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And Justice For All

08/24/2020 10:39:14 AM


Rabbi Weill

Dear Friends,

Leadership is on our minds this summer, and that is the primary concern of Parshat Shoftim, this week’s Torah portion. It focuses on the judges, magistrates, and priests of ancient Israel.

The Mishnah says something critically important about the High Priest. “Kohein Gadol dan v’danin oto. The High Priest judges and they judge him. Mei’id u’m’eidin oto. He judges and they judge him” (Mishnah Sanhedrin 2:1).

The lesson here is pretty simple. The High Priest, one of the most powerful and public figures of the land, was not above the law. The law was above him. He could not act with impunity. He was subject to the just laws of the land no less so than the powerless and invisible.

Perhaps this is why an early verse in Parshat Shoftim declares, “Tzedek tzedek tirdof. Justice, justice you will pursue” (Deuteronomy 16:20). The first tzedek/justice may refer to the importance of demanding justice from others; the second tzedek/justice may refer to demanding justice from ourselves.

Justice lies at the foundation of any holy society – that of ancient Israel, and that of contemporary nations as well. If justice is not applied equally throughout the society – to the powerless and to the powerful – the society will suffer from a debilitating rot. Tzedek! Tzedek!

Shabbat Shalom,

Rabbi Jeffrey Weill

Tue, August 3 2021 25 Av 5781