Justice: God’s Promise or Ours? (Shoftim Prayer Links)

“We must learn how to study the inner life of the words that fill the world of our prayerbook,” Abraham Joshua Heschel told fellow rabbis in 1953. “A word has a soul, and we must learn how to attain insight into its life….We forgot how to find the way to the word, how to be on intimate terms with a few passages in the prayerbook. Familiar with all the words, we are intimate with none.”

In that spirit, I believe parashat Shoftim [judges] calls out for us to get a little more intimate with at least one word:

Tzedek — as in “Tzedek, tzedek tirdof… [Justice, justice you shall pursue…]” (Deut./Devarim 16:20).

The words tzedek [“justice” or “righteousness”] and tzadikim [“just” or “righteous” folk] feature frequently in the siddur and in the Book of Psalms, including a number of psalms recited regularly as part of the liturgy. Perhaps a few examples will provide insights into the soul of “tzedek.”
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Noach: Great Source(s)

‘…I have set my bow in the clouds, and it shall serve as a sign of the covenant between Me and the earth. When I bring clouds over the earth, and the bow appears in the clouds, I will remember my Covenant between Me and you and every living creature among all flesh, so that the waters shall never again become a flood to destroy all flesh….’ Continue Reading

Korach: Great Source(s)

This portion (Bamidbar/Numbers 16:1 – 18:32) highlights a wilderness leadership challenge, led by Moses’ cousin Korach. Some of its power comes from the community dealing with God’s pronouncement in the previous portion (Shelach):

“But your carcasses shall drop in this wilderness, while your children roam the wilderness for forty years, suffering for your faithlessness, until the last of your carcasses is down in the wilderness.” Continue Reading