"Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof "- Justice, justice we shall pursue: This is the focal idea of this week's parasha
Is attaining justice realistic?
How long must we struggle through the pursuit?
Is the pursuit of justice or the achievement of justice more important?
Shoftim is a prelude to the month of Elul month of repentance and reflection leading to the Yamim Noraim. This month acts as a greenhouse, nurturing and providing us space to contemplate. It invites us to engage our thoughts on our communal and individual pursuit of justice.
2018 is a time when justice is hard to maintain. By nature, as humans, we can be affluent and materialistic, selfish and needy, sinful and prone to error, yet the responsibility to chase justice is delegated to us.
Justice is abused through social hierarchy and nepotism, the guilty are found innocent and the innocent lack protection. How can justice truly be served for and by a people who are unjust? Moses is aware of the human paradox, remarking that “men [remain] as they are”.
Maybe we are commanded to pursue justice because it is us who need it the most. Or perhaps our long history of oppression has made us sensitive to the idea of justice.
But how long then, how much further is the road to justice? In the eyes of the Torah, Tzedek is not a hypothetical or remote ideal, it is an intimate issue. If it is our duty to create a world of Tzedek, Tzedakah and Tzaddikim, why have we taken thousands of years to barely reach it? It is as if we gather yearly for the Yamim Noraim to attempt the impossible: being forgiven even though we continue to fall short from reaching justice?
Many rabbis and scholars have suggested that attaining a just society is not necessarily our aim in life. They amplify the importance of “Tirdoff” (to pursue), that to fulfil our true nature we must engage with the pursuit of justice, dedicating ourselves to the chase rather than focussing on an end goal. Maybe there is no end to this pursuit?
So how can we pursue justice today? Are we doing the best we can? We teach about charity, we preach moral decisions, we sign petitions, we share videos, we volunteer in youth movements, we educate. Every day we encounter opportunities to act morally, ethically and with good conscience by treating people fairly, giving the benefit of the doubt, standing up against injustice, teaching and exemplifying the right things to do. Although we have a huge challenge ahead of ourselves, we must use Shoftim as a reflection and reminder to have the courage to continue the pursuit, even if it seems remote. Rabbi Tarfon explains “it is not up to you to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it”. What can we be doing every day? How can you bring a little more Tzedek into the world?