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Justice, Justice


Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg displays the Biblical quote “Justice, Justice you will pursue”. . The classic question “why the repetition of the word Justice?” is often answered by understanding the various aspects of justice. In Kaballah, the two aspects Chesed & G’vurah, which are Loving kindness and strength,  show the two complementary aspects that are the puzzle pieces of righteousness, justice.

But consider this: perhaps Justice is repeated for the same reason we repeat a lyric in a song. So that the second time can be in a different dynamic or in harmony. I Imagine that the first singing can harmonized in a major chord, the second in minor. Perhaps the first singing can be whispered, the second shouted! Only together as a community can justice, or righteousness even exist. Only with many voices, only when the truth can be verified by more than one witness (also in this Torah portion), and with a jury of many. Only in harmony.   Consider this quote from Shakespeare, in the Merchant of Venice, who speaks about justice verses mercy  arguing with the Jewish lawyer, Shylock.

The quality of mercy is not strained.
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath. It is twice blessed:
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes….
The attribute to awe and majesty
Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings,
But mercy is above this sceptered sway.
It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings.
It is an attribute to God himself.
….Therefore, Jew,
Though justice be thy plea, consider this—
That in the course of justice none of us
Should see salvation. We do pray for mercy,

Wow! Do you see the conflicts? Is mercy the opposite of justice? No, Torah repeats justice to show that mercy is the partner of punishment. Also, William says the quality of mercy falls like rain, but Deuteronomy says we must pursue justice! Justice is not easy, neither is the half we call mercy: wanting vengeance might be easier. I heard recently an interview of a man who was convicted to life in prison through faulty hair evidence.  The conviction was voided and another man (a prosecution witness) was later convicted. This is not an isolated case, hair cannot be “matched” as an identification, regardless of what Quincy ME says!  check out page 2 of: . There now is a non profit called the Innocence project which pursues wrongful confictions based on faulty DNA evidence   Clearly justice, including mercy sometimes doesn’t fall as the gentle rain from heaven (sorry, Will) QUINCY M.E-900x900

I then notice the “twice blessed” parallels the use of justice twice: cool!  Finally,  the reputation of the Jew is (unfairly),  squarely in the court of punishing, strong justice.    Mercy is not separate from Justice, but at its very heart. It is the path to harmony and community.

One other observation: we don’t call a person sitting on the bench of the Supreme Court a judge, we call her a Justice: repeat nine times.

For a modern musical setting, check out Eric Komar’s Justice, Justice, song seven on the Jukebox at

Too many hungry families sleeping on the street.  Too many addicts trying to get back on their feet.. Justice, justice shall you follow, Tzedek, Tzedek tirdof!

Happy Elul!


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