heavenly mills of justice on high, which grind quickly. In the higher judicial instances, unlike those below, there are no drawn-out legal proceedings. All the proceedings begin in the month of Elul, which is the month of forgiveness and mercy, and within 30 days the preparations for the trial are completed, and a decision is handed down by Rosh Hashanah. And on that same day, as far as we know, three books are opened: a thick one, of totally evil people, who are inscribed and sealed for death; and one, somewhat shrunken, of totally righteous people who are immediately inscribed for life; and a third, medium-sized book, of "medium" people, who from Rosh Hashanah to Yom Kippur await the decision regarding their fate. "Those who are fortunate are inscribed for life; those who are unfortunate are inscribed for death." And then the decision comes on Yom Kippur, and everything is over.

Although the efficiency of this huge system - which passes judgment simultaneously on all the creatures on earth - arouses admiration, it comes with a reservation. May our God in heaven forgive us if we repeat our opposition to death as a punishment, which is no longer acceptable in properly administered countries, with the exception of the United States. Only God and his deputies still insist on strange and cruel deaths handed down by the court: "Who by water and who by fire, who by the sword and who by a wild animal ..." Hasn't the time come to change the ancient codex and to adapt it to the spirit of the times? Won't we allow even the wicked among us to reach their burial plot in a wheelchair rather than an electric chair, even if in their wickedness they did not always put on tefillin or affix a mezuzah to their doorpost? This is a serious question, and it requires a public discussion.

And from heaven to earth: If He who sits in heaven is late with his constitutional reforms, the person who sits in the Justice Ministry is turning out to be a great reformer, and that's a good thing. Daniel Friedmann prefers a more merciful and forgiving attitude toward suspects, on the condition that they are very important people, from the top 10th criminal percentile. The minister is disturbed by the multiplicity of investigations among a wilted leadership, and therefore is recommending a refreshing innovation. In an interview with Haaretz in Elul he proposed that a prime minister, for example "should be investigated only for serious offenses, only if it's a large bribe." That is a new and sensational law, which somehow has escaped public notice and merits a comprehensive discussion.

From the minister's interesting words, we learn that "a large bribe" is indecent and forbidden, whereas a small or average bribe is not such a big deal. Friedmann would do well to clarify two things in his next interview: What is considered a unlarge bribe, and who will set its exact size? The second clarification: What happens when a small bribe and another small bribe add up to one large bribe? From this we learn that from now on, there will not be one law for everyone, but a law for the shark and a law for the sardine: Little people will be punished even for small offenses, whereas important people will be punished only for large offenses that suit their dimensions, thus says Friedmann. And the person who promulgated this law is none other that the justice minister in Jerusalem, the place that makes its inhabitants righteous and whose righteousness shines gloriously.

When a year ends and a new one begins, it is customary to choose the Man of the Year. Half a year has passed since Friedmann was appointed a minister, and he is the man of the entire year. While other ministers proposed and declared, prevented and warned, clarified and cautioned - in short, did everything except act - Friedmann was the only one who spoke and acted, promised and also kept his promises. He achieved his desire and what was desired of him: The prestige of the law has declined, and only about a third of the citizens of the country still have confidence in their judges. One more successful year, and the prestige of the judiciary will grovel in the dust like that of its sisters, the legislative and executive branches. Politicians under suspicion, "medium" ones, will breathe a sign of relief: Even without repenting, they will get through these Days of Awe.