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Daily manna from the Torah by Dr Ketriel Blad

Shoftim 48-1


Deuteronomy 16:18 – 17:13

Justice, justice shalt thou follow, that thou mayest live, and inherit the land which the LORD thy God giveth thee.

Deut. 16:20 JPS

Why emphasise justice so much?

The people had to name judges and policemen in every city to keep the society in order. Justice is the basis of coexistence. The Torah repeats the word justice – tzedek, צדק – twice at the beginning to focus on the importance of establishing and keeping justice within society. A society without justice is destined to collapse.

The repetition of the word justice is also understood as a claim that justice can only be achieved through righteous means. Justice is achieved through justice, not through unfairness. In other words, the Torah is against the Jesuit idea that says: "The end justifies the means". The Torah forbids that a state based on the rule of law uses unfair means to establish and keep justice.

Besides, the repetition of the word can be understood as two different meanings of tzedek. As we've seen before, the word tzedakah – the feminine form of tzedek – also means to help the needy. In this way there is also an aspect of mercy within justice. This corresponds to two emanations of the Eternal; justice and mercy, truth and grace. Justice as righteousness is the main part but it needs mercy to maintain the society. A society that only uses rigid justice becomes cruel and mean. A society that only recurs to mercy and love becomes loose and corrupt. Both aspects are necessary to achieve balance within society.

The written Torah many times establishes the use if rigid justice, the use of penalty of death for those who break the law. That's why it's important to have the oral torah as well, which explains how mercy can also be applied to the sinner without executing the full weight of the Law.

“He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8 NIV)

“...the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy and faithfulness.” (Matt. 23:23b NIV)

Let's seek justice at all times and let's seek also mercy so that we can live and have peace in our lands.

Shavua tov,


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