Shoftim- weekly Torah portion

There is nothing new about it – I almost always start writing my Dvar at some time around midnight between Thursday and Friday of almost every week. I must admit I had no intention of writing yet once more about the phrase “Pursue Justice, Justice”. Rabbi Nof wrote about and you can read his interesting thoughts at this link. I have surely had the opportunity over the years to speak several times about it – what new can I possibly add?! Well, in parallel to getting ready to start my writing I received an e-mail from a client who had several questions about our engagement letter. He wanted some clarifications which I of course was happy to provide. He responded a few moments later that “it was important to me to raise all the extreme cases that may occur and account for them.”

It is exactly at that point that a new meaning to “Pursue Justice, Justice” came to my mind. I guess that most of us tend to be fair with one another throughout our lives, private and business alike. Sometimes things get rough and hopefully, if we have properly defined what happens in extreme cases, and were lucky enough to also define how they are to be addressed, that we have a process that we have agreed upon to be just in such circumstance. Unfortunately, in many cases we cannot foresee what it is that is going to go wrong and we lack a solution for this case. Things that we have never anticipated to be possible actually happen. It does not really matter how frustrating, annoying or saddening such a situation is, we must try and find a solution also to these cases. This is exactly where we have to think of the meaning of “Pursue Justice, Justice”. We may have thought of one scenario and we had a just solution for that, but now we must pursue another just solution at an adverse situation for a scenario that we have never thought about. This is a tougher issue to handle.

We have learned about pursuing from the book of Psalms chapter 34. It is said there, “Ask for peace and pursue it.” Asking for peace is the ordinary, simple, the minimum that is expected from us to do. It is quite passive by nature, we ask, if it happens, fine, if it does not, well, that a pity. However we are required to do much more than that – we need to be active about the issue of justice, we need to initiate, put in some effort, do something, pursue. It is easy to do the first level of justice. It is easy to ask for peace. – To pursue justice or purse peace is a more demanding task. This happens after the easy part, the basic, and passive part has been attempted. It requires us to change, leave our comfort zone and do something about something. When we pursue it we may be putting ourselves in some degree of danger, people see us, we make a statement to everyone to know what we are willing to stand for. Pursuing justice means that we are putting a significant effort in an attempt to achieve it so that it is not simply lost.

No doubt that as a congregation and as a movement we find ourselves in the pursuit of Justice over and over again. We pursued for justice in the hallways of the Netanya municipality and the corridors of the hall of justice in Tel Aviv. It eventually got us the place we are using as our synagogue today. We pursue for justice in the Western Wall plaza as and at the expanse of the Supreme Court, just to get what every decent person would have let us have simply when justice is understood. We pursue for justice for the woman who is sent to the back of the bus or who is demanded to leave her seat on an airplane` we pursue justice for the refugee who is persecuted simply for being different, or those who are weak, or a minority. It is not an easy thing to do and it comes with a hefty price tag. It is not justice that is easily won. Nonetheless, if it will not be us who will pursue this justice, eventually also the basic justice, the one that is mentioned first, will fade away.

The year 5778 is slowly fading into history, one year that is joining thousands before it. Looking back we will look at this year with some happiness and some sorrow, at times happy and others sad, maybe with shame but also some pride. It is an opportunity to do some soul searching, check ourselves – maybe there are one or two things we can still pursue, be active about them, not just passively let them pass by. There was lots of light in 5778 even when a black vail was floating around trying to cover us with its troubles. Our mission is to run, to pursue, to make happen that which must be achieved, that which is not enough to simple wish that they change or happen. These are things we have to fight for, diligently, with open eyes and hearts, spending the resources and energy and make them happen.

The youth of our movement have changed a little the phase "צֶדֶק צֶדֶק, תִּרְדֹּף". Instead their shirts state “צָדַק, צֶדֶק נִרְדֹּף” not in the singular form but in the plural form – it is the obligation of the group, the community, the movement, to find just solutions for the scenarios we have not anticipated. The pursuit of justice is not only the task of the individual but also the requirement from us as a group. I certainly pray that we all learn from these youngsters and join them in the double pursuit of justice.

Shabbat Shalom.

Reuven Marko, 17 August 2018, 7 Elul, 5778

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