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The Rabbi on the Beach @ The Shul on the Beach

Too Many Questions


I read a really interesting column this week.

Whenever I find a convergence of ideas between the Legal field and Torah I get excited.

This time I found a divergence. Not quite as exciting, but very interesting.

The NY Times followed up on a study conducted a few years ago by a 2nd year Georgetown Law School Student.

The study was groundbreaking. It focused on the amount of questions from the Judges to lawyers and its effect on the outcome of cases.

It turns out that there is almost a direct correlation between the number of questions the lawyers are asked and the decision of the Supreme Court. Over a five year period , the party that was asked more questions lost 86% of the time.

That is a lot. Some of it can be attributed to the Justices attempting to find holes in the weaker arguments. Most cases at the Supreme Court level are very gray areas. The side that is weaker will be exposed by more questions, thus the Judges use the questions to poke holes in the less compelling argument.

On the other hand, getting the Judges to ask your opponent more questions will help you win as well.

One reason for this is that the Judges, by asking questions, are attempting to show their colleagues the flaws in the arguments.

In fact a new, more comprehensive study found:

“The more attention justices pay to a side,” said Timothy R. Johnson, who teaches law and political science at the University of Minnesota and is one of the new study’s authors, “the more likely that side is to lose.”

This week is the Jewish holiday of Shavuos. A day where Jews around the world celebrate the giving of the Torah to the world. To this very day , Torah is studied in depth. Its ideas are discussed and argued.

The greatest arena for this study is the Talmud. The Talmud is a collection of legal analysis of Jewish Law. It is also a lot more thant that, but the purpose of the book is to develop a high level understanding of Jewish Law.

I find it very interesting that the Talmud asks tons on questions. It is not a law book. It is a book of questions. Invariably the side of the law with more questions will help the Talmud get closer to the truth. Questions do not indicate weakness. Good questions provoke better answers and better understanding. The side that has better answers emerges as the true path.

This holds true for all of Judaism. We encourage questions. We provoke discussion. We want to get closer to truth. The path to the truth is paved with questions.

When in the Supreme Court, questions prove fatal. In Judaism they are a necessary component to finding the true path.

On this blog I have an “Ask the Rabbi” Section. I encourage questions. If you have any, just click. I will try to answer as quickly and effectively as possible.

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