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Linking Northern and Central NJ, Bronx, Manhattan, Westchester and CT

Shoftim: Why Did the Lawyer Cross the Road?

Unfortunately, and much to my chagrin, this is based on a true story.*

Devarim: 16: 18

The police officer approached Effie on the sidewalk in front of the pizza store.

“Excuse me, sir, can I see your driver’s license?”

“Sure, officer.” Effie clumsily fished his license out of his wallet and handed it to Officer Doloshevsky. Much to Effie’s surprise and dismay, the policeman pulled out his large, thick ticket book and started writing.

“Do you have any idea why I’m giving you a ticket, Mr. Bauman?”

Effie Bauman’s car was parked four blocks away. He had been in the bakery and the wine store since he had locked his Toyota and started on foot. Was it possible that Officer Doloshevsky had been following him the last half hour, waiting for just the right moment to bust him because he had turned onto Main Street without signaling? Even in his most paranoid moments—and Effie was a confessed lover of conspiracy theories and a naturally suspicious lawyer—he couldn’t imagine a law enforcement officer dogging him for that long for a moving violation, waiting for just the right moment to pounce.

“No, sir, I have no idea what I did.” Feigning innocence was always the best way to dodge a ticket, although in this case, Effie was truly clueless.

“You didn’t cross at the designated crosswalk,” Officer Doloshevsky said, not looking up from his ticket book as he spoke.

“What?” Effie could feel the blood rushing to his face. He knew he should stay calm, but he was having trouble maintaining his composure. “You’re giving me a ticket, for jaywalking?”

“That’s correct, Mr. Bauman.”

Every calming voice from his life was buzzing in his ear, counseling restraint. He could hear his wife saying, “Count to ten, Effie, and if that doesn’t work, count to ten again.” He had a vision of sitting on his bubbie’s lap while he was having a tantrum and hearing her say, “Now Ephraim, you can catch a lot more flies with honey than with vinegar.” Clear as day, he could see his high school basketball coach lecturing the team on poise and the importance of good sportsmanship. Professor Leiber from law school appeared before his eyes, counseling him to maintain a professional demeanor at all times. But it was all to no avail. He was about to go ballistic.

“Are you kidding me?” Effie said, flailing his arms. “This has got to be some kind of joke. Am I on Candid Camera, or Spy TV, or something?”

“No, sir, this is definitely not a joke.” At this point, Officer Doloshevsky looked up from writing the ticket to glare at Effie. “Jaywalking is a serious offense, Mr. Bauman.”

“On what planet?” Effie exclaimed. “I’ve crossed this street my whole life anywhere that I wanted, and I didn’t receive so much as a warning, let alone a ticket!”

“I’m sorry, sir, but about two months ago, a man was struck by a car and was seriously injured when he crossed Main Street outside the crosswalk. Since then, we’ve had a zero tolerance policy for jaywalking.”

“This is just unbelievable,” Effie muttered. “I haven’t had a ticket in years.”

“I’m just doing my job, sir.”

“Yes, Officer Doloshevsky, I get that. But don’t you think this is taking this thing a bit too far? I mean, aren’t there serious crimes you should be out there preventing? Do you really consider this a useful public service, persecuting pedestrians?”

Mike Doloshevsky ripped the ticket from his pad and handed it to Effie Bauman. He knew that he was required to maintain his cool no matter what, but this guy was really pushing his buttons.

“Mr. Bauman, I’m charged to maintain public order and safeguard the citizens of this town. If giving out tickets for relatively minor infractions will prevent another unfortunate accident, then it’s all worth it.”

“Oh, really?” Effie said. He already had his ticket, and he knew he should walk away, but he couldn’t stop himself. Steam was practically pouring out of his ears. “Says who?”

“Says the mayor and the town council that made the laws; I just enforce them,” Mike Doloshevsky said. “And, on another level, God says so, in the Torah.”

Effie Bauman was not about to be lectured about the Torah by a police officer on a street corner.

“And where does it say that?”

“In the first two words of this week’s parsha,” Officer Doloshevsky said. “The first pasuk of Shoftim states ‘Shoftim veshotrim titen lecha bechol she’arecha asher Hashem Elokecha noten lecha lishvatecha, veshaftu et ha’am mishpat tzedek. Judges and officers shall you appoint in all your cities which Hashem your God gives you for your tribes, and they shall judge the people with righteous judgments.’ God commanded that the judges set up a legal system and that the police officers enforce the law. It’s all written in the Torah in black and white.”

“Isn’t that only the divine law that they’re supposed to enforce?” Effie asked. He had never expected his ticketing officer to be able to quote chapter and verse of the Torah, and he was a bit taken aback. “I just don’t think the Torah had jaywalking in mind.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure about that,” Mike Doloshevsky countered. “I’m relatively certain that setting up a court system and enforcing the law is one of the sheva mitzvot b’nei Noach, the seven laws that everyone in the world is expected to observe. So, I would say the pasuk would probably include jaywalking, on some level.”

By now Effie had calmed down. He clearly knew when he was beaten. He hadn’t bargained for an adversary like Mike Doloshevsky, calm, collected and with bekiut, broad Torah knowledge.

“You really know your stuff, Officer Doloshevsky.”

“Thanks, I try.”

“While you’re at it, are you planning to enforce any other laws from this week’s parsha, say a ban on sorcery, or false prophecy?”

Mike Doloshevsky closed his ticket book and walked away from the pizza store and from Effie Bauman. “Not until they’re a town ordinance,” he said over his shoulder.

“Fair enough,” Effie said, pocketing his ticket and going inside to get his slice with extra cheese.

____________________

* FYI, I paid the ticket.

Larry Stiefel is a former jaywalker and a pediatrician at Tenafly pediatrics.

By Larry Stiefel

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