20 August 2015
This week’s parasha, Shoftim, contains the powerful phrase, “Justice, justice, shall you pursue.” What a terrific, yet puzzling use of language. The rabbis refer to it as lashon yeterah – “redundant language.” Why repeat the word “justice” twice? There have been a number of commentaries on this, but the one that resonates most with me is that repetition reinforces. It shakes us up, reminds us of its importance, and if we didn’t catch it the first time, it is repeated to make the point. We are also told that it is important to “pursue” justice – it doesn’t just happen – we can’t hope for it or expect it. Rather, it is a “dynamic possibility” which we must pursue vigorously, with passion, and throughout our lives.
We often hear people demand “justice,” which varies in meaning and application. At times, it refers to revenge, which is not what the Torah teaches us. It can be a demand for a decision which reflects the perspective of the accused or the accuser. It sometimes even means fairness, as in “giving a “fair shake” to those who don’t often get it.” As we pursue justice, we must be clear on what it is we seek. Most of the definitions of “justice” in different dictionaries include the concept of fairness.
This particular parasha takes on a special meaning as we commemorate a miscarriage of justice 100 years ago this week in Georgia. On August 17, 1915, a mob lynched Jewish manufacturer Leo Frank in Cobb County after he was wrongly convicted for the murder of a 13-year-old girl and his death sentence was commuted to life. This tragic chapter in American history resulted in the creation of two diametrically opposed groups which continue to this day: the modern-day Ku Klux Klan – the antithesis of a just organization – and the Anti-Defamation League, which continues in its pursuit of justice each and every day. The coinciding of this anniversary with this week’s parasha reinforces the need for us to internalize the meaning of “justice, justice, shall you pursue,” and to ensure that it is reflected in our daily lives.
Ways to Make it Yours
Watch a video by Robert Satloff, Executive Director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy on navigating the politics of Israel on college campuses.
Attend a forum by David Makovsky on the pros and cons of the Iran Nuclear Agreement at Congregation Beth El on September 3.
Order your Rosh Hashanah treats from Sunflower Bakery for pickup at Café Sunflower in The Federation Building on Sunday, September 13 from 12:00-2:00 p.m. Place your order at www.sunflowerbakery.org. Ordering available through September 7.
Join local families with young children for a fun-filled morning of PJ Library® story time, crafts and challah-making on Wednesday, August 26 at Whole Foods Market Arlington.
Take your taste buds on a summer vacation to the Middle East with this delicious Turkistani Pilavi recipe from Jewish Food Experience.
Buy your baseball game ticket for a fun-filled day at National’s Park with the Greater Washington Jewish Community on Sunday, August 30.