Parsha Shoftim: Justice not Compassion


This week we read parsha Shoftim “judges” (Deuteronomy 16:18–21:9).  Here is a very brief summary.

This year I am going to focus on the first three verses in the parsha:

18Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. 19Do not pervert justice or show partiality. Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds the eyes of the wise and twists the words of the innocent. 20Justice, justice you shall pursue, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you.

Wow! Pretty interesting huh?

So God is not the only judge of man. Rather, man is commanded to judge man in regards to his behavior here on Earth.  So when others say “who are we to judge? Only God can judge a man…”  You can answer, “Well actually in the Bible, Moses makes is very clear that God demands we set up judges… who pass judgement… in a system of blind justice.”

Apparently, Moses did not get the memo for “social justice” in regards to judicial rulings by the way.

“Just the facts M’am” is the Torah’s attitude regarding a justice system.

Wealth, poverty, history, race, family, looks… none of that can matter in a righteous and just justice system.

When today’s judges decide to stop pursuing justice alone and start pursuing social change (as has been happening most recently with regards to Same-Sex Marriage) inevitably their will be no justice in those matters.

If judges want to change the world and create new policy, they can run for office, write a book, make a movie, or start a podcast… but according to the Torah they are forbidden to pervert justice for anyones’ “benefit.”

All of the legal defense funds out there, they’re looking for people out there with court of appeals experience, because court of appeals is where policy is made. And I know, I know this is on tape and I should never say that because we don’t make law, I know. I know.
~Sonia Sotomayor

Amazingly, many of us have rested in the gumbo of perverted justice that seems to always exist regardless of which millennia or society.  Yet I believe that if we are to do God’s will, and be on his side, then we must tirelessly and relentlessly strive to enable our justice system with righteous judges who can show impartiality and eventually ennoble our justice system to one that only pursues just justice.  NOT judges who are bent on enacting policy or social change (as Supreme Court Justice Sotomayor acknowledges happens today).

Also, Moses advices our courts to only pursue justice (or righteousness) “tzedek”. He could have said, loving-kindness “chesed”, or mercy “rachamim”, or love “ahava”, or a whole host of compassionate ideals. But he didn’t…

צדק צדק תרדף

Justice Justice you shall pursue… WHY?

So we may live…

We can still pursue.

Isn’t He still giving us life?

Lets honor His faith in us by reestablishing impartial courts with judges whose sole task is to rule justly.



Let me know what you think.

Shabbat Shalom


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