Restoring Peace and Justice to Jerusalem

In Parshat Shoftim (Devarim 16:18), the Jewish people are commanded to appoint judges who will judge the people with righteous judgement (tzedek). In sentences 19-20 they are told: “Do not pervert justice; do not display favoritism; and do not accept bribery, for bribery blinds the eyes of the wise and distorts the words of the righteous (tzadikim). ‘Tzedek tzedek tirdof’, pursue absolute justice, that you may live and inherit the Land that God is giving you.”

Rashi comments on sentence 18 that competent, righteous judges (tzadikim) must be appointed to judge righteously (lishpot tzedek). He adds on sentence 20 that appointing ethical judges will insure that they will be able to settle in the Land of Israel.

Ibn Ezra adds that they must pursue justice no matter what, whether it is to their advantage or to their loss. If they do pursue justice, then they will be able to hold on to the Land of Israel and in turn pass it on to the next generation.

The Hebrew root “tzedek” appears over and over again at the beginning of the parsha. Earlier in the Torah we have encountered the word “tzedek” with Avraham. In Breishit 14:18, Malki Tzedek the king of Shalem brought Avraham food and wine. In the book of Yehoshua, the king of Jeusalem was Adoni Tzedek. Jerusalem was called “tzedek”, the city of righteousness.

The book of Yishayahu chapters 61-62 talk about Jerusalem rejoicing once again after the exile. Over and over again the terms of “tzedakah”, righteousness are used.

With all of the corruption that we hear about in the media, how can we turn Jerusalem back into a city of righteousness?

The small acts of righteousness that we can do each day can make a huge difference. Those in Jerusalem can help by inviting a new immigrant who is feeling lost and overwhelmed for a Shabbat meal. Instead of criticizing the current leadership we must act. Those who live outside of Jerusalem can join a chesed oriented tour (at Torat Reva Yerushalayim we hope to arrange one this February) where Israelis in difficult situations will see that Jews around the world care about them. Those who can’t travel to Israel can help support, “give tzedakah”, for programming that will brighten up the lives of those who live here.

At the end of the day, it’s not which scandal made the headline in Yediot Achronot, it’s rather who brightened up my life today.