At the beginning of Parashah Shoftim, we find some of the most profound words in all of the Torah, if not that of the whole of Scripture,
“Justice, only justice you must pursue; so that you will live and inherit the land Adonai you God is giving you.” (Deuteronomy 16:20, CJB)
In giving instruction in the appointment of judges over Israel, it is justice and justice alone that permeates the heart of Adonai and that of Moshe Rabbienu(Moses our Teacher).
As a word, justice (tzedek) and its derivate “tzedakah” is central to the whole of the Torah, and as a wave of truth, engulfs and permeates throughout the whole of Scripture. Yet, despite what one may think, “justice” from a biblical point of view is not limited to merely juris prudence or a Court of Law, but instead something that must engulf every aspect of human life. In his article entitled “Tzedek: Justice and Compassion,” Rabbi Jonathan Sacks insightfully affirms this point in stating,
“Tzedek/tzedakah is almost impossible to translate, because of its many shadings of meaning: justice, charity, righteousness, integrity, equity, fairness and innocence. It certainly means more than strictly legal justice.”
Therefore, from the perspective of Torah, “justice” must be an action that is pursued and a power that encompasses our very being for the sake of mercy and grace. It cannot be limited to a blind scale of right or wrong, but instead must be marked by compassion, understanding and deliberate and willful identification with the other in the light of Torah commands. It is for this reason Deuteronomy continues,
“You are not to deprive the foreigner or the orphan of the[tzedek] justice which is his due. And you are not to take a widow’s clothing as collateral for a loan. Rather, remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and Adonai your God redeemed you from there. This is why I am ordering you to do this.” (Deuteronomy 24:17-18, CJB)
Because this is of such importance, the judges in Parashah Shoftimwere commissioned to judge in righteousness, to never pervert justice, to not show favoritism and to never accept a bribe. (vs. 18-19) The reason for this is simple in that the foundation of biblical justice is that of mercy, compassion and redemption!
The reason that God required the children to not exploit the orphan, foreigner or widow who sojourned in their land was because they too were exploited and abused for four-hundred years under the whip of Egyptian slave masters, from which God and God alone redeemed them from!
For us as Messianic-believers, this has profound significance when we consider the great work that was done for our redemption in Messiah Yeshua our Lord.
For although God did not overlook our sin, he nevertheless sent us our Messiah to redeem us from it and give newness of life to all who would make teshuvahand turn from their sin and follow his ways! It is for this reason that we must take every opportunity to walk in compassion and mercy toward our neighbor, in remembering the greatest act of love that, “God demonstrates his own love for us, in that the Messiah died on our behalf while we were still sinners.” (Romans 5:8, CJB)
Beloved - Let's walk in justice, charity, righteousness, integrity, equity, fairness and innocence this week, and above all things may we pursue justice for one another and all the peoples of the world, in Yeshua’s holy name!
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