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A Lamed Vav-nik Jurist Establishes a Pathway toward Justice: Providing a Voice for the Victim

08/29/2018 09:03:59 AM


Rabbi Jonathan Biatch

The world is blessed, because there are, at any moment in time, 36 righteous souls who quietly yet efficiently, prevent the world from falling into ruin by bringing wholeness to our world. These individuals are called lamed vav-niks because the number 36 is presented in our sacred literature as Lamed Vav. Here is a story about one of these righteous people.
When the Torah directs us to pursue justice diligently (Deuteronomy 16:20), this jurist takes this responsibility seriously and thoroughly. Her empathy has blessed the lives of many people, even outside the circle of the case that propelled her into notoriety earlier this year. To advocate the cause of the downtrodden, and to lead others to empathize with the pain of the needy, is the task of this lamed vav-nik.
“Leave your pain here,” Judge Rosemarie Aquilina told one young victim of the sexual predations of sports doctor Lawrence Nassar, “and go out and do your magnificent things.”
Dr. Nassar’s infamous deeds and trial this past year unsettled Olympic athletes and fans alike. And Judge Aquilina, assigned to this case, showed herself and an unusually courageous victims’ advocate in a sentencing hearing that drew national attention for the scope of Dr. Nassar’s abuse and for the complicity of institutions like U.S.A. Gymnastics and Michigan State University, who employed him for decades.
One of the more prominent aspects of this trial, and the reason that Judge Aquilina might be a lamed vav-nik is that she allowed nearly 140 girls and women, including several prominent Olympic gymnasts, to give statements against Dr. Nassar in open court.
Judge Aquilina’s commitment to let every victim speak has also unexpectedly turned the hearing into a forum that has encouraged dozens of women who had remained silent to come forward, not only to offer testimony but to allow the victims to start toward healing with a public acknowledgment of their pain and distress.
Judge Aquilina commented on each victim’s statement, offering gratitude for her coming forward, empathy for the manner that Dr. Nassar imposed himself on their lives, and justice for the enormity of the crimes.
Legal scholars have questioned the use of victim statements tactic as an attempt to persuade the jury to impose tougher sentences. In this instance, there was no jury and Judge Aquilina determined that, for the record, victims’ voices needed to be heard.
For actively searching for justice and personal healing in a world of personal terror, Judge Aquilina might, indeed, be one of our current lamed vav-niks.
See more about the Honorable Rosemarie E. Aquilina at:

July 25, 2021 16 Av 5781