Parshat Shoftim: In pursuit of justice


Adley Weinberg | Krieger Schechter Day School

The name of my Torah portion, Shoftim, means “Judges.” Shoftim focuses on how you should not judge people unfairly, but rather “tzedek tzedek tirdof” (“justice, justice you should pursue”) (Deuteronomy 16:20). The Torah talks about how you shouldn’t convict someone in court just because they are different or because you don’t like them. It wouldn’t be fair to punish an innocent person.

(Adley Weinberg)

Rabbi Artson explains that according to traditional sources, God loves justice much more than sacrifices. For example, Proverbs says: “To do what is right and just is more desired by the Lord than sacrifice” (21:3). The verse doesn’t say, “as much as sacrifice,” but “more than sacrifice.” This shows what God wants much more than sacrifices and praying. It is more important to have justice and peace.

Part of justice is that you should never judge someone unfairly just because they are different. You could be thinking that someone you don’t know did something wrong because they don’t look the same as you, but in reality they end up being a very kind person and different than you thought.

Some people don’t treat others who are different with respect. This could end up being worse than hurting someone’s feelings. Things are happening today that date back to the story of Moses. In the story of Moses, the Jewish people were slaves to Pharaoh and were beaten to death just because they were Jews. They worked and worked until they died.

Then Moses, a Jew who was the adopted son of Pharaoh, took a stand and saved the Jewish people from slavery. Moses did an act of justice.

Today there are many examples of people who judge other people unfairly because of the color of their skin. This has led to acts of racism. For example, two years ago a man named George Floyd was killed by a white police officer in an act of unnecessary force. This shows how injustice can be deadly.

We need to stop these kinds of injustices. We can’t bring George Floyd or any other victims of racism back, but we can still help to make sure that those acts of racism don’t happen ever again. I think that the message of this my Torah portion is that people must not show partiality against someone who doesn’t look the same way as them.

Justice, justice you shall pursue.

Adley Weinberg is a rising eighth grader at Krieger Schechter Day School in Pikesville.

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