Without Justice there can be no Peace
Posted by Henric C. Jensen on September 4, 2006
“Justice, justice shall thou pursue!” (Devarim/Deut 16:20 – Parasha Shoftim)”By three things the world is preserved, by Justice, by Truth and by Peace, and these three are one: if Justice has been accomplished, so has Truth and so has Peace” (JT Taanit 4:2, after Rabbi Shimon ben Gamliel and Rav Muna)
“Rebbe Nachman of Breslov said: there is truth, the truth of the truth, and peace. Truth is: a kid stole an apple. The truth of the truth is: the kid was hungry. Peace is: Nobody stole anything; give the kid an apple!” (Heard from Reb Shlomo Carlebach)
Justice – tzedek (righteousness) means that something is right or has been righted.
Truth – emet (truth) means the stability of facts. That the facts are reliable and accurate.
Peace – shalom (perfection), means that nothing is missing, that all is well.
When all that is wrong has been righted and there are no more needs, because all is well, then there is also Peace.
That is why Torah tells us to pursue Justice. We are obligated to seek out that which is wrong, imbalanced, unequal, and make it right, and when we do, we bring Peace.
Jewish Justice is not blind it is said that when G-d had just created the World He had a conversation with Torah:
“Nor is this world inhabited by man the first of things earthly created by G-d. He made several worlds before ours, but He destroyed them all, because He was pleased with none until He created ours. But even this last world would have had no permanence, if G-d had executed His original plan of ruling it according to the principle of strict justice. It was only when He saw that justice [tzedek] by itself would undermine the world that He associated mercy [chessed] with justice, and made them to rule jointly.” (Legends of the Jews – Creation)
Thus tzedek – righteousness was born. When applying Justice, setting things right, we, like G-d, must take into account ALL circumstances present before passing judgement, without consideration to anything but what is right AND compassionate.
When one considers the situation in Israel/Palestine, it becomes clear that both parties must practice Tzedek and Chessed (Righteousness and Mercy) Justice with Compassion.
Both must do away with lawlessness and consider the other with compassion and seek what is right for both. The only way to do that, in my mind, is to look for the Truth [emet] and the Truth of the Truth – i.e honestly state what is happening and acknowledge the causes for those events on both sides. That is hard, because it means putting stop to the blame game – on both sides. It means being responsible and accountable.
It pains me that Israel is failing to heed the words in Shoftim “Justice, justice shall you pursue!”, because by failing that she has failed to live up to Torah’s admonition:
“I the L-RD have called thee in righteousness, and have taken hold of thy hand, and kept thee, and set thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the nations; ” (Yisheyah/Isa 42:6)
Torah True Justice doesn’t mean letting criminals get away – it means making sure that all be brought to court and given an unbiased hearing. It doesn’t mean not defending oneself or those dependent on you from attack, it means going after the criminals AND showing compassion towards those that are not criminals.
Torah clearly teaches that in war, there are certain Laws that must be followed, and I don’t think anyone denies that Israel is in a state of War. Destroying land, trees or peoples’ livelihoods are not permitted. Peace must be offered and clearly be declined before any attack. Also in a war of defense there are Laws that must be followed:
One may not:
1] Kill an innocent third party to save a life;
2] Compel a person to risk his life to save the life of another;
3] Kill the pursuer after his evil act is over as a form of punishment.
4] Use more force than minimally needed.
It doesn’t serve Israel to go after the Palestinian PEOPLE for the criminal actions of Palestinian terrorists – it would be more fruitful to try and get the Palestinian People’s co-operation through aiding them in achieving prosperity and well-being independently from the criminal terrorists, including the Palestinian Governmental branches that actively endorse terrorism.
In the end this would inspire the Palestinians to start policing themselves, because co-operating with Israel in good things, such as not harboring criminals, not accepting and encouraging violent attacks on Israel and not destroying what help they recieve from Israel and the International Community, is more profitable than the opposite.
Will taking out the criminals with one hand and helping the non-criminals with the other achieve Peace? In the end it will – Chicken Soup goes a long way in hungry hearts, minds and stomachs.
It irritates the drek out of me that there are religious Jews that shrug over this and “hide” behind “Moshiach will sort it out…!” The Jewish People have been charged with the task of being a Light to the Gentiles NOW, not shockling for the coming of the Moshiach. Moshiach will come when it is time, but Justice, Truth and Peace is for the now.
It also aggravates me enormously that some Jews seem to regard Gentiles as some sort of lower class of people, and therefore do not practice Tikkun Olam and Tzedakah in relations to non-Jews. Especially since Torah clearly states that the Law is the same for the Jew and the Gentile and that the Stranger must not be wronged. (Vayikra/Lev 24:22; Shemot/Ex. 22:21; 23:9; Vayikra/Lev 19:33 etc…)
It seems that the idea that Gentiles are lesser people, that reside with some, is connected to the idea of Israel’s Chosenness, that somehow, because we are Chosen we are also above the Law – it is the very opposite. We are Chosen because G-d decided to charge us with the obligation of the Law. G-d gave us the Law so we should LIVE it and pass it on in actions. This is our Holy Duty.
“It hath been told thee, O man, what is good, and what the L-RD doth require of thee: only to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy G-d“. (Mic 6:8)
The fact that others do not live this way, does not free Israel from her Holy Obligation of pursuing Justice nor does it give Israel a mandate to disregard the plight of others, when there is a need or when there is an opportunity to practice Torah. How can Israel be a Light to the Nations if she does not Shine?
“Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the L-RD thy G-d giveth thee.” (Deu 16:20)
In fact this pursuit of Justice [tzedek] guarantees that Israel (and Palestine) will eventually live in peace.