Last week, we discussed the Jewish idea of “charity” as tzedakah, “justice”. God, out of love for the Children of Israel, gave us a good Land, and it is just that we use His gift not only for our own benefit, but also to benefit those who need help.
In this week’s parasha, Shoftim (judges), the Torah continues this theme. The parasha begins: “Judges and officers shall you appoint in all your cities – which Hashem your God gives you for your tribes. And they shall judge the people with righteous (tzedek) judgment.” The Torah continues, “Righteousness, righteousness (tzedek, tzedek) you shall pursue, so that you will live and possess the Land that Hashem your God gives you.”
Once again, our covenant with God is that in the Land that He has given us, we must act justly. To do this, we must choose leaders and judges who will act with righteousness. These are people who not only know the law, but will apply it fairly and without consideration of which party may be wealthy or powerful.
But it is not only up to the people of the front of the room – judges and other leaders – to seek justice and righteousness. We must all do so. The language used is actually singular, addressed to each of us. When we see that something is wrong, it is up to us to try and do the right thing. The commandment “righteousness, righteousness you shall pursue” is given to all of Israel, not only to the judges and leaders.
The Jewish people have a long history of standing up for the rights of others who are weak, or in the minority, or otherwise need help obtaining the same rights as others. We have done this not only in the Land of Israel, but in all the lands of the Diaspora.
This is a Scout habit, as well. Lord Baden-Powell used to say that a good deed could be as simple as standing up for a friend when others are talking about him. It is not always easy, but a Scout must be Brave.