Beware Portia

Mar 31st, 2011 by Rabbi Simcha Weinberg in Holidays
The Bard invokes Portia to show how lawyers behave and misbehave, as well as how justice prevails. Portia is a resourceful and cunning courtroom manipulator. But those who are her judges, whatever their bias and prejudice, are not fooled. Justice wins the day. Antonio warns against any corruption that would stain Venice’s reputation for justice, offering a practical rather than moral argument:

“For the commodity that strangers have

With us in Venice, if it be denied,

Will much impeach the justice of the state, Since that the trade and profit of the city

Consisteth of all nations.”

It seems strange that we praise God for giving the Torah before we praise His taking us out of Egypt: “Blessed is the Omnipresent. Blessed is He. Blessed is He, Who gave the Torah to His nation, Israel. Blessed is He.” Why are we leaping to Shavuot and the giving of the Torah before breaking the skin of the Exodus story? Why do we mention the gift of Torah just before we list the Four Sons?


This is a night for being Portia; resourceful, cunning, insightful, creative, even, at times, manipulative. We are free to question, ask, challenge, analyze, theorize, posit, argue and debate. We are about to sit in judgment of our children’s questions; Only a wise child asks that. That’s a wicked son’s question. You’re too simple minded. “Nu! Ask already!”

Our behavior on Pesach must reflect the Torah we received.

Our behavior at the Seder reflects on the Torah God gave us.

How’re we doing?

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