Monday, August 5, 2013

Parashat Shoftim - Justice, Justice Shall You Pursue

This week we are reading Parashat Shoftim, Judges. The Israelites have finally entered the Promised Land after the death of Moses. God predicted that once they settled and were comfortable in their surroundings, they would see that the other nations around them had Kings as rulers. God knew that the Israelites would also want to choose a Leader as their authority.

"You shall appoint magistrates and officials for your tribes, in all the settlements that the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall govern the people with due justice." (16:18)

"You shall not judge unfairly: you shall show no partiality; you shall not take bribes, for bribes blind the eyes of the discerning and upset the plea of the just" (16:19)

"Justice, Justice shall you pursue, that you may thrive and occupy the land that the Lord your God is giving you." (16:20)

After making these rules for the one that was chosen, God emphasized that the king must be "one of your own people".

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg "can project the daunting stillness of a seated monarch."1

                                                         Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg as Camp Rabbi
                                                               Camp Che-Na-Wah Minerva, NY

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has the words from this Parashat adorning the walls of her chambers: "Justice, Justice, shall thou pursue." (16:18) In an essay titled "What Being Jewish Means To Me", Justice Ginsburg described her Jewish predecessors on the Supreme Court as using "law as protector of the oppressed, the poor, the minority, the loner." 

"I am a judge born, raised and proud of being a Jew.  The demand for justice runs through the entirety of the Jewish tradition.  I hope, in my years on the bench of the Supreme Court of the United States, I will have the strength and the courage to remain constant in the service of that demand." Justice Ginsburg has said that Jews in the United States today face few closed doors, and thankfully do not fear letting the world know who we are.  The security she feels is shown by the artwork that she displays...."Zedek, Zedek tirdof--Justice, Justice shall you purse." They are constant reminders of what judges are expected to do.

1Toobin, Jeffrey.:"How Ruth Bader Ginsburg Moved The Supreme Court."

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