Justice x2 / Leveling Up Our Standards!
This week we read Parashat Shoftim. This Torah portion introduces us to one of the bases of our social system: Judges – Shoftim – and Shotrim – the law enforcement. Immediately afterward, Torah introduces a very famous verse that brings justice to a different level: Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof – Justice, justice you shall pursue.
Our Rabbis say that there must be a reason for the repetition of the word Justice. And they explain that justice, justice Tirdof, you shall pursue, is an attempt to recognize justice in two different levels. Number one: the means; and number two: the end. Justice of the means, and justice of the end. And if you are wondering, the Jewish conclusion is pretty simple: the end does not justify the means. As we said, Justice justice you shall pursue – you need the two of them.
But I’d like to invite you to take this concept to an additional level, hopefully, a higher one. We often remain in the justice of the end, without even going through the justice of the means. We come to conclusions, we make decisions, we judge people, often just based on our perceptions or emotions. The justice of the means has to do with our responsibility toward the process in which we come to conclusions and we make decisions. And please, do not underestimate the second kind of justice – the justice of the end is essential in order to be functional beings and to live in functional societies.
We can’t live without decisions, conclusions or judgment. The problem is when those come without doing justice with the process, with the means, without embracing knowledge.
Of course it is hard; we are a digital generation, we are the generation of the instant and the fast-food. Everything happens in a second. Therefore it might be more natural to us to live just with the second kind of justice, the one that connects directly between our perceptions and decisions. But Judaism invites us to raise the standards of our lives and to embrace the complexity of the process, even when we emotionally struggle with that.
The month of Elul has begun and we are getting close to Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. During this time of the year we believe that we are being judged. This time of the year is also essentially an invitation for Teshuvah. It is the time to revise our actions and maybe our judgments. We revise our relationships. We are encouraged to rethink the conclusions that we have reached about our fellows. We are invited to dare to challenge the harshness of some of our convictions and to try to embrace justice as a whole, to try to recognize that our end may not be accurate if we have skipped the means.
May this month of Elul provide us with inspiration to live more righteous lives and with a more whole sense of justice.
Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof