Written by Rabbi Chanaya (Adam) Rosenblum
As a criminal and traffic violations defense lawyer who has handled tens of thousands of cases, I’ve had many interactions with individuals who find themselves “on the other side of the law,” as well as police officers and criminal court judges. While most people would rather not be in the position of having to face a police officer or judge, our criminal justice system has taught me several life lessons that can be applied outside the courtroom, including some that pertain to the High Holy Days that are rapidly approaching.
Someone’s always watching
Each year, especially during the summer and holiday seasons, the roads are dotted with police officers looking to keep the roads safe (and also potentially take advantage of the increased traffic ticket potential). Noticing a police officer on the side of the road or a traffic camera normally leads to the knee-jerk reaction of hitting the brakes even if you aren’t aware you’re speeding. When we have the fear that “someone’s watching” we are all the more vigilant. If we have the sense that God is watching we will certainly conduct ourselves differently.
The whole world is a narrow bridge
Traffic violations often result from negligent behavior that leads to auto accidents. I once heard a story of a parent who handed their car keys to their child who was a newly licensed driver and told them, “You are now in command of a deadly weapon.” Life is fragile. Drive – and live – carefully!
Thanks to Waze and Google Maps, one of the most commonly issued traffic violations today is the cell phone ticket. A significant number of car crashes are caused by distracted driving. Technology is a wonderful thing, but it can distract us from what we should really be focusing on. Keep laser-focused on the roadways of life and concentrate on reaching your goals.
The fear of judgment is upon us
Anyone who has been pulled over or had to appear before a judge knows that feeling of awe and dread when they’ve been caught and have to face the consequences. One of the challenges of a non-corporeal God is that we don’t see a direct link between our actions and the consequences. Even on the High Holy Days it can be difficult to feel that sense of judgment when we can’t see the judge. Let the feeling of experiencing judgment in an earthly court be a taste of facing God’s judgment.
Many of my clients feel that they have been victimized by “the system” or targeted for something they didn’t do (or are being written up for going faster than they claim to have gone, for example). God, on the other hand, is completely objective. His judgment isn’t tainted by bias or the foibles of humankind. He knows exactly what happened and what the thoughts and motivations are behind our actions.
God is not only our King, He’s also our Father. His slowness to anger and mercy can only be compared to a parent who will give every last ounce of their patience to a child because of love and devotion.