The Lawyer’s (or Judge’s) Prayer
The Lawyer’s (or Judge’s) Prayer
Limited Edition Giclee Print
16" x 18 1/4"
After looking at the many Lawyer’s Prayer prints available on the Internet, I wanted to do something a little different, and decided to take the well-used image of the Scales of Justice out of its decorative, symbolic shape, and give the scales a more real function: to balance some real weights, which I wanted to represent certain values, as I explain below.
It was quite a bit harder to choose between the many passages related to Justice in the Jewish sources. After thinking and vacillating for a long time, I finally decided to follow the “Solomonic” choice of King Solomon himself (as told in 1Kings, 3:9), for the main quote:
When God appears to Solomon in a dream, at the beginning of his kingship, and asks him what he would like to have, he says: “Give thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people, that I may discern between good and evil.”
This request, which God liked a lot (and our Rabbis compared later to a servant who, when asked by his king what he would like to have, asks for the King’s daughter in marriage, knowing that having her, just like having a wise judgement, he’ll have riches and honor and everything else along with her -- Shir Hashirim rabba 1), reminded me of the Physician’s Prayer ascribed to Maimonides, because it shows a similar humility before the serious task ahead. Just like physicians, lawyers too, sometimes, have people’s life and death and well being in their hands.
In addition, on both sides of the upper panel, I chose the prophet Micah’s summary of what is requested of all people, judging and judged alike: “He hath told thee, O man*, what is good, and what the Lord doth require of thee, but to do justice, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God (Micah 6:8).
This summary, which contains the same complementary opposites we find in the Kabbalah between the Sefirah of Din, Judgement, and that of Chesed, loving-kindness (or mercy), is what leads to the main image in the painting, just below these quotes. Here, on the weights in the two scales, I wrote what I consider to be the contrasting and complementing values in the personal and professional life of a well-balanced lawyer or judge -- in Hebrew on the weights, in English below them.
The first complementary opposites are “Justice, justice shalt thou pursue” (Deut. 16:21) on one side, and “Love thy neighbor as thyself” (Lev. 19:18), on the other. Then there is Action, Judgement, and Discernment on one side, and Mercy, Loving-kindness, and Compassion on the other; Strength, Confidence, Courage, and Effort on one side, and Flexibility, Thoughtfulness, and Moderation on the other; Community, Dedication, Giving, and Teaching on one hand, and Family, Leisure, Learning, Receiving, and Rest on the other.
Below the main image, a little abridged, I wrote the verse on which the main image is based: “Just balances, just weights... shall ye have” (Lev. 19:35) And below that, also a bit abridged, I wrote the basic task of the judge or lawyer as Moses defines it: “Hear the causes between thy brethren, and judge righteously between every man and his brother… hear the small and the great alike; ye shall not be afraid of any man, for the judgment is God’s.” (Deut. 1:16)
The decorations for this piece include a pattern with Stars of David, and pomegranates, which are a main decorative theme in the Torah. The sky and the earth behind the scales hint to the last quote, where the lawyer or judge is called to not be afraid of any “earthly” person and judge according to the highest standard, that of God’s, or an equivalent spiritual guiding principle.
(I considered including also Hillel’s summary of “the entire Torah while standing on one foot”, i.e. “Do not do to your fellow person that which is hateful to you”, but I ran out of space…)
Female lawyers: I apologize for the use of “man” in the Biblical quotes. Please understand “man” (“adam” in Hebrew) as “person”, which is how it is in the Hebrew origin.