The pursuit of justice is one of the most frequently repeated concerns, and not only of the Torah, but of Jewish tradition. Any society, so the teaching, is to pursue justice in dealing with social, political, and international matters. In addition, Jewish tradition teaches, “speak up for those who are silent, for the rights of the unfortunate. Speak out, judge justly, champion the poor and the needy.”
Several commentators ask the question: Why does Moses repeat the word Tzedek, or “justice,” in his statement: “justice, justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that Adonai your God is giving you?” – Pointing out that the commandment could stand without the repetition since the Torah does not often repeat words, interpreters offer a number of explanations:
Some say that by repeating the word Tzedek Moses underscores the importance of pursuing justice as a means of community survival. Others argue that the term is repeated to convey the idea that the pursuit of justice is not only the responsibility of government, of judges within the society, but also an imperative for each individual. This may have been what Rabbi Acha meant when he quoted Rabbi Tanchum, who said, “though a person may be a scholar of Torah and a teacher of greater renown, careful in observing all the ritual commandments, if such a person is able to protest wrongdoing neglects to do so, he is to be considered cursed.” Or in the words of Rabbi Chijah: “if a person is neither a scholar, nor a teacher, nor known for observing all the ritual commandments, but stays up to protest against evil, such a person is called a blessing.”
For rabbinic interpreters the pursuit of justice in society was paramount. Correcting the evils originated by human beings was considered the highest ethical priority. Moses’ repetition of “justice, justice” was understood to mean: “don’t be satisfied with observing wrongdoing. Stand up and protest against it!” Obviously, the pursuit of justice is critical and of central concern for any society. Within the Bible and imbedded within rabbinic commentary, the accomplishment of justice is a requisite for truth in peace. We are commanded to pursue justice because no human community can survive without it.
– Rabbi Adrian M Schell (Source: Fields, Parashat Re’eh)
The prayers of the High Holy Days – Workshop on two evenings. On 27 August and 3 September @ 18.00 in the Rondavel. Just before the High Holy Days Rabbi Schell invites you to dive into the liturgy of the High Holy Days and to learn more about the history and ideas of these wonderful prayers – a special opportunity to prepare yourselves for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. This study session is open for all. Please bring your Machzorim (Gates of Repentance High Holy Day prayer books).
The Torah Study Breakfast Shiur with Rabbi Schell continues on Shabbat, 29 August at 08.45.
Podcast of Rabbi Schell’s weekly Radio Sermons on Radio Today, follow http://betdavid.podomatic.com/.
Torah Reading for Shabbat Shoftim
Deuteronomy 16:18-21:9 (Reading: 20.4-21.9 – Plaut p.1302; Hertz p.831)
Haftarah: Isaiah 51:1-52:12 (Plaut 1316; Hertz p.835)